Council Committee Diary: June 2022

Most council agenda items originate in one of council’s standing or ad hoc committees. You can learn more about council committees here and find meeting times and agendas here.

Following is an overview of council committee work from June:

  • Finance Committee: Reviewed requested budget revisions and considered the city treasurer’s proposal to contract with Invoice Cloud for expanded online payments capabilities.
  • Organizational Audit Committee (ad hoc): This committee was formed in May to look for opportunities to further strengthen the city’s organizational structure. In June, the committee heard suggestions on this topic from the city’s five administrative officers.
  • Personnel Committee: Began work on recruiting a new operations manager after the July 1 resignation of the incumbent.
  • Public Safety Committee: Discussed downtown intersections and options for new traffic lights, new stop signs, etc.
  • Rules & Ordinances Committee: Referred to council a proposed law enabling restaurants to serve customers on the public sidewalk. Discussed but took no action on a possible rule requiring confidentiality for matters discussed in executive session.

Summer Tour Hours Announced for Gov. Kump House

The Kump Education Center will be offering summertime public tours of the Gov. Kump House in Elkins beginning Thursday, July 7. The free tour hours are Thursday and Sunday afternoons from 3-5:30 p.m. through Sunday, August 7.

The public tour hours provide visitors the opportunity to see vintage family wedding gowns, memorabilia, and new interpretive displays. The displays focus not only on family weddings but also on the historical significance of the site and the legacy of Gov. Kump, one of the most influential governors of the state.

Admission to the event is free, but donations are highly encouraged. Parking is available behind the Kump House, located on Randolph Ave., across from Kroger. Parking can also be accessed from Seneca Road.

The new interpretive displays are partially funded by a West Virginia Humanities Council mini-grant. The WV Humanities Council is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and serves West Virginia through grants and direct programs in the humanities.

For more information about the West Virginia Humanities Council grants program, contact Humanities Council grants administrator Erin Riebe at (304) 346-8500 or via email at riebe@wvhumanities.org. Grant guidelines and applications are available on the Humanities Council website, www.wvhumanities.org.

KEC volunteer Jane Lawson assisted with the recently held Open House at the historic Gov. Kump House. Visitors can also view the home Thursday and Sunday afternoons, July 7-August 7, from 3-5:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

City Hall News: Week of July 4, 2022

Meeting this week are council’s Finance Committee and the Elkins Tree Board. Council meets Thursday. City hall is closed Monday, and trash normally collected Mondays will be collected Tuesday starting at 6 a.m. Overdue utility accounts must be brought up to date before Wednesday to avoid shutoff.

The Finance Committee meets Tuesday at 1 p.m. Agenda items include funding for council’s next strategic planning exercise and a request for waiver of the downtown sound system fee.

Later on Tuesday, the Tree Board meets at the Darden House (next door to city hall) at 5:30 p.m. Agenda items include discussion of a vacancy arising from a resignation and planning for the FY 2023 fiscal year, which started July 1.

Council meets Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda may be adjusted through Tuesday. Current new business items include first reading of an ordinance adopting an updated version of the International Building Code; first reading of an ordinance enabling restaurants to offer dining on the public sidewalk; appointments to the Mon Forest Towns Partnership Board of Directors and the Elkins Tree Board; and a request from Smoker Friendly for a letter supporting its application to the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration for a special event license. Council will also appoint a new member to fill the Second Ward seat left vacant by the resignation of Charles Friddle, III.

The Governor Kump House, located on Randolph Avenue across from Kroger, will be open to the public for tours this summer on Thursday and Sunday afternoons from 3-5:30 p.m., beginning Thursday, July 7. The last public tour will be Sunday, August 7. The tours include the recently opened Something Old, Something New exhibits.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

Leak Investigation near Children’s Home

Update at 6:32 a.m.: The leak has been isolated without affecting other customers. Barring failure of the valve to this line, it should be possible to proceed with repairs without an outage in the area.

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Elkins Water Board employees are responding to a leak in the vicinity of the West Virginia Children’s Home, on Maryland Avenue.

Starting approximately 7 a.m., water customers in the area will experience low or no water pressure. Affected streets may include Pleasant Avenue, Maple Street, Maryland Avenue, Heavner Avenue, and others nearby. The precise outage area will not be known until it can be determined which line the leak is on.

Tygart Hotel Dynamite Incident

On the afternoon of June 29, contractors renovating the Tygart Hotel on Davis Avenue in Elkins discovered dynamite in the building and alerted authorities. Elkins Police Department and Elkins Fire Department investigated and ordered an evacuation of nearby buildings. Davis Avenue was closed between Second and Third.

The West Virginia State Police Explosives Response Team was dispatched to the scene and arrived just before 5 p.m. Following a situation briefing by city public safety officials, ERT officers entered the building. They safely recovered and disposed of the dynamite.

Investigators believe there is no ongoing threat to the public.

EFD Receives Elevator Training

Elevators are a great convenience–until they stop working, whether due to mechanical problems or as a result of a larger emergency. Elkins Fire Department and Randolph County Department of Homeland Security personnel spent Saturday getting up to speed on the special challenges and risks associated with rescuing people trapped in elevators.

The training session was led by John Hoffman, a retired fire chief from New Jersey and the current Braxton County Department of Homeland Security director. Members were instructed on operating landing doors, manual lowering of elevator cars and firefighter bypass operations.

The training was held at Davis Medical Center.

City Hall News: Week of June 27, 2022

Meeting this week are the Elkins Water Board and council’s Personnel Committee. The fireworks display is Saturday, July 2.

Meeting in special session Tuesday at 3 p.m., the Personnel Committee will begin work on recruiting a new operations manager after the incumbent, Josh Sanson, announced that he would resign July 1.

The Water Board meets Tuesday at 4 p.m. New business items include a reimbursement request from the Randolph County Housing Authority and a proposal to use ARPA funds to purchase air compressors at the water treatment plant.

Business-license renewals are due by Thursday. All outstanding B&O taxes must be paid before the new license will be issued.

This year’s Independence Day weekend festivities are presented and managed by Mountain State Street Machines. The fireworks display will take place after dark on Saturday, July 2.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

City Hall News: Week of June 20, 2022

Meeting this week are council’s ad hoc Organizational Audit Committee and Rules & Ordinances Committee. Also meeting is the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission. City hall is closed Monday, but trash will be collected as usual.

Business-license renewals are due by Thursday. All outstanding B&O taxes must be paid before the new license will be issued. To avoid penalty, pay utility bills no later than Sunday. Pay online here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/government/treasurer/online-utility-bill-payment.

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Darden House (next door to city hall). There are no new-business agenda items; old business items include an update on stained-glass window repair, consideration of renting space in the Darden House for meetings, and an update on Maplewood Cemetery.

The Organizational Audit Committee continues its work Wednesday at 1 p.m., when the city’s five administrative officers will present initial ideas for improving efficiency within and among their departments.

On Thursday at 8:30 a.m., the Rules & Ordinances Committee will meet in special session to discuss a proposed ordinance that would create a framework to enable restaurants to offer outside dining on public sidewalks. (It is already legal for restaurants to offer outside dining on their own property.)

This weekend, the Kump Education Center is hosting an open house on Saturday and Sunday, 2-5 p.m., at the historic Governor Kump House on Randolph Avenue. The event will feature vintage Kump family wedding dresses and memorabilia, new interpretive displays, a visit by a reenactor portraying Eleanor Roosevelt at 3 p.m., and tours. The event is free and open to the public, but donations are encouraged. Parking is available at the rear of the house. For more information, call 304-637-7820.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

Zoning Update Moves to Council

The Elkins Planning Commission officially presented city council with its proposed update to city zoning laws in June, capping seven years of work by commissioners. State code stipulates several additional steps council must now follow before the new zoning ordinance can become law. These include a public comment period and two public hearings. The earliest date on which the ordinance could become law would be August 18.

The Planning Commission has held about 50 noticed, public meetings on this topic since 2015. The commission has also held three open houses to collect public input (January 2018, September 2018, and December 2021). As reflected in the commission’s meeting minutes, commissioners carefully considered, and often made changes in response to, every comment or suggestion received at these open houses, in addition to written and verbal comments from the public and from other elected officials.

Council will accept written comments on the proposed ordinance, which should be routed through the Office of the City Clerk, through July 15. On July 26, council will hold a daytime hearing at 1 p.m., followed by an evening hearing on July 28 at 7 p.m. The July 28 hearing will be followed by a regular council meeting, at which the ordinance is scheduled for first reading. As mentioned, the second and final reading is tentatively scheduled for August 18.

Zoning laws regulate how land may be used inside a jurisdiction. These laws divide jurisdictions into sections, or zones, and stipulate the kinds of businesses and housing that are allowed in each of these. Zoning laws also cover topics like where buildings may be situated on a lot and how many accessory buildings (e.g., sheds) are allowed. Other matters that zoning laws might cover include rules for urban livestock and agriculture, as well as requirements for buffer zones between commercial and residential properties.

Elkins zoning laws were first approved in the 1950s and have not been significantly updated since the 1970s. Starting in 2015, the Elkins Planning Commission has been preparing a comprehensive update to the city’s zoning laws. The objectives articulated by the Planning Commission for the update include attracting more personal and commercial investment into the city, encouraging small-scale businesses (including low-impact home businesses in some residential zones) and retail spaces, protecting neighborhood character, and preparing the city for new kinds of businesses that were not on the radar when the city’s current zoning laws were drafted.

Because the city’s zoning laws were so far out of date and, in part, no longer in compliance with state and federal laws and court rulings, the commission elected to start drafting its update from scratch. Some of the biggest changes in the new law would regulate the type, size, and placement of signs; encourage the creative repurposing of former schools and churches, which can be difficult under current city zoning rules; preserve vital retail space downtown by forbidding the conversion of storefronts into residences; and require “buffers” between commercial areas and residences, such as landscaping or fences.

Legally operated businesses and rental units would be “grandfathered” under the new law. This means that, even if the type of business or style of residence conflicted with those allowed in a particular zone under the new law, these “non-conforming uses” would be allowed to continue, even if the property is sold, unless abandoned for a year or longer. The proposed ordinance includes no design or historic-preservation requirements.

To ensure that the update incorporated proven, effective practices and complied with all applicable state and federal laws, the commission has throughout this process relied on the advice of planning and legal professionals from the Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, a program of the West Virginia University College of Law. Elkins is one of 20 West Virginia communities that clinic staffers are currently assisting with zoning ordinances at no cost.

Under the process stipulated by state law, planning commissions proposing new zoning ordinances must do by creating a document referred to as a Study and Report on Zoning. This document includes analysis of current conditions and an explanation of why changes to zoning laws are needed. The report then includes two appendices, one containing the proposed new ordinance and one containing the proposed new zoning map.

For more information and to download the Study and Report on Zoning (including the proposed zoning ordinance and map), visit: www.cityofelkinswv.com/zoning-update.

City Hall News: Week of June 13, 2022

Meeting next week are council’s Public Safety Committee and Finance Committee, as well as the Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission. Council’s regular Thursday meeting has been moved to Tuesday, and Blue Grass Park has reopened.

The Public Safety Committee meets Monday at 10 a.m. The only new business item concerns traffic controls at downtown intersections.

The Finance Committee also meets Monday, at 11 a.m. The committee will take up requested budget revisions and consider a proposal from Invoice Cloud.

Council meets in special session Tuesday at 7 p.m. The final agenda includes the following new business items: request to transfer portions of Industrial Park Road and Riverbend Park Road to the W. Va. Department of Highways; request from Woodlands Development and Lending to place a generator and transformer in the Seneca Mall parking lot as part of the Tygart Hotel renovation; a grant application to fund purchase of a generator at the Wastewater Treatment Plant; renewal of the contract with Mitchell Tree Care on behalf of the Elkins Tree Board; and budget revisions recommended by the Finance Committee.

Meeting at the Phil Gainer Community Center on Wednesday at 5 p.m., the Parks and Recreation Commission will discuss skate park art; a draft of a design for an Elkins Riverfront Trail; a floor protector for the Phil Gainer Community Center; and plans for improvements at City Park.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

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