First hearing this Wednesday on dilapidated building rules for county

Morgan County officials have set the dates of two public hearings to collect comments from county residents about a proposed dilapidated buildings ordinance. The first of two hearings will be held on Wednesday, May 9 at 7 p.m. at Warm Springs Middle School in Berkeley Springs.

The proposed ordinance sets forth rules about how the county could deal with unsafe or heavily damaged structures that pose a public nuisance.

Citizens will have a chance to ask questions about the ordinance and share their opinion about it at two hearings before county officials vote whether to enact the rules.

A second hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 15 at 1 p.m. as part of a commission meeting.

County officials said the ordinance will be available for review on the county’s website and in the County Commission office in the weeks leading up to the hearings.

County Commissioner Ken Reed has spearheaded the effort to write the rules and have them reviewed by a county attorney.

Under the proposal, the county would establish a board to receive complaints about dilapidated or unsafe structures within the county’s boundaries. Buildings inside the town limits of Bath and Paw Paw wouldn’t be affected by the rules.

Building complaints would be evaluated by the county board, whose members would include a Health Department and fire department representative, litter control officer, county engineer and two at-large members. Owners of dilapidated structures would be asked to make repairs or tear down the structure within a set time period. In cases where owners refused to make repairs or tear a damaged building down, the County Commission could order those repairs or demolition and charge the property owner for the cost of the work.

The ordinance sets out an appeal process for property owners and several legal steps the county would take before forcing repairs or demolition.

Commission President Joel Tuttle said he expects to hear both support and criticism of the ordinance. The public hearings on the proposed rules should be “fruitful,” predicted Commissioner Bob Ford.