Citizens ask commissioners for help, information & solutions

by Kate Shunney

During the August 16 regular meeting of the Morgan County Commission, local citizens shared a variety of public concerns and asked county officials for help on several issues.

Pat Mosco  took the lead by asking commissioners who could address a list of complaints about her neighbor. Mosco said she had already spoken with County Planner Alex Moore, was advised to go to the Morgan County Health Department with concerns and she felt she had received no response to her issues.

Mosco said her neighbor has at least seven vehicles in their yard, along with lawn mowers and motors from various machines. She said they have moved in several trailers, there is sewage coming up through the ground on their property and a trailer is hooked up by extension cord to the main house. She also noted the neighbors have an “abundance of dogs and cats.”

She asked if the county requires any kind of permits for trailers and how she could have recourse on the issues.

Commissioner Joel Tuttle said he didn’t think there was a permit process for trailers, and property owners could have as many as they liked. He recommended if there were criminal concerns, Mosco should contact police or get in touch with Animal Control if the animals were being abused or neglected.

“The sewer – that’s a different story,” said Tuttle. He said he wasn’t sure how soon a sanitarian from the Health Department might check out that situation. Tuttle said the Department of Environmental Protection would likely be interested in sewage issues, especially if they are near a waterway.

Tuttle said the county does have a salvage yard ordinance that restricts how many “junk” cars can be in a yard. He said Planner Alex Moore might be the person to address that issue.

Commissioner Bill Clark said there are people who can assist with several of the items Mosco brought up.

“If you don’t mind giving me the list, I’ll go through it,” said Clark. “There are people interested in those issues.”

Mosco asked what she pays taxes for, and said she feels like she has no recourse for the neighbor concerns.

Tuttle pointed out that Commissioner Clark had offered to help work through the list of issues.

“I’d take him up on that offer,” Tuttle said.

Requests public forum on KOA

Great Cacapon resident Wendy Smith made a public statement on the record about issues related to a commercial permit for development of a KOA campground along Cacapon Road.

Smith said Christina Beam had met with Planner Alex Moore to get all of the documents related to the Commercial Improvement Location Permit (ILP) which was approved by the Morgan County Planning Commission in May.

Those documents were not all available, Smith said. She also said Moore declined to put a public discussion about the KOA permit on the September Planning Commission agenda. Beam was advised the issue could be discussed during the Public Comment portion of the planning board’s monthly meeting.

“The residents of Morgan County have very legit concerns,” Smith told commissioners. “Concerned citizens are asking for a public meeting.”

Smith said citizens are interested in an explanation about the process of reviewing and approving a checklist of documents required for a Commercial ILP permit.

Smith noted that regulations about signage along the Washington Heritage Trail, which includes Cacapon Road, were not reviewed or considered in the project checklist.

Commissioner Joel Tuttle said it is up to the Planning Commission to decide what they put on their meeting agenda.

“It was voted on and passed and they may not consider it current business,” Tuttle said.

Tuttle said commissioners could ask Moore to provide the available documents to Smith and Beam.

Smith noted those documents are supposed to be available to the public, but they are not.

Smith said Moore had offered to meet one-on-one with people who have concerns about the KOA campground project, which include traffic flow, wastewater impacts and historical significance.

“We appreciate that offer but it would need to be in a forum that can hold a lot of people,” said Smith.

Ambulance Fee equity

In an official meeting agenda discussion, business owner Andrew Mackert told commissioners he felt the county’s Ambulance Fee ordinance was not treating his business equitably.

Mackert owns APEX Lodging, which operates four Canal Cabins in Paw Paw. He described the cabins as “roll-off sheds” about 192 square feet in size, which are rented primarily by cyclists using the C&O Canal.

“I do not oppose the Ambulance fee. My issue is with the equity of what I’m paying,” he said.

Mackert is billed the $150 per-unit Ambulance Fee for each of the cabin structures.

He noted that he is paying the Hotel/Motel tax and being treated as a lodging business in that way but is being charged individual Ambulance Fees on each cabin. The result will be a bill for $600 for Ambulance Fee for the cabins – more than his annual property tax bill.

Mackert said a hotel in town would pay a single Ambulance Fee of $150, even if they had a dozen or more rooms.

“It’s an unfair competitive advantage,” he said.

Mackert noted that a large hotel with many rooms would present a “greater burden on ambulance service” than his four cabins, which can accommodate a maximum of 10 people.

“I don’t know the solution, but I want to present the problem,” said Mackert.

Commissioner Tuttle said he understands that the Ambulance Fee ordinance describes residential “units” in a way that is a disadvantage to Mackert’s business.

He noted that changing language in the ordinance requires several steps, including a public hearing.