Commission Approves Agreement With WVU-P

Updated 8/27/2012 6:20 P.M.

It's another step toward the use of land near WVU-Parkersburg to grow crops.

The Wood County Commission Monday approved an agreement in principle for the school to use the land to grow food for its new culinary school.

It's land in the Happy Valley area which was not part of a recent flood mitigation agreement.

"The residents who contacted me personally all said this was a great idea," said Commission President David Blair Couch. "There were residents who wanted to rent those lots, because they could have a weekend party place, and they're the ones most upset about the whole program."

Earlier this year, some residents protested the move, out of concern it might encourage weekend parties from some students.

Updated 4/30/2012 6:10 P.M.

West Virginia University at Parkersburg is getting eight Happy Valley lots for its agricultural program.

That's what the Wood County Commission approved Monday, after two weeks of discussion.

People who already own lots there were concerned as to whether the school would try to take over lots already leased there, and whether the school's lots would be attractive to weekend partiers.

"It's not like students will be down there themselves," said Geni Astorg, Executive Director of the WVU-P Foundation. "There will be instructors. We're working on different kinds of growing techniques, and some experimental year-round growing."

"I personally think you're the highest and best usage of that property," noted commissioner Wayne Dunn, "but if we satisfy the homeowners while we do it, especially while you're not needing it, let's do that."

WVU-P is getting eight lots, and the commission decided that if property owners decide in the future to give theirs up, the school might be eligible to get more.

During the recent discussions, it was noted land at the university itself is being used for the planned armory.

And a contract may be awarded Thursday, for the demolition of the former Wood County Magistrate court building.

The county commission opened three bids for the project Monday from area contractors.

The site will become a parking lot for the Joseph P. Albright Justice Center, which opened at the first of the year.

That's where a feed store was until the late 1980's, when the magistrate court was relocated there.

Updated 4/26/2012 7:00 P.M.

There are still questions about property West Virginia University at Parkersburg wants to lease in Happy Valley.

The Wood County Commission has offered property located near current property owners ... as part of a post-flooding agreement with FEMA.

The college, meantime, is getting some un-leased property for use by its agricultural school.

"Everybody I've spoken to there doesn't want it," property owner Angie Maher told the commission Thursday. "They're worried about excess traffic, the extra wear and tear on the road, people coming down after hours and partying, when they're not supposed to be, because they're college kids."

"We still don't want this to turn into a river lot, where people come down on the weekends, either to fish or hang out," said Commission President Blair Couch. "This is a residential community; this is where people don't expect to have parties going at 2 A.M."

The commission plans to meet Monday ... to begin finalizing the leases, which are offered according to their appraised property values.

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People who have held leases on property in post-flood Happy Valley aren't happy with plans by West Virginia University at Parkersburg to develop land there.

Daniel Bonnell, who maintains a mobile home on the site, is one of them.

He says he sold his site to FEMA after the 2004-2005 floods, with the expectation that he would be allowed to regain ownership of it.

"One of my neighbors, to keep the public out of there, leased two of these properties," Bonnell told the commission Monday. "And that's what I'm willing to do, to keep Happy Valley as what we always had it as, a nice community."

"We have been consistent in our statements to the public, that we would always consider the adjoining property owner first," Commission President Blair Couch responded. "And that's what we've been doing, even when WVU-P wanted leases for properties that hadn't even been knocked down yet."

The commission last week agreed to lease some of the Happy Valley land to WVU-P, for its agricultural school, with the possibility of leasing more later on.


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