Annexation bill ready to become law, local reaction

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia legislature has passed a law to eliminate the minor boundary adjustment option for municipalities to annex territory.

The bill requires consent from 100 percent of freeholders in a territory targeted for annexation through minor boundary adjustment to consent to the action.

In May of 2019, Morgantown city council members proposed annexing 3.8 square miles, about 12,000 people and more than 360 businesses. The city backed off that proposal after receiving significant backlash against the plan from organizations like FAIR(Forced Annexation Isn’t Right).

Member of the group Jim Manilla says they got what they wanted.

“The whole bill is about letting have the right to vote,”Manilla said,”This is what we tried to accomplish and this is what happened.”

Morgantown city manager Paul Brake expressed disappointment and wants to look for options.

“I would say first off, we are truly disappointed,”Brake said,”Now, we (local governments throughout the state) need to explore ways of adding to the economic tax base so we can fund essential services.”

Brake also says this legislative session has especially damaging for local government.

“This along with other legislation passed during this session quite frankly is an attack on local government,”Brake said,”As the state declines in population the state focus on sustainable solutions.”

Brake says FAIR, MAP and other community groups want the same outcome, there are just different paths.

“The key question, this is something I’ve said all along, what do we want the future of the city to look like?”Brake asked,”Do we want to decimate this? No. Do we want to add to the economic vitality? I think everyone would be in agreement with that, but there are certainly different opinions about how we go about that.”

Manilla wants to develop a productive relationship with the city in the future.

“I’m hoping the city will come and speak,”Manilla said,”Maybe we can get together with them and discuss different issues.”