Morgantown City Council discusses creating a land preservation program

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown City Council will take up the creation of a land preservation program and the formation of a land reuse and preservation agency when it meets on July 24.
The topics were discussed during council’s recent committee of the whole meeting.
Council opted not to move the issues to its next regular meeting, set for July 10, in order to potentially discuss the issues at a suggested town hall public meeting. A tentative date of July 14 was discussed for the meeting, but time and location were not.
Land preservation and reuse were brought up most notably in the recent discussion regarding Morgantown’s efforts to purchase the Haymaker Forest.
City Manager Paul Brake said the land reuse agency, with the assistance of city administration, could identify “potential properties that could be acquired through donations, grants and foundations.”
Brake went on to say, “The thought is looking at these areas that should be preserved, that otherwise would be converted over and we’d lose that opportunity.
The proposed ordinance creating the reuse agency spells out its purpose:
“The Agency shall promote the productive use of property by identifying available properties suitable for public space, conservation, affordable housing and commercial uses and pursing the acquisition, management and disposition of those properties …”
The agency, as proposed, would consist of a seven-member body, appointed by council.
Each member is to have experience in at least one of the following areas: Real estate transactions or financing, development of commercial or residential property, establishment or use of public lands, land conservation or preservation or the development or management of programs promoting access to public land.
Brake said the powers granted to the agency would be limited.
“Can they incur things that are against our fiduciary responsibility? No, they cannot. So this notion … that some agency is going to run amok. That’s simply not true. There are protections in place,” Brake said.
Members of council spoke in favor of the move, generally, though Councilor Ryan Wallace asked if the issues could be moved to July 24 in order to give more time for public vetting.
Mayor Bill Kawecki offered similar concerns.
“My only concern now is it is so mired now with this unfortunate brouhaha over our current situation that it becomes tainted. But it shouldn’t, it needn’t,” Kawecki said. “This is a worthwhile endeavor. I just hope we can remove it from the current misgivings so people understand this is just another tool to plan for the best of the community to make it a better place to live.”
Representatives from the WVU College of Law Land Use and Sustainable Development Clinic were scheduled to give a presentation but were not at the meeting.

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