Monongalia County Commission signs off on Westover annexation

MORGANTOWN — The Monongalia County Commission reconvened briefly Wednesday afternoon to sign off on Westover’s annexation of just under 400 acres of the ongoing WestRidge development.
The annexation came by petition, meaning the parties to be annexed — in this case the Lynch family’s WestRidge Development — supported incorporation into the city.
“This is annexation, as was stated, without an election. So just to clarify, the county’s only role is  once we receive it, the commission is required to enter an order confirming the additional territory …,” Commission President Tom Bloom said.
By contrast, an annexation by minor boundary adjustment, which is the kind Granville currently has pending before the commission, requires a more involved vetting from the county.
Westover Mayor Dave Johnson said the process of bringing WestRidge into the city started nearly two years ago during a conversation with John Lynch.
“John Lynch and I pretty much shook hands on this a long time ago,” Johnson said. “We had a couple rocky spots. Everything does, but John’s a man of his word, and Ryan [Lynch] is as well.”
Estimates indicate the expected development in the annexed area will result in additional business and occupation tax for the city ranging anywhere from $425,000 to $725,000 or more annually.
Johnson was asked if bringing that much business investment under the city’s services would warrant a move from a volunteer fire department to a paid, or partially paid, department — similar to what Granville moved to  with the development of  the University Town Centre.
“We have kind of discussed it and it’s not been a favorable discussion. I’ll say that,” Johnson said, later adding “It’s not something that we totally dismiss, but it’s not something that’s real attractive to us right now.”
Ryan Lynch said being inside Westover’s municipal boundaries as opposed to an unincorporated area of the county  gives WestRidge more answers for prospective investors.
“It is going to be in the City of Westover. These are the rules and the codes, and these are the services that are coming,” Lynch said. “So it’s a milestone that those companies themselves have been watching and wanting updates on.”
As part of the agreement Westover will reimburse WestRidge up to $12.5 million for the infrastructure already in place, including parks, common areas, public streets, sidewalks, lighting, conduits and other public improvements.
Westover City Attorney Tim Stranko previously said the city will require proof of the actual costs and will conduct an audit. The reimbursement will be paid in quarterly installments by Westover using taxes from the annexed area.
The property stretches from mile marker 153 on Interstate 79 to mile marker 155 — essentially from West Ridge to the Westover exit. It also includes an area behind the Morgantown Mall where the FedEx facility is, and in parts, it stretches along Lawless Road.
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