BY Ben Conley and Will Dean
Extreme and egregious.
That’s how Mary Hastings, speaking on behalf of her sister, Jennifer Hastings, described a plan to build a pair of roundabouts on Green Bag Road — including one that would take about 1.5 acres of farm land from the Hastings family.
Mary Hastings is one of four people to raise the issue with the Monongalia County Commission on Wednesday after staging a brief demonstration in front of the Monongalia County Courthouse.
The Green Bag Road improvement project would build a roundabout at the intersection of Green Bag Road and Mississippi Street and one at the Green Bag Road and Kingwood Pike intersection — the location of the Hastings farm, going back five generations.
The project is expected to cost about $10.5 million, and construction is estimated to start in 2023. It was recently delayed for an environmental study at the insistence of the Hastings family and at the request of an unnamed local elected official, but now appears to be back on track.
According to Mary Hastings and her brother, Ted Hastings, the property has supported Joy and Hemp Universal hemp farm for the last two years, as well Mockingbird Hill Farm and the Conscious Harvest Cooperative community garden.
Patrick Kyle, Jennifer Hastings’ husband and operator of Joy and Hemp Universal, said the roundabout simply isn’t needed as traffic only backs up briefly at the intersection — primarily heading toward U.S. 119 — in very specific times of the day.
Ted Hastings refuted the idea that Green Bag Road could be turned into a truck route around Morgantown, pointing to the sloped S-curve between Giant Eagle and U.S. 119 and conversations he’s had with truck drivers as well as members of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Policy Board.
“No loaded truck is going to take it,” he said.
The presenters pointed to the use of turning lanes as an alternative — a choice that appeared to be the front-runner more than a decade ago.
During a recent public meeting on the topic, it was explained that an alternative using turning lanes would take between one and three residential properties.
Kyle said he would like to see the state take another look at traffic on the route and whether it’s worth the loss of a local farm and $10 million in tax dollars.
Commissioner Tom Bloom disagreed.
As a member of the MPO — the local organization that helps direct road project funds — Bloom was outspoken in his disappointment when the project was delayed in 2019 for the environmental study.
“I’m not for another study. I want to be very honest with you. We’ve had studies and studies. We have to make a decision on this one way or the other. Hopefully, we can come up to some sort of compromise, but I don’t know,” Bloom said. “I appreciate you coming here. I’m not going to give you false information and say I’m not for it, because I am for this approach. I want to be open and honest to you on that.”
Ted Hastings also appealed to Commission President Ed Hawkins, who has pushed for farmland protections in Monongalia County going back to his election to the commission.
However, recent rule changes now allow small farms to be enrolled in the farmland protection program. Hawkins owns a 17-acre farm and has thus chosen to recuse himself on the issue, leaving it unlikely to move forward.
“It’s just simply, I cannot vote or bring up on the agenda something that would be perceived to being to my advantage,” Hawkins said.
In other county news, the commission approved a bid of $26,485 from Vandevender for the installation of a tow rope system on the Chestnut Ridge Park sledding hill.
Facilities Director Bobby Doyle said he’s hopeful installation could be complete by Thanksgiving.
The commission also joined Morgantown City Council in adopting a proclamation recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.