A preliminary step in exploring the potential of an I-79 Harmony Grove interchange project got the clearance of the Monongalia County Commission on Wednesday.
A resolution and order approved by the commission extended the existing Morgantown Industrial Park tax increment finance (TIF) district from 25 to the maximum 30 years and increased the authorized principle amount of the district by $1.5 million to $6,784,721.42.
Glenn Adrian, who co-owns the park through Enrout Properties, said the additional TIF funds will be used to conduct a number of environmental and engineering studies on the new interchange, which would provide direct interstate access to the back of the park and open additional acreage for development.
If those studies come back favorable and the state agrees to move forward, two things will happen. One, the DOT will finance, design and build the interchange. Two, a second industrial park TIF district will be created. The increment from that district will be used to extend utilities and infrastructure to the park expansion and, secondarily, begin reimbursing the state for the interchange.
In other road project news, representatives of the Hastings family once again addressed the commission regarding the state’s plan to use about 1.7 acres of their farm land for a Green Bag Road roundabout project.
The $10 million project calls for a roundabout at the intersection of Green Bag Road and Mississippi Street and one at the Green Bag Road and Kingwood Pike intersection.
The Hastings family owns land at the corner of Green Bag Road and Kingwood Pike that is used to support Joy and Hemp Universal a hemp farm, Mockingbird Hill Farm and the Conscious Harvest Cooperative community garden.
The local desire to see a project improve Green Bag Road to create a bypass around Morgantown, particularly for heavy trucks, goes back more than a decade.
The Hastings family has pushed back against the project since the idea of roundabouts came to the forefront, noting the project will eliminate prime farm land that’s been in the family since 1904.
Speaking on behalf of the nonprofit Conscious Harvest Community Garden, Ted Hastings said he’s hopeful to get community backing to fight the project, which has the support of the Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization, the county commission and the city of Morgantown.
“You’re costing us — basically not you all, but the whole body of governance, from the MMMPO down to this, the local level, has inadequately protected our rights as an organization,” he said. “This is now going to manifest itself as, probably, a federal challenge in court.”
His sister, Mary Hastings, speaking on behalf of her business, Joy and Hemp, said she hopes people will speak out against the roundabout plan and push for alternative designs.
“We are not going away. We can’t just stomp on businesses, farms, non-profits and say it’s in the best interest of the community,” she said. “I don’t see how that’s really possible.”
Also on Wednesday, the commission:
- Received an annual update on Monongalia County 4-H from 4-H Extension Agent Becca Fint-Clark and Program Assistant Heather Tanton.
- Rescheduled its Nov. 11 meeting to 10 a.m. Nov. 13 due to the Veteran’s Day holiday.