MORGANTOWN — COVID-19 delayed the effort to implement countywide subdivision regulations by about a year.
A drop in the bucket, really, when you consider they’ve been in the works to varying degrees dating back to the 1960s.
Now, the Monongalia County Commission is potentially within months of enacting such regulations.
On Friday, County Planning Director Andrew Gast-Bray posted what he says will be the final draft version of the regulations online at monongaliacounty.gov.
This document, he explained, has the same DNA as the regulations posted in March 2020, right before COVID-19 slammed the brakes on the entire process.
He said the last year has been spent clarifying and reorganizing the regulations, which, some felt, and still feel, go beyond regulating the subdivision of land, and stray closer to the realm of zoning.
Gast-Bray says no.
“This ordinance allows any type of building, ranging from downtown-Morgantown-style development to huge lot, single-family, detached developments and everything in-between. You can build anything. We don’t tell you what you can build or where,” Gast-Bray said. “Once you, as the developer, have decided what you want to build, then we say ‘You need to build it to accommodate the infrastructure that’s appropriate for that type of land use.’ That’s it.”
Gast-Bray said the aim of the 120-page document is to be incentive-based and flexible, while ensuring unchecked development isn’t causing long-term issues, primarily due to overwhelmed roads and uncontrolled water runoff.
“We just had a washout. Many millions of dollars, because of a washout … Was it due to an evil developer? No. But one developer comes in and does just the minimum of what they need to do. Then another comes in to do that, and nobody gives a thought to what happens later on, when you’ve got all these developments out there,” Gast-Bray said. “We’re trying to enable them to most easily build responsible infrastructure for themselves and the county.”
Monongalia County Commission President Sean Sikora said the ongoing growth in the county makes standards necessary.
“These aren’t building regulations or anything like that. We’re not telling people how to build houses. It’s just so that infrastructure is done is a way that’s forward looking; so it’s not just building for the moment, but building for the future,” Sikora said. “It’s important that we have the conversation. We talk about everything else. Why can’t we talk about this?”
According to the tentative timeline on the county’s website, a public hearing and potential adoption of the regulations is set for the end of June.
If adopted, a six-month window would open during which projects can be grandfathered in under current standards. Once that ends, the regulations will be enforced for six months before a one-year review is conducted.