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Mon Commission creates orphan road grant process, approves funding for two projects

MORGANTOWN — In consecutive action items Wednesday, the Monongalia County Commission created the Monongalia County Orphan Road Grant Program and approved funding for its first two successful applicants.

All told, the commission is putting up $111,000 — $67,000 of which will be used for improvements to Bridge Road. The remaining $44,000 will be used to address Pinecrest/Farmview Road.

“Anyone who lives in this county on a rural or abandoned road knows there’s very little help to get it paved other than to have all the homeowners chip in,” Commissioner Jeff Arnett said.

While private funding will still be a critical component, the orphan road program will allow individuals and associations to petition the county to add grant dollars to the pot.

In the case of Pinecrest/Farmview, there are about 400 homes and apartments impacted by a single point of entrance located near the intersection of Point Marion and Stewartstown roads, across from the Circle K gas station.

In that instance, individuals and homeowners’ associations raised $43,400 and helped secure an agreement from Pinnacle Apartments to modify traffic flow to make the Point Marion access entrance only.

Commission President Sean Sikora said the Pinecrest project was not only the first brought to the commission, but also “the case study for why we want to do this kind of stuff.”

Pinecrest Village HOA member Karl Marion explained that the dangerous entrance/exit situation combined with the condition of Farmview Road creates a terrible first impression on visitors and potential investors.

“We greatly appreciate the county commission considering doing something like this and we’re pleased to be one of the initial groups to do this and to help develop the process and be able to show what can be done,” he said.

In the case of Bridge Road, a total of 49 households — comprised of homeowner associations and private individuals — raised $47,400 to address a road so bad residents refuse to use it in the summer.

“But they have no choice but to use it in the winter because the only other access is a road so steep that cars literally slide back down it and end up off the road or rolled over, all kinds of things,” Arnett said.

Commissioner Tom Bloom said the program is for roads that are existing problems, not new roads and not roads inside subdivisions that are already the responsibility of HOAs.

The program lays out a number of requirements for successful applications, including whether conditions impact access for emergency services and vital services like school buses and mail delivery.

Applications also must list impacts to quality of life and a detailed explanation of the level of participation and local commitment, as well as the number of households to be impacted.

Successful applications must receive the blessing of the Monongalia County Planning Commission and the West Virginia Department of Highways, which is providing expertise in an advisory capacity.

The commission noted in the enabling legislation that orphan roads likely create more problems in Monongalia County than anywhere else in the state, as more and more development springs up along roads that may have been built decades ago to access a single piece of property.

Sikora explained the county is looking to head off future issues of this sort with the implementation of subdivision regulations, which are being finalized.

“I sincerely want to thank my fellow commissioners and the public for their assistance with this orphaned road grant program,” Sikora said. “I think this is a very forward-thinking effort by the commission to address the symptoms of unmanaged growth in our county, and I hope we can continue this conversation.”

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