By Bobby Bordelon
Although state-level extensions have been considered due to COVID-19 sheltering, city budgets will soon be due. Because of this, Ronceverte's special meeting of City Council continued forward on Monday, March 23, with a majority of councilmembers in attendance over the phone.
"We've got the room set up so that everybody can be about six feet apart," joked Ronceverte Mayor David Smith. "We could've handled three more folks."
After motions were made to pass the 2021 fiscal year budget, Councilmember Scott Vogelsong asked if $5,000 could be moved from the cemetery upkeep to the Ronceverte Public Library. City Clerk Pam Mentz explained that the transfer was not possible due to the source of cemetery funding.
"Cemeteries are part of the excess levy, so therefore what amount is allocated to the cemeteries has to be spent there," Mentz explained.
Vogelsong's request came as council considered a motion for the budget's passage. In a tense exchange, Smith asked about the request.
"Who from the library asked you to do that?" Smith asked. "The library board met and did not request any funds."
"That's fine, I'm requesting it now," Vogelsong responded.
"Who from the library requested that?" Smith asked.
"I'm not telling you sir," Vogelsong said. "People come to me in confidence. ... All personal feelings aside, we need to vote on this, how do we proceed?"
Smith pushed back against the transfer.
"Do you realize that the library deposited $100,000 into the Greater Greenbrier Foundation the other day? ... They don't need any money, that's why they didn't request any money. ... Scott it would have been far better if you had attended the finance meeting and had it discussed at finance. We've been working on this budget since January," Smith said.
The budget was passed on a four to one vote, with Vogelsong voting against.
"[The passage] doesn't mean that things cannot be adjusted in the budget – things can be adjusted," Smith said. "It has to be on the agenda for that to happen."
Zoning updates throughout Ronceverte could soon be considered by council – a study and report on major zoning updates was approved ahead of potential zoning code changes.
Using the 2014 Comprehensive Plan land-use map, the report breaks the city into five zoning districts: Town Medium Density Residential (R1), Town High Density Residential (R2), Commercial Business (CBD), Industrial (I), and Open Space and Conservation (OC).
"As part of the comprehensive plan process, both the character and condition of buildings were identified and analyzed," reads the report. "The residential core is primarily single-family housing, some of which is historic and some of which is of a newer construction era. The level of upkeep with all of these homes is wide-ranging, from those that have been carefully restored and maintained to those in need of substantial repair. Many of the homes within Ronceverte have been converted to rental units. Of note, much of the residential core includes vacant lots serving as extended yards for existing homes – these lots offer the potential for infill development."
The report sets a number of goals for the potential zoning ordinance, including:
• "Provide a safe and attractive transportation network that accommodates automobile and pedestrian movement."
• "Grow the local economy."
• "Strengthen the supply of housing to meet the diverse needs of Ronceverte's residents."
• "Provide Ronceverte's residents and visitors with cultural and recreational amenities within a safe environment."
• "Encourage land use decisions that reflect the community's vision and promote development in areas appropriate for growth."
Council voted to approve the report, with one nay from Councilmember Adam Rosin.
"The zoning we will consider in the next meeting, with this guidance from the zoning report," Smith said.
In other business:
• Smith encouraged all West Virginia residents to read, in full, Governor Jim Justice's COVID-19 State of Emergency Declaration, Executive Order 9-20. A full copy will be made available on The West Virginia Daily News website. In addition, Smith said the city has "been working on a newsletter that will be going out. [City Administrator Reba Mohler] has been working on that. One part of it will cover COVID-19."
• The 2020 census is still approaching and Smith emphasized the need for all residents to answer its seven questions. This helps Congress decide how funds are allocated, even determining how many congressmen West Virginia has in the House of Representatives. In order to do the census online while staying at home, go to 2020census.gov.
• Consideration of legal matters around a cable franchise agreement, renewal services, and engagement letter was tabled, allowing council to consider the issue more fully in person.
Ronceverte City Council regularly meets on the first Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in City Hall. However, the next meeting is tentatively scheduled, allowing council to reconsider if meeting is necessary amid COVID-19 considerations.