Annexation clears first of two Town Council votes
The Shepherdstown town council has approved the first of two required readings of the petition to annex Shepherd University’s west campus dormitories. The three to one vote followed almost an hour of spirited, polite debate on many aspects of the annexation. The measure must be approved by the town council a second time, which is scheduled to happen next Tuesday in a special session of the council at Town Hall next Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 6:30 p.m.
A full length story on the town council meeting will be in this Friday’s Chronicle.
Citing financial benefits to the Corporation of Shepherdstown, the Shepherdstown Planning Commission, in special session, voted to recommend that the town council approve Shepherd University’s petition to annex the 11 West Campus dormitories. This clears the way for the town council to hold the first of two public readings of the bill, the first scheduled for the regular council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at Town Hall, 104 N. King St.
The motion to recommend was passed by a vote of four to two, with one abstention. Commissioners Catharine Wilson and Josh Stella voted against the measure. Commissioner Karene Motivans chose to abstain from voting. The decision followed a civil, spirited and well informed debate touching on many aspects of the annexation.
Opponents of the annexation expressed concerns over altering the balance between year-round residents and dormitory students in municipal affairs. High Street resident Zenia Kuzma voiced many concerns about the annexation such as the timing and number of signatures on the petition, and asserted that traditional notions about student voter participation in municipal elections are outdated. Kuzma asserted that the election of President Obama has awakened and empowered the young electorate to participate in civic life, endangering the political balance in Shepherdstown should the annexation be approved.
Proponents of the annexation, until last night a rare sight in these proceedings, asserted that opponents of the annexation were a vocal minority, not representative of the town as a whole. Former Shepherdstown Councilman Neal Martineau noted that Shepherdstown already has over 300 student voters within the borders on the East Campus dormitories.
“They don’t vote here because they are not interested in our local government and its concerns.” Said Martineau.
Martineau, along with Shepherdstown resident and business owner Bob Myers and Mayor Jim Auxer stressed the quantifiable financial incentives behind the annexation, each noting that Shepherdstown stands to lose roughly $150,000 in revenue next year if the annexation is not approved.
Explaining their opposition votes, Wilson and Stella both cited concerns about the potential impact of adding a large number of residential students to the electorate of the municipality. After the meeting, Stella explained that he had mixed feelings about the annexation which motivated him to vote against the recommendation.
“I wanted to be voice of concern that could be heard at Town Council.” Said Stella.
Karene Motivans, the lone abstainer from the vote said that she also had mixed feelings about the annexation.
“The narrowness of the plot, it seemed to meet only the minimum requirements.” Said Motivans. “They could have included the Popodicon [the mansion which Shepherd University provides for its president], or something to be an asset for the town.”