West Campus annexation approved
The Shepherdstown Town Council, meeting before a packed house in special session, voted four-to-two to approve the annexation of the 11 dormitories on Shepherd University’s West Campus last Tuesday. The measure now goes to the County Commission for a procedural approval by “ministerial act”. According to County Commissioner Jim Surkamp, approval is all but guaranteed, as the County Commission has no legal mechanism to overturn an annexation within the urban growth boundary of a municipality.
The vote followed an hour and half of heated debate and public comment in front of a standing room only crowd of over 40 members of the public at the Shepherdstown Men’s Club at German and King Streets.
At one point, in response to a query from Councilman Stuart Wallace, a visible majority of the general public attending the meeting raised their hands to identify themselves as opponents of the annexation.
Proponents of the annexation emphasized the financial necessity of annexing the dorms, noting that the residential growth of Charles Town and Ranson threaten to strip $150,000 per year from Shepherdstown’s video lottery tax revenue over the next decade if Shepherdstown does not increase it’s population by roughly 600. Video lottery tax revenue is divided between the five municipalities of Jefferson County based on population.
Opponents of the annexation criticized the plan as a money grab which would leave year-round residents of Shepherdstown outnumbered by transitory university students with different interests in municipal politics.
Voting for the annexation were council members Wanda Grantham-Smith, Lori Robertson, Howard Mills and Jim Ford.
Voting against the annexation were councilmen Stuart Wallace and Thomas Martin, who had previously voted twice, in the finance committe and in last week’s Town Council meeting, to approve the annexation.
Sonya Evanisko, a prominent member of the loose-knit annexation opposition movement, criticized the vote, asserting that it usurped the opinion of the residents of town.
“Our Town Council members did not respect the voices of the numerous residents who voiced their opposition here.” Said Evanisko, after the meeting.
—Full coverage in this Friday’s Chronicle.—