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Shepherd University annexation official

By Staff | Dec 18, 2009

Shepherd University dormitory Burkhart Hall is located on the West Campus. Photo by Michael Theis/Chronicle

Residents of Shepherd University’s 11 West Campus dormitories can now officially call themselves Shepherdstownians.

The Jefferson County Commission has approved the annexation of the 11 West Campus dormitories. The approval means that Shepherdstown’s municipal population will see a boost of over 600 residents, the vast majority of which are Shepherd students. Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer and other supporters of the annexation hope that the move will help Shepherdstown maintain a 14 percent share of video lottery tax revenues.

The additional 600-plus resident-students means that dormitory residents now outnumber year-round Shepherdstown residents roughly 1,000 to 800.

Plans to annex all or parts of West Campus into Shepherdstown date back to at least 2003, but did not get off the ground until this summer when Shepherd University submitted a petition to Town Council to annex a narrow strip of land surrounding the 11 West Campus dormitories into Shepherdstown.

The annexation of the West Campus dormitories touched off a political debate in Shepherdstown. In numerous Town Council meetings and public hearings, opponents of the measure criticized the annexation, saying that it would make year-round Shepherdstown residents a political minority in their own town.

Supporters of the annexation disagreed, saying that few Shepherd students participate in the municipal elections, which occur almost a month after the close of the normal academic year, and a week before early voting begins.

The petition to annex was also criticized for having only 10 signatures when Shepherdstown stands to gain over 600 new residents. State annexation law requires the signatures of a simple majority of residents living in the area to be annexed. According to Shepherd legal counsel Alan Purdue, university officials circulated the petition during the late summer months, before most of the students living in the dorms were eligible to sign the petition.

County Commission Vice President Jim Surkamp praised the annexation. “The corporation of Shepherdstown had to do something to face the financial challenges of the town.” Said Surkamp. “It might even make the town politics more interesting, with more points of view at the table.”