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Council investigating Economic Development Committee options

By Staff | Dec 12, 2014

At a meeting of the Shepherdstown Town Council, members continued discussion regarding the formation of an economic development committee to address developmental goals set out in the 2014 draft comprehensive plan.

Though council member and comprehensive plan chair, David Rosen was scheduled to give a presentation regarding the commission’s potential goals and make-up, the council tabled a formal presentation in order to investigate alternative committee routes.

Rosen said that Chapter 7, Article 12 of the West Virginia state code may already grant permission for the establishment of a “municipal development authority.”

The code reads: “the governing body of every municipality and the county commission of every county is hereby authorized to create and establish a public agency to be known as a development authority.”

Section 12-2 details it function: “to promote, develop and advance the business prosperity and economic welfare of the municipality or county for which it is created, its citizens and its industrial complex; to encourage and assist through loans, investments or other business transactions in the locating of new business and industry within the municipality or county and to rehabilitate and assist existing businesses and industries therein; to stimulate and promote the expansion of all kinds of business and industrial activity which will tend to advance business and industrial development and maintain the economic stability of the municipality or county, provide maximum opportunities for employment, encourage thrift, and improve the standard of living of the citizens of the county…” (www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=07&art=12)

Mayor Auxer said the council will continue to seek legal opinion regarding the issue.

“This development authority is very similar to the structure of the planning commission and board of appeals and it has some specific powers and functions that are unique to just this development authority,” Rosen said.

“I’d rather go back and look at this municipal development authority and see if that’s a better path,” he said.

The council discussed potential pros and cons of going that route and said they plan to continue research.

“It could give enough power to the commission that they could actually get some things done,” Rosen said.

Rosen reiterated reasons for interest in establishing an economic development commission.

The draft comprehensive plan calls for corporation goals regarding business sustainability and growth.

“I don’t think the town is going in a downward spiral. I think the town is shifting,” Rosen said.

Council members noted a shift in main street business from traditional retail stores and boutiques to other business types.

“I think without a good voice for the businesses all businesses, I think they’re not going to get support from our local government,” Rosen said.

Auxer said the local government previously looked to the business association for advocacy on behalf of business development and needs, but the SBA has become less active.

“We want to make sure as it shifts, that at least we can direct it in way that’s successful,” Rosen said.

“We want to make sure that we’re attracting businesses that actually support how we envision this town in the long run.”

Council member Bane Schill described the current downtown business environment as “a monoculture,” and said that’s a basic problem.

Schill argued that Shepherdstown should instead see a “quorum of retail.”

“People won’t come and shop for two or three stores,” he said.

“Diversity is key to it.”

Mayor Auxer said business diversity was a major point of interest for the 2000 comprehensive plan.

“We haven’t been able to do that,” he said.

“We need to focus on one common goal.”

Rosen said he will revisit his recommendation once research on the state code has concluded.

The Town Council approved the second reading of the draft comprehensive plan at Tuesday’s meeting. The entire document can be found by visiting: www.benchmarkplanning.com/shepherdstown-documents.