Renewed talks underway for new economic development zone in Raleigh County

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 1:05 PM EDT
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) -The Raleigh County commission is re-considering a proposal to create a new economic development zone in the area.

The properties being considered are located along the old Hulett Smith Property off of Harper Road and on another tract of land where the Brier Patch Golf Links currently sit.

Developers are attempting to use the property for major residential and commercial development through an economic development zone known as a Tax Increment Financing District or TIF. The designation would allow developers to pay off the bond instead of county taxes for a set number of years to allow for investments in infrastructure and utilities. Similar districts in Morgantown and South Charleston have led to explosive economic growth in those areas.

Commissioner Linda K. Epling would like to see Raleigh County experience that same level of growth.

“You can’t have economic development if you don’t have housing for these people. This is a way to get it started,” she said.

Out of an abundance of caution, the commission recently took the issue to the state’s Ethics Commission due to two of the stakeholders in the companies looking to invest -- Jill and Jay Justice, Governor Jim Justice’s children.

“Mr. Roop (the county attorney) has told us, it’s not in the Governor’s name, therefore it is not an ethical problem.”

Commissioner Greg Duckworth has been a long-time supporter of the project, saying “it’s the best tool we have to attract developers to the area.”

While he and Commissioner Epling support the TIF, Commission Pres. Dave Tolliver is still undecided. He hopes to use a public hearing on the issue on April 25th as an opportunity to learn more.

“I personally don’t have enough information on it yet and can’t make a decision yet on whether I’m going to accept it.”

While the TIF is still in effect, the county would still be able to reap economic benefits -- from the collection of the Hotel/ Motel tax to the creation of jobs and arrival of new residents.

“The way I look at it, it’s sitting there and doing nothing. That one piece of property is an eye sore. If it goes the way everybody thinks it will go, hey, you can’t beat it,” added Commissioner Epling.

The public is invited to voice their opinion and learn more about the proposal during a public hearing on the issue set for Tuesday, April 25, at 11 a.m. in the commission’s chambers.