Don't abuse eminent domain: The Daily Athenaeum Interactive (West Virginia University), 5/1/06


Pocahontas County residents are fighting a proposed sewage treatment facility that would require seizing one family's land via eminent domain, according to a report on West Virginia Public Radio's "Inside Appalachia."

The facility would primarily serve Snowshoe Mountain, which needs a larger sewage treatment facility in order to grow. According to WVPR reporter Emily Corio, about 1,800 of the 2,000 customers of the plant would be at Snowshoe.

The facility would be located near Snowshoe on nine acres of land which currently belong to the Sharp family, who run a bed-and-breakfast adjacent to the proposed site. The Sharps claim their business will suffer if the plant is built.

Tom Shipley, who runs the bed-and-breakfast, says 60 percent of the land in Pocahontas County is owned by the state and federal governments, yet the county wants to seize private land for the project.

The county offered the Sharps about $100,000, but the family won't sell. County officials will have to use eminent domain to seize the property.

When Pocahontas County State Senator Walt Helmich heard about the controversy, he asked the governor to make state land nearby available. Gov. Manchin agreed, and a plot of land near the current site could be transferred to the developer for at $1 fee to the county commission.

The county says the alternate site would increase the overall price tag of the project by $3 million dollars from its current $17 million.

While we understand that $3 million dollars is a lot of money - approximately 18 percent of the project's current budget - we think the county should use the state's land instead of seizing private land.

The land itself may not be worth the $3 million, but eminent domain should only be used in cases when no alternative is available and when the project is essential to a community's survival.

In this case, other land is available and the plant is to foster growth, not sustain an existing community. We think the project is a worthy one, but it is absolutely not appropriate to seize private land to save money.

Daily Athenaeum Interactive: http://www.da.wvu.edu