CHARLES TOWN – The Tabb family of Leetown will continue to farm 17 acres of undeveloped county land next spring that the family has leased since 1967.
The Jefferson County Commission voted 4-0 last month to renew the second year of a five-year lease that allows Lyle C. Tabb & Sons of Leetown to continue to plant and harvest crops for another season on the land along Old Leetown Pike.
The Tabbs pay the county $2,667 a year under the lease signed last year. The county commission must vote annually whether to renew the agreement.
The county land lies beside the Jefferson County Animal Welfare League property, near farm land owned by the Tabb family.
Commissioner Jane Tabb, a member of the Tabb family associated with the lease, did not participate in the commission’s most recent Sept. 3 vote and discussion to continue to rent the land to the family.
The Tabbs have been politically active and well connected in Jefferson County politics for several generations.
Until last year, the Tabbs had farmed the county land without undergoing a competitive bidding process to do so. The arrangement drew scrutiny and criticism in some corners on social media.
Dan Casto, the founder of the citizens’ watchdog group Jefferson County Prosperity was outspoken in criticizing the no-bid lease. He has sparred with Tabb and her son Lyle over the Rockwool insulation factory under construction near Kearneysville.
Lyle Tabb oversees the family’s farming operations in Leetown.
County Administrator Stephanie Grove has not yet released the documents involved with the previous lease the county had with the family. For that reason, what the Tabb’s previously paid to farm the county land is unknown.
Descriptions Grove has provided the county commission about the county’s previous lease arrangement have been incomplete, according to the Tabb family. The family, however, has not disclosed what they were previously paying to farm the county land.
The family’s previous lease with the county was last updated in 1993.
Last year, Grove said that she inadvertently neglected a request from the Tabb family to update their previous lease.
The Tabbs began farming what was initially about 250 acres of county land surrounding the former charity poorhouse farm on Old Leetown Pike. Over the years, the poorhouse closed and the county gradually turned over most of open land to other purposes. The county fairgrounds, landfill and animal shelter now lie on that land, as well as a public park and a fire-and-rescue training area.
Only the 17 acres the Tabb family now farms remains undeveloped from the original poorhouse land.