NEWS

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As a 70-year old, super conservative property owner, business owner, and resident in Harpers Ferry, I am generally against State governments interfering in local affairs, but the Harpers Ferry town government hasn’t managed the Hilltop House Project effectively and efficiently, so I 100% support the Tourism Development District Act, which provides a solution to the current impasse regarding the Hilltop House Project.

I served on the Harpers Ferry Planning Commission from 2007 to 2014 and was a Commissioner when the SWaN Group presented their original plan for the Hilltop House in May 2010. This plan was inappropriate — and I was among the most vocal of critics. I subsequently served on the Steering Committee that developed the “Vision” for Harpers Ferry and worked on development of the East Ridge Promontory Overlay District Amendment — so I am aware of the criteria for development set forth in these documents. In addition, I have served on the “Make it Happen” Steering Committee, which has actively supported the Hilltop House Project since 2019.

The current plan for the Hilltop House meets the criteria set forth in the Overlay Amendment. I do not understand why Mayor Bishop and some of the Council Members oppose the SWaN Group’s use of paper streets and have otherwise failed to expedite the development process. I understand that “everybody wants a hotel built” — and I understand the appeal of an exact replica of the former Hilltop House — but SWaN’s current plan enhances the character of the former Hilltop House with amenities that will attract tourists year-round and consequently increase winter tourism. With increased sales during the winter season, other hospitality-related businesses in addition to the Hilltop House will pay increased Sales, Business / Occupation, and Room Occupancy taxes, to everyone’s mutual benefit.

As owner of the Town’s Inn in the middle of Lower Town ( 175 and 179 High Street ) since February 2007, I’d be especially interested in seeing if Town tax revenue records for all tourism-related businesses indicate the same revenue pattern that the Inn has experienced over the past fourteen years: operating at full capacity during the busiest period ( Memorial Day to Labor Day: June, July, August)  and then experiencing an 80% drop in income when the “most busy” period is compared to the “least busy” period ( January, February, and March ). Sadly, 80% of Inn expenses ( utilities, insurance, auto, maintenance, repairs, etc.) continue at about the same rate whether the Inn is very busy or very un-busy — so I have had to borrow money and lay off good employees every year for the past fourteen years because I cannot charge summer guests prices high enough to cover winter expenses.

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As a 70-year old, super conservative property owner, business owner, and resident in Harpers Ferry, I am generally against State governments interfering in local affairs, but the Harpers Ferry town government hasn’t managed the Hilltop House Project effectively and efficiently, so I 100% support the Tourism Development District Act, which provides a solution to the current impasse regarding the Hilltop House Project.

I served on the Harpers Ferry Planning Commission from 2007 to 2014 and was a Commissioner when the SWaN Group presented their original plan for the Hilltop House in May 2010. This plan was inappropriate — and I was among the most vocal of critics. I subsequently served on the Steering Committee that developed the “Vision” for Harpers Ferry and worked on development of the East Ridge Promontory Overlay District Amendment — so I am aware of the criteria for development set forth in these documents. In addition, I have served on the “Make it Happen” Steering Committee, which has actively supported the Hilltop House Project since 2019.

The current plan for the Hilltop House meets the criteria set forth in the Overlay Amendment. I do not understand why Mayor Bishop and some of the Council Members oppose the SWaN Group’s use of paper streets and have otherwise failed to expedite the development process. I understand that “everybody wants a hotel built” — and I understand the appeal of an exact replica of the former Hilltop House — but SWaN’s current plan enhances the character of the former Hilltop House with amenities that will attract tourists year-round and consequently increase winter tourism. With increased sales during the winter season, other hospitality-related businesses in addition to the Hilltop House will pay increased Sales, Business / Occupation, and Room Occupancy taxes, to everyone’s mutual benefit.

As owner of the Town’s Inn in the middle of Lower Town ( 175 and 179 High Street ) since February 2007, I’d be especially interested in seeing if Town tax revenue records for all tourism-related businesses indicate the same revenue pattern that the Inn has experienced over the past fourteen years: operating at full capacity during the busiest period ( Memorial Day to Labor Day: June, July, August)  and then experiencing an 80% drop in income when the “most busy” period is compared to the “least busy” period ( January, February, and March ). Sadly, 80% of Inn expenses ( utilities, insurance, auto, maintenance, repairs, etc.) continue at about the same rate whether the Inn is very busy or very un-busy — so I have had to borrow money and lay off good employees every year for the past fourteen years because I cannot charge summer guests prices high enough to cover winter expenses.

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This week, the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee voted to move forward with House Bill 4025, which would in two years’ time reduce the publication of legal ads for public notice in communities and counties across West Virginia in favor of placing this vital information on a government-owned website controlled by the state Auditor’s office.

Currently, West Virginia State Code requires the government, companies, corporations and others to alert local residents of actions that would impact residents and their communities.

There are currently 346 such instances in State Code. Legal ads are required for issues from changes in air quality permits, zoning changes, landfill permits and public comment periods on environmental issues to advertisements for bids on local work, government financial statements, delinquent taxes, property sales and election ballots. State Code says residents are entitled to this public notice by a legal ad in their local newspaper, and, depending on the issue, the notice is required to be published once, twice or three times to increase awareness.

HB 4025, which is sponsored by Delegates Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh County, and Tony Paynter, R- Wyoming County, would greatly reduce public notices at no proven benefit to the people of West Virginia.

Indeed, state officials pushing this legislation are dangerously wrong in thinking a document placed on a government website would be seen by or serve as public notice for West Virginians. This is a state with an aging population and one with limited access to high-speed internet and there remains no information on readership of a statewide website as compared to West Virginia newspaper websites, which attract millions of views each year.

We believe newspapers remain the most relevant source or news and information for communities throughout West Virginia.

Do some politicians actually want to make the process of finding public notices a little more difficult?

There is no evidence that HB 4025 would benefit local residents in their own communities.

In fact, the benefit would go to attorneys, their private clients and to state agencies.

While the bill’s sponsors’ cite the cost reduction to post legal notices online on a government site, they fail to point out that that 66 percent cost reduction would be for attorneys, companies and organizations that are now required by state law or a court to provide the public proper notice through publication of legal advertisements in a local newspaper. That’s because most legal advertisements require a publication fee from the individuals involved or listed, meaning the cost of the legal ad is reimbursed by private parties, not funded with tax dollars. For instance, the annual Delinquent Tax List requires each person or company to pay a fee for the reminder to be published in the local newspaper.

So one reduction West Virginia residents would see would be in the availability of important information affecting their lives and their property.

Another reduction would be in the amount of revenue that would remain in residents’ own communities. Counties in West Virginia actually gain tens of thousands of dollars in revenue to help fund county services from those publication fees.

HB 4025 ignores the fact that the West Virginia newspaper industry has invested millions of dollars in creating and maintaining websites for their newspapers and already offers a free online legal advertisement website — wvlegals.com — for local residents.

This bill is also a dream come true for political officeholders. Not only would it reduce the amount of information on public notices to average citizens, it would also reduce the number of times an election ballot would be published in the local community, giving incumbents an advantage over lesser-known political challengers.

There are currently 21 bills before the Legislature addressing policies for environmental regulations, 19 bills addressing consumer protection, 13 bills that would repeal existing code statutes and 14 bills on energy generation. In 2019, the state sold 187,208 individual tracts of land for unpaid taxes.

With many regions of the state struggling economically and the Legislature suggesting major changes to the tax code and economic development efforts, there is no benefit to West Virginians in reducing public notices. West Virginia lawmakers and residents should all oppose HB 4025.

  • 4 min to read

Following this week’s observation of Martin Luther King Day and in anticipation of next month’s celebration of Black History Month, it’s worth recalling the outsized role the little village of Harpers Ferry has played in this nation’s long march towards black Americans’ advancement as full and free citizens of the United States.

It was at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, after all, that abolitionist John Brown led his ill-fated raid on the federal armory in October 1859, a tectonic move, according to James W. Loewen in “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” that made the idea of emancipation of this nation’s 4 million enslaved people seem not so “radical” after all. Read more

  • 3 min to read

Nancy Pelosi said she undertook impeachment "prayerfully," and apparently what she was praying was that she could get it over with as soon as possible. 
The House is preparing to send a flagrantly incomplete factual record to the Senate as the basis of an effort to remove a sitting president for the first time in our history. 
Pelosi has affected a posture of heavy-heartedness since the outset of the process, saying that "there's no joy in this" and urging a somber spirit as Democrats pursue the facts wherever they may take them -- so long as that's not too far into an election year. 
Read more

  • 2 min to read

Nancy Pelosi said she undertook impeachment "prayerfully," and apparently what she was praying was that she could get it over with as soon as possible. 
The House is preparing to send a flagrantly incomplete factual record to the Senate as the basis of an effort to remove a sitting president for the first time in our history. 
Pelosi has affected a posture of heavy-heartedness since the outset of the process, saying that "there's no joy in this" and urging a somber spirit as Democrats pursue the facts wherever they may take them -- so long as that's not too far into an election year. 
Read more

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Nancy Pelosi said she undertook impeachment "prayerfully," and apparently what she was praying was that she could get it over with as soon as possible. 
The House is preparing to send a flagrantly incomplete factual record to the Senate as the basis of an effort to remove a sitting president for the first time in our history. 
Pelosi has affected a posture of heavy-heartedness since the outset of the process, saying that "there's no joy in this" and urging a somber spirit as Democrats pursue the facts wherever they may take them -- so long as that's not too far into an election year. 

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Nancy Pelosi said she undertook impeachment "prayerfully," and apparently what she was praying was that she could get it over with as soon as possible. 
The House is preparing to send a flagrantly incomplete factual record to the Senate as the basis of an effort to remove a sitting president for the first time in our history. 
Pelosi has affected a posture of heavy-heartedness since the outset of the process, saying that "there's no joy in this" and urging a somber spirit as Democrats pursue the facts wherever they may take them -- so long as that's not too far into an election year. 

  • 0

Nancy Pelosi said she undertook impeachment "prayerfully," and apparently what she was praying was that she could get it over with as soon as possible. 
The House is preparing to send a flagrantly incomplete factual record to the Senate as the basis of an effort to remove a sitting president for the first time in our history. 
Pelosi has affected a posture of heavy-heartedness since the outset of the process, saying that "there's no joy in this" and urging a somber spirit as Democrats pursue the facts wherever they may take them -- so long as that's not too far into an election year. 

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Jefferson County’s tourism business is booming. We lead the state in tourism dollars and taxes. We have been blessed with natural gifts that are renowned worldwide and we welcome over a million visitors every year. The clear view of the Blue Ridge comes to mind as well as two famous rivers t…