New billboards will be banned on Washington Heritage Trail
New billboards over 32 square feet in size will be banned along the entire length of the Washington Heritage Trail in Morgan County.
The Morgan County Commission passed a motion directing the planning office not to issue any off-premise outdoor signs larger than four feet by eight feet along the scenic byway at their Friday, August 24 meeting. The motion was effective as of Friday.
The commissioners felt that issuing permits for off-premise outdoor advertising that was larger than 32 square feet on the trail was a violation of federal regulations.
The motion will not affect billboards that are already in place. The commission will not attempt to regulate what's already out there, said Commission President Glen Stotler.
Requests for smaller signs along the Washington Heritage Trail may be reviewed and granted. All outdoor advertising signs must go through the standard process for permits and fees in Morgan County.
Trail met criteria
The commission didn't feel they had the authority to enact a billboard ordinance, said Stotler. But they felt that the local members of the Washington Heritage Trail committee had proven that the entire trail in Morgan County possessed one or more of the intrinsic criteria of a scenic byway.
The intrinsic criteria include culture, historic, archeological, recreational, scenic and natural.
Washington Heritage Trail President Jeanne Mozier had asked the commissioners to extend the moratorium on new offsite outdoor advertising along the scenic byway
for three more months at
their June 1 meeting so the issue could be thoroughly researched.
Mozier had driven the trail noting all the historic and cultural sites and scenic rock formations and had also researched the issue for the local Washington Heritage Trail committee.
The county commissioners originally put a moratorium on offsite outdoor advertising on the Washington Heritage Trail in May, 2006. The moratorium was extended in November, 2006 for another six months and again on June 1 until August 31.
Heritage Trail location
The Morgan County portion of the Washington Heritage Trail runs from Route 9 East at the Berkeley County line to Berkeley Springs and extends along Route 9 West to Paw Paw. It also crosses Cold Run Valley, travels along Rock Gap Road to U.S. 522 South and goes south along U.S. Route 522 to Fish Hatchery Road.
The Washington Heritage Trail in Morgan County was designated a scenic byway in 1998 by the State of West Virginia. It was also named a scenic byway by the federal government in 2000. The trail does not include the northern corridor of U.S. 522 and other portions of the highway.
Closed session for
Before the commission discussed the billboard ban history and possible motion with Mozier, county attorney Richard Gay insisted on giving his legal advice about the billboards in a closed executive session.
Commissioner Tommy Swaim raised objections to closing the discussion with Gay to Mozier, a handful of residents and press. The commission then agreed to Gay's request and went into executive session.