Planning board president describes group
Morgan County Planning Commission president Jack Soronen opened the September 25 meeting by focusing attention on the 11 members of the volunteer board.
Soronen, who has served on the board for 10 years, briefly introduced each of the members.
Scott Swaim is a lender and member of the Farmland Protection Board. He is Vice President of the Planning Commission.
Mary Ellen Largent and her husband have farmed in southern Morgan County for 50 years. She formerly led the Planning Commission.
Richard Harvey is a retired military officer and worked on updating the county's Compre-hensive Plan.
Wayne Omps is a builder
and business owner and the newest member of the county board.
Carl Cowgill is a heavy equipment operator from Paw Paw.
Brad Close works as a certified public accountant and has served on the board for less than a year.
Tucker Stinebaugh is an excavator and fire chief in Great Cacapon.
Sue Parker is a retired court administrator from Maryland.
Ann Smith is a retired teacher and active community volunteer.
Tommy Swaim is a County Commissioner. He has served on the commission for more than a decade.
State rules guide board
"There's a very diverse character to the Planning Commission. We're all volunteers. We don't get paid, but there is the occasional implication that members are deriving personal gain from developments. State rules dictate that if there's a conflict of interest, members must recuse themselves from voting," said Soronen.
"I think there's been some misrepresentation about the makeup of the Planning Commission as being pro-development," said Soronen.
The appointment of local developer and business owner Wayne Omps to the Planning Commission caused a stir
last month. County Commis-sioner Brenda Hutchinson said she didn't think Omps was a good choice to serve on the board because of his ties to the building industry.
Soronen pointed to the West Virginia Code, Section 8-A, which serves as a guideline for how many members a county Planning Commission should have and what areas of industry should be represented on the board.
According to state code, the county board should include members representing business, industry, labor, farming and government.
When asked if the board had considered adding members to bring it up to the legal maximum of 15 members, Soronen said the current 11-member board felt "comfortable." State law allows as few as five members for a county board.
"Fewer would be too few, and more would be awkward and cumbersome," said Soronen.
"The experience and integrity of the current board is too good. I wouldn't want to mess with it," he added.
County resident Ron Zerr asked if the board was concerned about increasing development, or felt the need to "call in some expertise" to handle the county's accelerating growth.
"You may be comfortable with the way things are now, but things are rapidly changing," said Zerr.
Soronen assured Zerr that members of the planning board had wide-ranging concerns about development, from road safety to fire safety to water quality.
The Morgan County Planning Commission meets on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m.