Charles Town votes to sue Jefferson Co. over annexation

March 20, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town City Council members unanimously agreed Monday night to file suit against the Jefferson County Commission over the commission's March 8 decision not to certify a 48-acre annexation into the city known as Windmill Crossing.

Charles Town attorney Jim Crawford, who has been representing the city in the proposed annexation, discussed filing a civil suit against the commission and suggested that the city employ the law firm of Jackson Kelly to handle the case.

Crawford said Jackson Kelly has greater research capability than his office to handle the matter.

Crawford said the case should be a writ of mandamus, which would be asking the court to compel the commission to do what it "should have done."

Crawford said he believes the commission has no flexibility to disapprove an annexation if it is "sufficient on its face."

The Windmill Crossing project involves the development of 15 commercial lots and condominiums along U.S. 340 north of Charles Town.


The city wants to annex the property to build its commercial tax base, which Charles Town officials have said is an important issue for them.

To reach the property, the city proposed going up U.S. 340 to reach the property at the intersection of Marlow Road.

Using a highway to annex a property is sometimes referred to as a "pipestem" annexation, and county officials have complained that pipestem annexations make it difficult to do effective land planning.

The commission refused to certify the annexation after Commissioner Greg Corliss said the annexation did not meet the state's definition of a contiguous property and Commission President Frances Morgan called it a "land grab."

City Council member Matt Ward inquired about the cost to the city of hiring Jackson Kelly but Mayor Peggy Smith said the city needs to consider the cost of not being able to annex Windmill Crossing and enjoy the revenue it would generate for the city.

"We cannot afford not to pursue this," Smith said.

Commissioner Dale Manuel said Monday night that he could not comment on the council's action since it involves litigation. But Manuel said the case would probably be a "test case" on state annexation law.

It is the second recent proposed annexation to the city of Charles Town that has generated controversy.

Local residents and government officials criticized a proposed 638-acre annexation to the City of Charles Town near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Smith has said she believes that proposed annexation is too far away from Charles Town.

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