BELINGTON, W. Va. —Though not put on the agenda for first reading after being sent back by the Zoning Board of Appeals, the main discussion at Belington City Council’s meeting Thursday night was on the draft of a proposed “Occupancy and Entrance Permits” ordinance.

Council’s chambers filled with citizens and the meeting had to be moved upstairs to a larger space to accommodate the crowd.

Concerns ranged from the ambiguous wording in the draft, to whom the $25 permit fee would apply and other minimal requirements to be considered in compliance to the proposed ordinance.

One of the first questions council addressed was if current residents would have to apply for and hold a permit and pay a $25 dollar fee. According to council, the section under Occupancy which read “Any person, owner, or tenant occupying any property prior to the approval of this Belington Occupancy Permit shall come into compliance on or before [a year after the effective date after passage]” did not apply to current residents and they would not be monitored for compliance.

“Someone who’s already living here, I think, those folks, unless they’re on our list of having not paying their bills, we would assume that they are complying with the ordinance,” Max Grove, council member and author of the drafted ordinance said.

When asked about the wording of the draft not being clear, Grove responded “That wording then needs to be tweaked, right? Then that’s what the process is we’re going through right now and that’s why this should not have been out to the public at all. Probably, what I should have done was kept this on the computer and made all the tweaks over there.”

“If you’re going to read what I wrote originally and then back after I went back and made changes to that, so that I could present them to council with those changes, if you’re going to do that, then we’re never going to get an ordinance through,” he said. “Because you’re going to have them in here every week, every other week for the meeting.”

There was confusion among city council members as to if a document, draft or otherwise, is sent to a governmental board and is addressed in a public meeting –as was done with this draft by the Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday– if that document can then be accessed by the public.

Changes had already been made to the draft with written notes on Grove’s copy of the draft which, among other things, allowed for the use of generators in a declared state of emergency and now also during a power outage which was not the fault of the landowner, changing the section under Property Maintenance pertaining to the demonstration of the ability and means to mow and trim grass and weeds to apply only when necessary and the correction of spelling errors.

As for the Zoning Board’s determination it could not rule on the ordinance, council said it was a miscommunication as they only requested the board look at the ordinance to detect any conflicts with existing zoning ordinances. For their concerns about the constitutionality of the bill based on information received from the city attorney, Grove said the opinion was based on a previous version of the ordinance.

“We had proposed an ordinance once before, I had written an ordinance once before that actually included the water as begin one item that we could withhold to get peole to pay their bill and they attorney comes back and says ‘You can’t do that, that’s unconstitutional.'”

Occupancy Permits issued with applications and fees currently are legal –in many municipalities in Pennsylvania, particularly– with Grove citing Monroeville, Pennsylvania as one inspiration for the intended purpose of Belington’s drafted ordinance.

The application, what Grove said was the one-time $25 fee and permit were targeted predominantly toward a certain demographic.

“We have to spend our money to put out these fires that slum landlords are creating by having people come in,” he said. “These people don’t contribute to the town at all. They pay no taxes, they come in and do [Housing and Urban Development programs] and sit on the couch and wait for their check.”

“We have an inherent culture of entitlement,” Grove said. “They’re coming from the other side of the mountain. They can not get HUD over in Virginia. They can’t get HUD there because they make too much money. They come here and qualify with a certificate, then they go back across the mountain and they can qualify over there.”

How the town would enforce the ordinance has not been determined as it was not addressed in the draft. Grove said enforcing the section regarding documentation of utility payments was a one-time occurrence as well.

“I think that’s called the honesty of the person, if they’re going to be honest about it,” he said. “But we’ll know if they don’t pay their [city] water bill, we’ll know if they’re not paying that one.”

As explained to them at city council’s meeting, a vocal majority called for the council to get rid of the ordinance all together and enforce the one’s currently in place which pertain to similar issues. Several council members said they would not vote for such an ordinance as drafted. Other citizens in attendance did take issues with a majority of the draft but did agree with some points.

“I do understand that certain ordinances have to be made so the town is cleaned up,” David Smith, Belington resident said. “The $25 fee? I have no problem with that. I really don’t, if it’s going to help enforce.”

Grove assured the language of the draft would be changed in further drafts and would not be put on the agenda until it addressed the public’s concerns and the wording reflected the council’s intent before going through three separate readings and a public hearing.

He estimated the ordinance could appear on first reading sometime in December.

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Comments

  • Karl

    The man sounds entirely self-centered. Can you believe he thought he would 'withhold water' from people, who the hell does he think he is?
    I do know he thinks he is better than anyone else, that he and his shrew of a wife are the entitled ones.

    • susanf1218

      If you don't pay your water bill, then it can and certainly should be "withheld" from you. Just who do you think pays for maintaining and supplying the water to municipalities - Santa Claus??

      • Rick S.

        Water to a customer may be shut off if the customer fails to pay his or her utility bill, after proper notices have been served.

        However, it is illegal to turn off someone's water if that person fails to pay a bill not related to the utility service, such as this would be (this is actually an assessment). Turning off someone's water for failing to pay this special assessment would be akin to turning off water for failing to pay property taxes or parking tickets or fire fees or the like. And that is not legal.

  • Misty

    I like how Max says "We" purposed! There is no We it was only you Max! You came up with this ridiculous plan on your own!! As I sat there last night and listen to call a man a liar and a lady a conspiracy the roost and then accused another lady of putting a sign on one of your rental properties you sir should be ashamed of yourself!! Now let me tell you something God made each and everyone one us so who the hell are you to say who can live in this town!! I don't care what color you are they should be welcomed in this town!! And some people couldn't live with out getting help from like Hud!! I believe That Hud is a great program!! You sir need to stop trying to run this town you are not God and you are not the mayor so set on that seat and keep your trouble making mouth shut until you step down or resign and stop causeing this town so much trouble!! This whole darn thing is ridiculous and I hope and pray to God that everyone will come to the next city council meeting and so on so nothing gets approved without us the people knowing about it first!! Trust me folks he will not stop until he gets it approved and we the people can stop him if we are there!!

    • Misty

      Sorry he called a lady a conspiracy theorist

  • mamaw234

    I personally do not live in Belington but have a child who does.. I think this whole thing is absolutely absurd! And yes some of Mr Groves comments could be discriminatory, not so much by race but by economic status..
    I agree there are many 'slum lords' who need to clean up their properties, but why punish everyone by making them pay to live there.
    Go after the ones who don't keep their properties cleaned and the ones who don't pay their bills, but find out WHY they don't pay a bill before punishing..maybe there was a legit reason, illness, loss of income, etc.
    I hope the officials wisen up and do not pass this absurd bill..

    • undefined

      "many slum lords" basically means Bobby King

      • Tammy King

        Don't forget Max too.

        • Barbour County Truth

          Don't forget Sfameni too.

  • tj

    Those who are low income, a senior or disabled will be affected the most by the ordinance. If I'm low income and can't afford to mow or have my lawn mowed very week then I'll get a fine? I should pay the fine and do without one of my prescriptions or do without a meal? I think not. I think a whole lot of tweaking needs to be done. I would not move to a city where I had to pay to live there. Not every low income, senior or disabled person live in filthy and otherwise poor conditions. What happened to freedom of choice? I agree that one shouldn't have trash piling up in the yard or around the property. Everyone must pay for the actions of some. It may be good in theory but it appears to be ass backwards

    • susanf1218

      Oh please! So people who own their homes, pay their taxes and keep their homes looking nice should have to put up w/neighbors who don't?? AND have their property values negatively affected b/c their neighbors don't or won't maintain their properties?? I think not!!

      • Rick S.

        Yes, Susan, you should have to put up with neighbors who do not keep their homes looking up to what you consider nice.

        I usually agree with the comments you post, but not in this case. Everybody has (or should have) the right to maintain his or her property as he or she wishes, as long as it does not cause a safety hazard. Whether you approve or disapprove of how somebody else's property looks is irrelevant. Remember, they may not like how your property looks. Would you want to be forced to maintain your property the way your neighbors tell you to, whether you like it or not?

        I know, Susan. My next door neighbor has a bunch of cars parked throughout his back yard. It is unsightly and not what I or any of the neighbors like, but I defend his right to park them there. Oh, and my community has zoning (except for the mayor, who is somehow exempt).

        • Tammy King

          No junk yards within city limits. Just because you don't mind throwing your money in the trash when it comes to property values doesn't mean those of us who worked hard for what we have don't have the right to protect our interests.

        • susanf1218

          Your kind of thinking/logic is why there are things known as HomeOwner's Associations and restrictive covenants to protect people from having to put up with slovenly neighbors. I do not under stand why you think it is someone's "right" to keep their properties in a condition that would negatively impact yours. Sorry, I'm not that generous-minded!

          • Tammy King

            I do agree with this particular statement.

      • Shadow

        There may be a very honest reason why a person can not keep up his/her property. If so, then, you as a good neighbor should help by cutting their grass, painting their house, or other things that bother you. Remember, it is Private Property and you don't own one bit of it. They may not like the color you painted your house but did you ask them if they liked your pick? Zoning is unAmerican.

        • susanf1218

          You are ridiculous! I should expend my time and resources to "mow someone else's grass or paint their house"??? Because they are too lazy or worthless to do it themselves?? Meanwhile my property value declines as a result of their failure to maintain their property! Zoning is certainly needed!!

          • Tammy King

            When Belington was a nice town people used to go out of their way to help their neighbors especially the sick and elderly. We had respect for one another. My dad always grew beautiful vegetable gardens and would always share his bountiful rewards with his would at least make sure they had fresh vegetables. I don't think anyone meant maintain your neighbor's yard because their lazy.

  • Jason412

    These statements are quite contradictory.

    "they come in and do [Housing and Urban Development programs] and sit on the couch and wait for their check.”

    " They can’t get HUD there because they make too much money."

    Which one is it? They sit around and wait for a check or they make to much money for HUD in VA?

  • Barbour County Truth

    Maybe Mr. Groves should take his arse back over the mountain where he came from. Ever wonder why he ended up in Belington? Yep, they ran him out of the last place he tried to take over too. Funny how he wants to do this, but said a county wide fire fee was too expensive. How can you tell when Mr. Groves lies? Just look to see if he is talking again.

    • susanf1218

      So you want to run him out of town but you apparently have no problem w/welcoming HUD transplants from Virginia or elsewhere? Interesting.

      • Tammy King

        They are not welcomed because of the way they were brought here and the conditions they were brought to live in. Max and Bobby brought them to create their own " cash cow" be damned the good citizens of Belington.

      • Barbour County Truth

        So Susanf doesn't live in Barbour Co. So another outsider telling us how to live. Actually I would rather deal with HUD people and method heads than asses like Susan who want to tell us how to live. Or is Susan really the cross dressing side of Mad Max or do not know crap Dana?

        • susanf1218

          People like YOU are one reason I am glad I don't live in Barbour County!

          • Barbour County Truth

            Then quit trying to tell us how to run our lives. Evidently you feel you are better than us poor redneck hillbillies.

    • Karl

      he gets run out of every single place he tries to get into. towns,churches,businesses and probably heaven.

      • Tammy King

        Max's greed will get him expelled there.

    • CaptainQ

      Doesn't he still have a house in Martinsburg?

      • Tammy King

        If he does, his properties in Belington should be condemned and he should be sent packing back to Martinsburg and take his slummy buddy Bobbie with him. They can become their problem

  • susanf1218

    I understand the intent of this proposed ordinance and I agree with it. However, as is often the case, the "devil is in the details" as to how to implement it fairly and legally. I hope that Belington will not be deterred from trying to enact some ordinances to address the obvious problems of slum lords, people not maintaining their properties, etc. But what I really want to know is WHY can people not qualify for HUD housing in Virginia but qualify in WV?? And I completely agree with Mr. Groves that we don't want or need HUD transplants here!!

    • Tammy King

      Why did Max and his slummy buddy lure them here then if he doesn't like HUD or the poor? HMMMMM

    • CaptainQ

      You AGREE with Max Groves on this ordinance, Susan?

      Please consider therapy...

      • susanf1218

        So that perhaps then I could qualify for SSI and Medicaid and Food Stamps and welfare and free housing, etc., etc., etc. You know, all the freebies that apparently you think the HUD crowd should just be given while they are being welcomed with open arms.

    • grumpy 'ole man

      Yes, because "poor people" have no business being in a town that is apparently controlled by the Republican Party.

      • Tammy King

        Poor people have always been welcomed in Belington. It's the ones that use their income status as an excuse to live like hogs. As a great woman I once was very close to used to say, "just because your poor does not mean your unable to use a little soap, water and a rag to keep things tidy. And is definitely no excuse for not taking pride in what little you do have."

  • Stupid Hillbillies

    Stupid politicians attempting to "govern" even stupider people, if the residents don't revolt.

    Simple solution - dissolve the town.

    These idiots belong in Liberalfornia.

    • Tammy King

      Before you call these jokers liberals, really delve into what they are actually trying to do. Nothing liberal like at all about it. Just a way to appease the natives by saying "bad people coming in our town" gotta fine em. And then turning around and placing ads in other states for the same kind of renters coming in. The ads may appear that they are offering to rent to these "poor people" out of the goodness of their hearts, but it's anything but that.

  • Shadow

    After reading this story, it sounds like an Abbot and Costell "Whose on First?"

    • CaptainQ

      More like the Three Stooges (only with MORE Stooges)

      • Shadow

        Only reading the reports of the Durbin City Council can one get more laughs. Dave Barry would have a field day reporting on these activities.

  • CaptainQ

    So, it was Max Grove who came up with this idiotic piece of legislation. Knowing Max as I do, this is not surprising. Lots of inconsistencies with this ordinance.

    First of all, in this article, Grove says that this ordinance, "targeted predominantly toward a certain demographic." Really sounds like discrimination to me! Some fancy ACLU lawyer's going to have a field day with that statement! Secondly, Max 'modeling' this bill after Monroeville, PA has one inherent flaw: Monroeville is a REAL city and Belington is.. well.. Belington. If Belington was located in PA, it wouldn't even qualify as a 'incorporated township.' It's like comparing apples to oranges, what works in PA doesn't necessarily work in WV. Third, the earlier article on this bill stated that residents would have to present their paid utility bills IN PERSON, MONTHLY in City Hall to prove compliance, a task that will be impossible for many residents who work normal 9 to 5 daily jobs out of town. Unless Max plans to have City Hall opens every Saturday (and maybe, every legal holiday too) this part of the plan is unfeasible. And what about all of the residents of the nursing home in town? Will all of them be forced to travel to City Hall monthly to show compliance too? And lastly, what will the city do if 'residents' fail to comply? Will the city police be called upon to forcibly evict families from their residences? Will the city hire workers to haul these families and their belongings across the city border and then dump them there? Will there be a brass band and ceremony to 'exile' non-compliant families out of Belington? Talk about insanity!

    One more factor that needs to be mentioned here, all of the REALLY bad publicity this ordinance will cause Belington. If I were planning on moving to a new town, I would NOT want to live in one that had such a draconian, conceited, snobbish law like this one! If I were a business, I'd REALLY think twice (maybe three times) before locating in Belington's city limits. I really thought Belington would want to be more 'welcoming' towards visitors and newcomers. What this ordinance says to me is this: "Belington wants you, IF you are high society hoy-paloy like WE are! WE will define what 'scum' is, and if you're scum, GO AWAY!"

    I KNOW I wouldn't want to live in a town with this snobby attitude towards others. Max Grove and all of the City Council who backs this ordinance need to be voted out of office and 'encouraged' to leave town permanently.

    • susanf1218

      Good thing you don't live in Bridgeport then.

      • CaptainQ

        I wholeheartedly agree, Susan!

        • Tammy King

          There will always be those who don't pay their water and sewer bills and should be fined. But why should the one's who do pay religiously have to make up for those who don't. If they don't pay their for their water and sewer, shut them off give them so long to make amends. If nothing happens post the property uninhabitable. This may sound cruel but if you can't or won't work out an agreement to help the situation there is no other choice.

        • susanf1218

          You certainly wouldn't be welcome in Bridgeport AND I can assure you that they have ordinances that are enforced to require people to maintain their properties!

          • Tammy King

            I find it amusing that the worst property ordinance violators and the ones trying to pass this. Maybe they think some gullible people will believe their spill while behind their backs they get the screws put to them.

          • CaptainQ

            Obligating property owners to maintain their homes and property within the city limits is one thing, Susan. THIS ordinance goes WAY TOO FAR! Requiring all residents (and those who WANT to be residents) to pay a yearly fee, present paid utility bills on a monthly basis at City Hall as well as regulating what form of electricity generation they must have smacks of communism, pure and simple!

            Glad I no longer live there and I have no desire whatsoever to return to the People's Republic of Belington ruled by the iron fist of First Commissar Max Grove!

  • Alan Coberly

    Thank you Max Grove for showing your true colors (unless that is part of your vast conspiracy and a lie). You better learn State Code. Also you refused to answer questions last night directed to you, why is that? Are you scared or cornered and hoping things calm down. Well calling me a liar in open council meeting means I will not stop now until you are punished or recalled from office. We don't want bigots like you running our town. You should be removed as the county chair of the Republican Party. If you are the public face of my party, I am leaving it. You made this bed, I will at anytime put the proof on the table while you run and duck.

    • Tammy King

      Max must be one of those "come on people, believe that I really care when I really don't give a damn, just to get your vote "Republicans. Seems to be a lot of those these days. Just shut up and go away Max and take your properties and slummy buddy with you. The people are not stupid they can see right through your antics.

    • susanf1218

      Too bad I don't live in Barbour County. Because I would definitely vote FOR Mr. Groves!! Someone who has a clue about how to improve and clean things up rather than just maintaining the status quo. More power to him!

      • stophating

        @Susan

        I have a nice depressed property that I'll rent you.... Features semi running water (when it rains), poop bucket (just toss contents in the yard--it helps the grass get nice and tall). You can have you pick of any of the Pintos in the back yard (if you can find them). Don't worry 'bout the neighbors, they usually wear a pair of boxers when spreading garbage on their yard (and you can share garbage with them), or when sitting in the kiddie pool on warm days. This is a meth free property, therefore I will need to do a dental inspection before you move in....

        After all you fancy outsiders need to save us Barbour Countians from ourselves..... And if you think Groves is anything other than a self serving jerk you should speak personally with him for 60 seconds.

        • susanf1218

          And the sad thing is that a lot of people, apparently including you, think that it is perfectly o.k. to allow people to have properties like the scenario you describe above!

          • Tammy King

            Max himself is a slumlord. Brings them in not as a kind measure but to line his own pocket and he's lining it thick since in his business there has little to no overhead cost. He repairs nothing. Stop hating has described some of Max and Mr Mayors properties to a tee. Max has an alterior motive...... and he's definite not by any means.

        • Tammy King

          Well said, well said my friend.

  • Just a girl

    Wow this seems to be about race really dude?!? This is pathetic and you're racist,you shouldn't judge people on their skin color when in all honestly most of these so called new comers are working in town. If this is the way Belington is turning it's pretty damn sad!

    • undefined

      When Max Grove says things like "They’re coming from the other side of the mountain" and "These people don’t contribute to the town at all"

      He absolutely does mean a certain color of people who have moved into town recently from the DC and Baltimore area through HUD programs.

      • susanf1218

        Well, he is speaking the truth!! And I would like to know just what jobs "in town" these people are supposedly doing. Because when I drive thru Belington, it certainly doesn't look like a hub of industry or prosperity. Of course, I guess it depends on how you define "working". Working the system, perhaps.

        • Mr.P

          Its called abusing the system,H.U.D.is the ruination of several small towns and cities,because undesirable people live in most of section 8 housing,people who rob,steal,deal drugs and are involved in a lot of different illegal activities,the govt makes it easy for these people to receive hand outs/

  • Rick S.

    Let me help clear up some confusion for the council members: the sunshine laws very clearly state that any document, draft or otherwise, is a public record and may be accessed by the public. The sunshine laws specifically state that first drafts are public records.

    An exception to this rule is handwritten notes by a government official for personal use that no other government officials have seen. If a handwritten note is circulated to any government official other than the one who wrote it, then that document becomes a public record, and is accessible by the public.

  • Big game

    Funny how Mr. Igottago Groves is targeting his fellow buddy and fellow councilman Bobby " king of the slums" King.

  • David Kennedy

    SO...this ordinance was targeted to bring 'Welfare Cheats into a more honest profile.
    That will never do...I expect the ACLU will put this band of 'strange City Council Members in their place.
    The threat of a huge lawsuit should end this 'common sense malarkey in a hurry.
    We will have no common sense of justice in the New America.
    BUT...I'm SO proud of our great citizens of Belington for trying to do this...
    God bless you for your efforts.

    • MickandAllysDad

      When I read the first paragraph my interpretation is that it will not be $25 per unit, house, apartment, or dwelling. To me it reads $25 per person with a pulse and it includes those already living there.

      Enjoy the democratic drama as this one plays out.

      • undefined

        This whole thing is very poorly defined and lacks any degree of clarity.

        Does he honestly think that every single person will go to the city hall and present some proof of residency every month?

        And do they even have the ability or authority to enforce this? What happens if you refuse to pay? Do you get evicted or something? Banished?