WESTON, W.Va. — An application for annexation of land along U.S. Route 33 east of Weston’s current municipal boundary will go before the Lewis County Commission at its next meeting Sept. 10.
The city’s proposal would incorporate 63 businesses along the nearly 3-mile stretch of highway that would consequently join Weston’s city limits.
“It would be be the eastern border of where Kentucky Fried Chicken is to the eastern side of the Walmart parking lot. When they annexed the highway back in 2008, they annexed Route 33 to that location,” said Dodie Arbogast, finance director for the city of Weston.
“And it will be businesses that have direct access to Route 33 or their parking lots, or shopping centers that access Route 33,” she added.
Weston City Council had no opposition to the proposal, and now they’re hoping for the same from Commission and the general public, Arbogast said.
If Commission accepts the application as being complete Sept. 10, a public hearing will then be scheduled for city residents to voice their opinions and concerns before the Commission votes at a later date.
“Honestly there are like six businesses who have expressed opposition. The rest of the businesses have been moot,” Arbogast said. “There are two businesses who have spoken to our attorney and said, ‘We don’t have a problem with it. We want some more information on it, but we’re not going to oppose it.'”
Arbogast said she believes many businesses would be on board because of the many benefits the annexation can bring, such as the protections of the city’s police and fire departments.
“Once those properties are annexed, then the city police has the authority to address any issues that occur on those properties,” she said. “If there’s a crime in progress or if they see something going down that’s suspicious, they have the authority to investigate. Just the sheer presence, I think, is a great benefit.”
The same is the case with fire protection. In fact, when it comes to responding to incidents outside of city limits, those calls are reserved to the station’s volunteers, Arbogast said.
“So properties inside the city limits would get a little bit quicker response because they have paid firemen,” she said. “We also want to upgrade and install additional fire hydrants in the proposed annexation area.”
That’s where the financial benefits start to arise, as business owners would then see lower insurance costs.
“I spoke to a couple different insurance companies, and it’s being within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant that impacts the cost of your insurance,” Arbogast said.
However, that’s not the only financial benefit to annexation. If approved, the incorporated businesses would see some cuts and exemptions when it comes to business and occupational taxes.
“With the proposed annexation, all businesses — the current and the proposed businesses — would get an exemption from B&O tax on the first $1 million of revenue, which is about 80 percent of the businesses,” Arbogast said. “In the current B&O ordinance, there is a three-year exemption for any business that has revenue in exemption for any business that has revenue in excess of $1 million, so what that says it all businesses would be exempted from B&O — all the new businesses — for three years.”
And it’s not only going to help those businesses in that stretch of U.S. 33 either.
“It’s also going to help those that are in the current Weston city limits. They’ll fall under same new arrangement if approved,” Arbogast said. “The B&O tax alone would be in the ballpark of about $210,000 a year back into the pockets of the local business people.”
Of course, some taxes will see an increase.
Arbogast said the property taxes of all the annexed land would increase by $92,000, split between all 63 businesses. But the city has drafted a plan that this increase can save others in the city money and still come out with the same bottom line for the city of Weston at the end of the year.
“Many of those are corporations that are established outside of West Virginia, but that $92,000 increase to them is going to create a $70,000 decrease in municipal fees for 714 elderly and disabled people in Weston,” she said.
The annexed businesses would also then fall under the city’s one-percent sales increase that passed last July and went into effect on Jan. 1.
“Right now the city’s collecting almost a half-million dollars in sales tax when you extrapolate for the full year, but about half of that is from out-of-city sales,” Arbogast said. “In doing all the math and looking at all the different businesses, I’m projecting conservatively the first year about $875,000 in additional sales tax revenue.”
Most recently, the city was able to use nearly $200,000 of those funds for paving and infrastructure improvements — a significant need in the city that could see even more work with additional sales tax coming in, she said.
The Lewis County Commission meets at 10 a.m. Sept. 10 on the second floor of the Lewis County Courthouse.