WHITE HALL, W.Va. — Residents of Marion County’s Deerfield community are pursuing a plan to be annexed into the town of White Hall.
Deerfield, which sits on the eastern edges of White Hall near the Taylor County line, is a largely residential neighborhood, home to roughly 700 people in addition to a few businesses.
“There’s about 200 homes out there, and if we were to take them in, it would be the biggest annexation of a residential area we’ve ever done,” White Hall Mayor Guy Ward said during a recent interview on WAJR-Clarksburg’s “The Gary Bowden Show.”
While this isn’t the first time Deerfield has discussed the matter with White Hall’s city officials, Ward said this is the most serious the conversation has been.
“I’ve been mayor for five years and ever since I became mayor, I’d get phone calls now and then from somebody out in Deerfield asking about annexation, but it never really got serious until about a month and a half ago,” he said. “I had a couple of gentlemen come to meet with me, and they were really serious about this, so I allowed them to have a meeting in our town hall. I think about 70 residents showed up.”
This meeting about two weeks ago, and the leaders of this mission left with petitions to take back to other residents and homeowners.
“So far I think they’ve got about 35 percent of the total number of property owners out there,” Ward said.
Ward asked that they come back to council when they have signatures from 60 percent of Deerfield’s property owners.
While Ward said he doesn’t oppose the plan, but he feels the city does need to proceed cautiously.
“We’ve got to think about this one,” he said. “In a commercial property, you’ve got more return on your investment. Residentials don’t bring you as much.”
The town of White Hall would see some additional property taxes and fire fees out of the annexation, which Ward said is pale in comparison to the significant increase in expenses it would accrue.
“They have a lot of issues with their streets, and that would take a lot to get their streets up to standards,” he said. “We have specs that we go by in the town of White Hall that we maintain our streets, and I don’t know that their streets were even as good as our specs to begin with.”
For the property owners in Deerfield, however, the benefits are enormous.
Being annexed into the town of White Hall would mean police and fire protection, better road maintenance and snow removal.
“That’s what they’re looking for and they know we can provide that,” Ward said. “We can actually provide that for a lot less than what the Homeowners Association was charging, but it’s still a big expense for us.”
In fact, the Homeowners Association is what Ward said has made this annexation such an urgent need for those in Deerfield — the third development to come to council asking to be annexed since Ward first took office.
“They have Homeowners Associations, and what happens is these Homeowners Associations dissolve or go defunct, and they just can’t maintain their Homeowners Associations,” he said. “And that’s what’s happened out in Deerfield. Their Homeowners Association has went default, and they don’t have anything other than joining together to do things on their streets and in their neighborhoods.”
If they are able to drum up 60 percent of the community’s support, Ward said council will be happy to take the consideration seriously.
“As mayor, I’m going to try my best to get them into the town, but I don’t want to bankrupt the town either,” he said.
While it could be finally risky, adding an additional 700 residents to White Hall — essentially doubling the population — would hold potential benefits for the town as well.
With the population growth, White Hall would become a Class 3 city in the state of West Virginia.
“Every class you move up, you get a little bit more advantages. The legislature’s actually been giving some more things available to the class 3s and 4s,” Ward said. “Actually Class 3s can start their own TIF projects, we can’t. We’re trying to start a TIF project in White Hall now, but the county commission is handling it because we’re Class 4.”