MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After receiving unanimous support in the state Senate and a 94 to 5 affirmative vote in the House of Delegates, SB 209 was signed into law by Governor Jim Justice Thursday.
The new law doesn’t completely remove the minor boundary adjustment from state law, but now requires consent from all freeholders and businesses in the area proposed to be annexed. If one person or business would not provide consent the plan could not move forward.
A year ago Morgantown officials wanted to use the minor boundary adjustment option to annex 3.9 square miles, which included more than 12,000 people and more than 350 businesses. A series of information sessions were held where many community members expressed opposition.
Local developers like David Biafora opposed the Morgantown plan and said SB 209 helps property owners.
“It’s a good bill, it doesn’t mean you can’t annex it just means there’s no forced annexation,” Biafora said. “People’s rights are protected.”
The opposition in Morgantown was led by FAIR (Forced Annexation Isn’t Right) and many other business leaders.
“We’re proud of the help and the work that everybody put in this, from Mr. Kepple to Kyla Cook, the lawyers involved, to all the parties and stakeholders,” Biafora said.
Both sides of the issue acknowledge lingering tension, but Biafora is preparing to launch a multi-million dollar project with Morgantown, the Monongalia County Development Authority and WVU.
“If they don’t want to work with us, they don’t want to work with us,” Biafora said. “We can make things happen, we can pay taxes, we can create jobs and we can create something nice. It may not be Disney World but it will be Morgantown Disney.”
Governor Justice signed the bill Thursday. It takes effect immediately.