MORGANTOWN — If it is urban, it should
be municipal.

This line on annexation pulled from a West Virginia Municipal League position paper is very much indicative of the boundary growth conversations swirling in Morgantown since the run-up to last April’s municipal election.

Do Morgantown’s physical boundaries relate in any way to the pressure placed on city services and infrastructure — and how much of that pressure is actually coming from outside the city’s borders compared to the university at its heart?

Is it unethical, unfair or smart business for an entrepreneur
to find a location just beyond a municipal boundary in order
to capitalize on a population center while avoiding additional city taxes?

There are three ways in
which an area can be annexed — by petition of those within the area in question, by majority vote on a ballot or by minor boundary adjustment.

Of those avenues, only minor boundary adjustment can be initiated by the municipality. Given state code doesn’t actually delineate when something is or isn’t a “minor boundary adjustment,” it can be quite a messy process — Westover’s annexation of the Morgantown Mall, for example.

These are among the reasons why a court case involving annexation efforts in Charles Town is drawing attention. In March of 2017, Charles Town City Council voted unanimously to annex more than 2,600 acres, including 922 properties, by minor boundary adjustment — a move that would have essentially doubled the size of the town.

Annexation applications are ruled upon by the county commission. While the Jefferson County Commission denied Charles Town’s application, the town appealed the matter before the courts.

Monongalia County Commission President Tom Bloom explained that the case is noteworthy
not only because it may better inform the definition of “minor boundary adjustment,” but because annexation doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

“Each situation is different. I voted one way one time, and I voted another way the next time. We just have to look at it. For me, it comes down to (minor boundary adjustment annexation criteria) number seven — is it in the best interest of the county as a whole? The community is the county. It isn’t one specific city. I think there’s a misnomer with that.”

Bloom said people need to understand that the commission cannot work with a city on an annexation plan because it would eventually sit in judgment over any such effort.

“We are not players here,” Commissioner Ed Hawkins said.