Happy Valley couple leases adjoining lot

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners agreed to allow lease of a Happy Valley lot to neighboring property owners.

The now vacant, county-owned lots in Happy Valley were obtained as part of an ongoing federal flood mitigation program. Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations require since public funds were used to procure the land, the county is required to consider the “highest and best use” of the property.

The commissioners agreed to lease several lots to West Virginia University at Parkersburg for use as gardening plots in conjunction with the university’s culinary school. That agreement is for 10 years taking effect on Oct. 1. The university agreed to pay $1 for the lots and any road maintenance assessment per lot the property owners agreed upon.

Prior to the agreement with WVU-Parkersburg, commissioners had been offering Happy Valley adjoining property owners first chance on neighboring lots for a fee equivalent to the new tax placed on the now vacant land. Nothing can be built on the property under Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines.

On Monday, Art and Patricia Griffith of 782 Happy Valley Road asked the commission to consider leasing an adjoining vacant county-owned lot to them. That lot is address is 770 Happy Valley Road.

“As they were tearing the house down, we talked to Tim Meeks (with the regional council) and we had the understanding once the property was torn down, we would have the opportunity to lease it once it was cleared. This lot is right beside our property,” Art Griffith said. He told commissioners he has kept the adjoining lot mowed/maintained since the house was torn down.

“I don’t want a garden, just a green spot, an extension of my property. I would keep it maintained, the grass mowed,” he said.

“This seems like a good option. WVU-P is focusing on the other side of the road. The leases we previously offered property owners out there was for five years and the lease payment is the amount of the tax on the vacant lot,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

The commissioners agreed to lease the vacant lot to the Griffiths.

WVU officials said earlier the lots they obtained would be used in conjunction with the agriculture program. Crops grown could be used at the downtown culinary school and offered at the Downtown Farmers’ Market. Research and new farming techniques, including year round growing, would be part of the curriculum for the classes.

The lots covered through the proposed lease with WVU-P were unleased or no one had expressed an interest in leasing, according to county officials. The commissioners told university officials future properties taken under the flood mitigation program could be turned over to the university as well.

FEMA flood mitigation program enables counties to buy out property owners who reside in repeatedly flooded areas. The homes are demolished and no one is permitted to build on the land again as the program’s aim is to save on federal flood claims and related expenses. Participation in the program is voluntary on the part of the property owners.

The flood mitigation program here is coordinated, administered through the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council for the county.