Planning commission OKs paper street abandonment

Parkersburg Municipal Planning Commission Vice President Eric Gumm, left, and President Charlie Matthews were re-elected to those positions by a unanimous vote during Friday’s meeting in Parkersburg City Council chambers at the Municipal Building. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — The Municipal Planning Commission on Friday approved a request from the city to abandon an undeveloped portion of a street to facilitate adding land to Johnson T. Janes Nature Preserve and Conservation Park.

The approximately 30-by-127.5-foot undeveloped portion of Foxhill Drive off Core Road is adjacent to five parcels comprising over half an acre of wooded land donated to the city about a year ago.

A resolution by Parkersburg City Council at the last meeting of 2019 accepted the donation with the stipulation that the properties would become part of the 36-acre Johnson T. Janes park, which contains more than 80 species of birds and other animals and 55 plant species. It has a number of walking and nature trails and is the venue for the city’s annual deer hunt.

No utilities have assets in the area to be abandoned, according to the staff report on the request.

“The closure will not limit access to privately owned parcels,” City Planner Janney Lockman said.

The abandonment request was approved on a 7-0 vote, with four commission members absent. It next goes to council for approval as an ordinance.

The commission also voted 7-0 to approve an amendment to its rule that says members can attend meetings via electronic means in case of emergency or unforeseen circumstances. The practice has been used by the commission before, including by member Francis Angelos on Friday.

But while nothing in the group’s bylaws prohibits such participation, it is not explicitly allowed either, Lockman said.

The change will also go to council for final approval.

Lockman said the addition gives the commission flexibility for individual members or in situations like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Commission President Charlie Matthews asked if city staff had given any thought to conducting Planning Commission meetings via the Zoom app.

Lockman said the city uses Microsoft Teams, but the words “electronic means” apply to telephones, those apps and more.

“That … would cover everything from Zoom to 20 years from now we have a hologram of Eric Gumm joining us,” she said with a laugh.

Gumm is the commission’s longtime vice president, and he was approved to continue in that position for 2021 during Friday’s meeting, along with Matthews as president. Both men have served on the commission for more than 20 years.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.


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