By Sarah Mansheim
White Sulphur Springs is looking to establish a building and maintenance code in order to foster economic growth in the Spa City. At the Monday meeting of city council, much discussion was dedicated to the need for such a code and the ability to enforce it.
According to Council member Mark Gillespie, planning and zoning issues have come to the forefront as a “couple of big-name (businesses) are looking at White Sulphur” as a site to “put down roots.” Gillespie did not say which businesses are looking to set up shop in town, but he said that without a set building and maintenance code on the books, they may not choose to build there at all.
“We have a very viable need to address this code situation. Everyone’s going to have to work together,” Gillespie said. “I’d like for the public to look at this as a positive aspect. Major corporations will not invest without code enforcement.”
Gillespie said that the city will not seek a full-time zoning or code enforcement officer, but will rather hire one on an as-needed basis.
Mayor Lloyd Haynes echoed Gillespie’s statements regarding the need for building and maintenance codes to handle dilapidated buildings in town and also to get grant funding to build and repair the town.
Gillespie agreed, telling the audience in attendance, “There’s money out there to be had, but you have to have a code” in order to get grant funding. Currently, White Sulphur Springs has ordinances on the books regarding building codes and property maintenance, but the ordinances are generally unenforced.
White Sulphur citizen and general contractor Joshua Adamo spoke out in favor of a maintenance and building code being adopted by the city, calling the fact that the city lacks an enforceable one on the books “preposterous.”
“This is a good town,” he said. “It should be prospering.”
Adamo recommended that council adopt the International Building Code guidelines and hire a zoning officer to enforce them, noting that the standardized code, once passed, can be amended to suit the city’s specific needs. He also recommended that the city charge more for building permits, as the city, he said, charges only $1 per 1,000 square feet.
Lewisburg, he said, charges $6 per 1,000 square feet to build within city limits. Even by splitting the difference, he said, and charging $3 per 1,000 square feet, the city would generate some much-needed income.
“We’re missing out on thousands of dollars – it’s kind of a no brainer,” said Adamo.
White Sulphur citizen Charles Feury addressed council next, complaining of dilapidated buildings and garbage filled yards on Tuckahoe Road and other city streets.
“It’s a disgrace to the community,” said Feury.
Haynes responded that those issues will be covered by the proposed code.
“How long will it take?” demanded Feury. “You’ve been talking about it for five years!”
At that point, Gillespie said that the introduction of the code was on a “fast track.”
Council member Larry Wakeford agreed, telling Feury, “If things go well, by the end of the year, the code will be in place.”
In other business, Haynes announced that City Hall will be closed on Columbus Day, Oct. 12. Due to the holiday, the October meeting of city council will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 13. Also, garbage will be collected on Oct. 13.
City maintenance supervisor David Lovelace also announced that the city will begin leaf collection at the end of this month.