BUCKHANNON – The Upshur County Development Authority and City of Buckhannon are partnering to literally pave the way for more industrial development in the Brushy Fork Road area.
Buckhannon City Council on Thursday gave the greenlight to teaming up with the Upshur County Development Authority to obtain funding for and ultimately build a new industrial access road near the U.S. Army National Guard Readiness Center, also the Event Center at Brushy Fork, and the property adjacent that’s being developed by local farmer and auctioneer Aaron Harris.
UCDA executive director Rob Hinton appeared before council at its Thursday, Aug. 20 meeting ask for its support in applying for grant funding through the state’s Industrial Access Road grant program.
If funding is obtaining, according to the tentative agreement, the City of Buckhannon would supply the in-kind labor needed to construct the road. The proposed road would begin at the entrance to the Readiness Center/Event Center but instead of turning left, would veer right and run between Harris’s property and the National Guard property, Hinton said.
Harris is in the midst of developing property on which he plans to build an auction house, boutique and eatery, he told council at a meeting in 2019.
On Thursday, Hinton explained that when Harris and the UCDA applied for a highway entrance permit from the W.Va. Division of Highways, the DOH advised that the Readiness Center/Event Center and Harris/the UCDA should share one entrance from Brushy Fork Road for safety’s sake.
“We had applied for a highway entrance permit, but the DOH recommended for safety reasons, that there not be two entrances and exits right next to each other on Brushy Fork Road and recommended we work with the National Guard and try to get some kind of agreement so that we can share a right-of-way,” Hinton explained.
Hinton said an agreement allowing both entities to share the current entrance to and exit from the Event Center/Readiness Center has been hashed out. Now, he was seeking the city’s help in obtaining funding to build an industrial access road that would veer to the right and split Harris’s property and the armory, he said.
“We can go after an Industrial Access Road grant to access Aaron Harris’s property that’s being developed that he will use for an auction house,” Hinton said. “We’ve done this before; we previously received $400,000 to repave Industrial Road by Weyerhaeuser, and this grant would be a way for the city to partner with the UCDA to help the UCDA design and construct this road.”
One variable that still hasn’t been nailed down, however, is the industrial business itself. Hinton said obtaining an IAR grant depends upon an industrial business being located in the area. And while Hinton hopes a hemp and CBD, or cannabidiol, processing facility will move in near Harris, the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis, which operates under the state Bureau for Public Health, has not yet issued permits to growers, processors or dispensaries.
“The one thing about the grant is that it is contingent upon an industrial business going in, and out there, we do have a company that has a purchase option on six acres for the medical cannabis, and I know we talked about that back in February, back before the pandemic,” Hinton said. “However, the permits are still not out yet for that company, so we’re not really sure whether it will be awarded, but if they are, they would be making an investment, and we would be able to leverage that investment to go after industrial access road dollars to help pave a road going back into the development.”
Mayor Robbie Skinner outlined the proposed agreement between the city and UCDA.
“The UCDA, through this grant, would agree to pay for the materials, and our partnership with the them would be that our city crews would be the ones to execute putting the road in since this is within city limits, and we would not be doing anything outside of city limits,” Skinner said.
Skinner encouraged council members to support the proposal.
“This would help development along the corridor in there behind Aaron Harris’s property, and we have already helped him a significant amount last year,” he said. “This is something I think we should absolutely consider favorably, and what we need to do this evening is get council’s approval on the project and then start laying out the plans to do surveys and rights-of-way, so that when the season is favorable we can put the road in without any roadblock, no pun intended.”
Hinton said a medical cannabis processing facility, when adequately permitted, would be an economic boon for the city because the business will be required to pay B&O tax.
“That would be a substantial windfall for the city,” Hinton said.
Councilwoman Mary Albaugh asked if plans had been discussed with public works director Jerry Arnold, and Skinner said he’d spoken with Arnold, city engineer Jay Hollen and city attorney Tom O’Neill.
Skinner asked for a motion supporting building a road adjacent to the Readiness Center and authorizing the city and UCDA to begin necessary prep work.
Albaugh made a motion to support the project, which was seconded by city recorder Randy Sanders before passing unanimously.
“We will be in touch with nuts and bolts in the future,” Skinner said.