By Tina Alvey
The State Fair of West Virginia’s acquisition of a small land-locked parcel of county-owned land has moved a step closer to completion.
After postponing action on its part of the transaction last month, the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC) agreed Thursday to accept the 1.33-acre parcel from the Greenbrier County Commission, a necessary step before transferring the land to the Fair.
The plot of land — which Greenbrier County Commissioner Michael McClung has described as “a sinkhole” — is surrounded by the fairgrounds except for an edge that borders the rear of the Health Department office in Fairlea. Under a lease arrangement, the fair has used the parcel for a number of years, primarily to provide parking for recreational vehicles near the horse barns.
The county commission voted 2-1 in January to sell the parcel to the Fair for $11,000, with the GVEDC serving as the middle man in its capacity as the county’s economic development authority.
A subsequent letter from Greenbrier Prosecuting Attorney Patrick Via declaring that the land must be sold via auction nearly derailed the sale, but commission President Karen Lobban said she convinced Via that he was mistaken, whereupon he issued a second letter supporting the proposed transaction.
“We can sell it, and we can transfer it for recreation or economic development purposes,” Lobban explained during the GVEDC meeting.
Lobban also serves as the GVEDC’s president.
State Fair CEO Marlene Pierson-Jolliffe thanked the GVEDC for voting in favor of the land transfer, saying, “It seems to be the right thing to do.”
GVEDC executive director Steve Weir noted, “This is not a precedent. We’ve done (a transaction like this one) before.”
The $11,000 which will be received when the land deal is consummated is tentatively earmarked to help pay for a preliminary engineering feasibility study to extend public water service to the Sam Black area in western Greenbrier County. The GVEDC hopes to develop an industrial park focused on wood products in the vicinity of the Sam Black interchange with I-64, but the area’s lack of public water and sewer facilities is a major challenge to industrial development.
Also under discussion Thursday was a request by Seneca Mental Health to purchase a small plot of land owned by the GVEDC in order to construct a “step-down” facility.
Weir explained that the 12-bed facility would provide overnight accommodations for people awaiting placement in a treatment program. Seneca currently leases clinic space in the GVEDC-owned Rahall Center in Maxwelton; the proposed step-down facility would be located nearby.
The board did not take immediate action on the request, pending more research on the land’s fair market value.
Other spaces in the Rahall Center are devoted to the Veterans Affairs’ Community Based Outpatient Clinic, MCI, ECER Lighting and Kelli’s Kabins, which only recently signed a lease for 8,000 square feet, Weir said.
Kelli’s will assemble and ship modular home components at the Maxwelton site, which is adjacent to Greenbrier Valley Airport.
Both MCI and the Veterans Clinic are planning expansions, according to Weir, with MCI taking an additional 4,000-square-foot area to go with its current 6,000, and the clinic looking at constructing a gymnasium/rehabilitation facility close by.
Yet another business expected to begin construction at the Airport Industrial Park this summer is the Greenbrier Valley Brewing Co., a micro-brewery.
The GVEDC serves as the economic development authority for Greenbrier, Monroe and Pocahontas counties. The agency’s board of directors is composed of six representatives from each member county, plus Rupert Mayor Charles Mundy, who is a nonvoting director emeritus.
For more information about the agency, visit www.gvedc. com.
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