Winfield files petition over rejection of annexation request

By Chris Dickerson | Nov 23, 2015

WINFIELD – The City of Winfield has filed a Petition for Writ of Error in response to its petition to the Putnam County Commission for annexation by minor boundary adjustment being rejected in August.

The City of Winfield filed the writ of error requesting reversal and/or remand of the decision made by Putnam County Commission to deny the city’s application to annex property by minor boundary adjustment, according to a petition filed Nov. 16 in Putnam Circuit Court.

Winfield sought approval to annex a parcel of property containing 223 acres pursuant to West Virginia Code.

On July 30, the Putnam County Commission voted unanimously to deny the annexation.

The city claims the Putnam County Commission did not follow the law and its conclusion to deny the annexation was arbitrary and capricious and did not fulfill the letter and intent of the law applicable to the petition for an annexation.

The city filed a petition for annexation and the matter was properly noticed and published and then the matter was heard on July 30. The city was given the opportunity to present evidence and did present sworn testimony from its engineer of the sanitary sewer system, the mayor of the city, a surveyor who mapped out the boundaries of the area to be annexed and Laura Cox, another engineer working for the city.

The commission then opened up the floor to people in favor of and opposing the annexation. The commission did not inquire of any individuals speaking as to whether they were present citizens of the city, whether they were occupants or business owners in the area to be annexed or whether they had an interest in the issue of the annexation.

According to Winfield's petition, there were no more than five individuals speaking against the annexation and this was despite the fact that there were 356 freeholders and 34 businesses in the area to be annexed. There were several other individuals who spoke in favor of the annexation.

But according to Assistant County Manager Jeremy Young, 16 county residents spoke to the commissioners at the July 30 public hearing, Of those, 11 were against the annexation. He also said those who spoke stated whether they lived or worked in the proposed annexation area. Young said another eight residents also emailed or sent letters opposing the annexation.

On Aug. 11, the commission entered its order that denied the petition for annexation and in its order, it said that the overwhelming majority of the “affected parties” residing either in the city limits or in the proposed territory opposed the annexation, according to the petition, and that the proposed annexation would not be in the best interest of Putnam County as a whole.

The commission erred by failing to support by substantial evidence its findings of fact and conclusions of law.

The commission also erred as there was no evidence to support its findings that an overwhelming majority of the affected parties residing within the city or proposed territory opposed the annexation.

“The commission erred in making the conclusion that the proposed annexations is not in the best interest of Putnam County as a whole,” the petition states. “The commission erred in making the conclusion that the proposed annexed area did not constitute a minor boundary adjustment.”

The commission also failed to provide findings and conclusions la law in support of its decision, according to the petition.

The city is requesting the court to enter an order granting the petition for Writ of Error; reversing the decision of the commission denying the application for annexation by minor boundary adjustment; and ordering the commission to grant the petitioner’s application based upon the substantial and unopposed evidence of the record. The city is represented by Timothy J. LaFon of Ciccarello, Del Giudice & LaFon.

LaFon could not be reached for comment.

Putnam Circuit Court case number: 15-P-77

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