Save the Sharp Farm of Pocahontas County
History and heritage in Slatyfork, West Virginia.

Letter to The Pocahontas Times from Aileen Vass

Thursday September 7, 2006
The Pocahontas Times

The use of eminent domain to take Sharp's farm property is obviously still ongoing in spite of the many legitimate safety and legal reasons against it.

Concerns of educated and knowledgeable engineers and geologists have simply gone unanswered. At the latest PSD meeting Tuesday, August 29, it was reiterated from previous announcements that Pendleton County Bank will likely bankroll the acquisition of the Sharp property by eminent domain with Snowshoe "securing" the loan. This will be a disgrace and a black mark against Pocahontas County and West Virginia for all time.

The use of eminent domain to take private property which hosts and supports a miracle of nature, a beautiful, large, "wild" cold spring and a cemetery, with the founders of this community actually buried in the meadow and also within yards up the hillside of the proposed site is unjustifiable. This sewage treatment plant will serve only a handful of people in the five-mile stretch between Linwood Road and Sharp's Store. Within only a few feet of the proposed sewage treatment plant site is my mother, age 94, who has lived on this spot for 66 years and will be forced from her home. Justifying this project as a "regional plant" requires some seriously warped reasoning and will set a precedent which will never be overcome.

It is a well-known fact that Snowshoe has been actively engaged in taking the Sharp property. This is abundantly clear from well more than a year ago when Snowshoe bought and paid for a full page ad in this newspaper (written under the guise and signature of W.D Smith who heads the state regional agency spearheading this project) which touted the sewage treatment plant and the Sharp Farmland as the right place, the right time. Snowshoe has been the proverbial "wolf in sheep's clothing" throughout this ordeal. This engagement by private industry endorsing the acquisition by eminent domain for their own use brought the following comments to my mother and me in a letter dated July 25 from county resident and U.S. Senator John D. Rockefeller:

"Governments have traditionally used the power of eminent domain when the acquisition of real property is necessary for the completion of a public project such as a road, and the owner of the required property and the government entity have been unable to agree on a price for its sale. The ability of private industry to be included in the decision making process, in which the non-governmental entity has a direct commercial interest in the taking of an individual's property raises many concerns. I certainly understand your concern over this issue. The protection of the historical and culturally significant areas of West Virginia is very important to me. Like many West Virginians, I am concerned by this...and I can assure you that I will continue to monitor this situation over the coming months."

Clearly, Rockefeller and, I believe, most of the county are aware and understand that [eminent domain] is so unnecessary. Why, then, is it so hard for county commissioners and the two remaining PSD members to understand? This travesty of justice must end; public land is available as Governor Manchin has made perfectly clear. The use of eminent domain to take private, historic property for the use of a private entity cannot be condoned. A solution to this problem is one phone call away.

Will any county commissioner or PSD member make it? We all lose if they do not. The solution is there for the asking.

Aileen Vass
Lewisburg/Slaty Fork