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

Local Family Fights County to Protect Land from Eminent Domain

Tuesday April 18, 2006
WVNS Beckley, Bluefield, Lewisburg, WV

The Pocahontas County commission is threatening to take a family's land to build a sewer treatment facility.

By Natalee Nabors

Pocahontas County faces a growing sewer problem.

"The stream is now being polluted by the several inadequate systems, including numerous packaging plants and the Snowshoe treatment plant in itself," said Joel Callison, president of the Pocahontas County Commission.

Now, the county is threatening to take land from private owners, the Sharp family, to build a sewer plant.

It's land the family has owned for more than 200 years, and it has a lot of history.

"The log cabin that Robert E. Lee visited during his first campaign as General through Pocahontas County sits on this land," said Tom Shipley.

Shipley is a member of the Sharp family and is leading the battle against the county commission in an effort to keep the family’s land.

They say most of the county's sewage problem can be traced to one source, the Snowshoe ski resort, and he says it’s only fair that Snowshoe bear the cost of fixing the problem.

"There is not much here, except Snowshoe, and that's why it's so odd that they would want to come 14 miles off the top of the mountain to come and put a sewer treatment plant on our farm," said Shipley.

And there are other concerns. Sinkholes throughout the property have some questioning whether the land is even safe enough to support a sewer treatment plant.

The family is also concerned about trout that breed in a nearby stream and how the odor from a nearby plant would effect their bed and breakfast business across the street.

"This burden should never be placed on a family," Shipley says.

There is some hope for the family. At Tuesday's county commission meeting, engineer George Phillips proposed a new plan.

It would use state property and would avoid the expense and headache of a legal battle.

"I proposed today to the county commission that we partner with WVU College of Engineering to build a timber frame bridge using grant money available, so this site can be used as an alternative to the Sharp Farm site," said Phillips.

The family hopes the county will go with Phillips' plan or come up with another that spares their land.

"We're not trying to stop economic development. We're not trying to stop Snowshoe. We can't understand why this is happening and it's not necessary," said Shipley.