Moundsville sets standard for dilapidated housing

Located in the lower portion of the northern panhandle, Moundsville sits along the banks of the Ohio River. The county seat of Marshall County, Moundsville has a population of 9,318 but is a part of the Wheeling Metro Statistical Area that has a total population of 144,637. The city worked extensively with the Land Use and Sustainable Development Clinic to complete a comprehensive plan, which was incorporated in July 2014. The comprehensive plan featured six goals addressing issues that planning committee members and residents found to be important. In less than 3 years since the plan was created, Moundsville has been largely successful in implementing the plan: 76% of goals that were intended to be completed within 5 years have been completed or are in the planning stage.

Moundsville Progress The first goal of the comprehensive plan pertained to updating zoning ordinances to comply with West Virginia code. LUSD attorney Jared Anderson is assisting with the zoning ordinance updates, which should be finished this spring.  The city also wanted to educate officials on the annexation process and plan for annexation because the city is almost entirely built out. Both are in progress, with areas both north and south of the city being considered for annexation to Moundsville.

The second goal addressed vacant and dilapidated structures throughout the city. Moundsville had a vacancy rate of 9.9% in 2010: 442 of 4,458 properties were listed as vacant in 2010. Although this vacancy rate was significantly lower than the statewide average of 13.4%, the city experienced a notable increase from 7.6% in 2000. 

“We’ve still been working the way we had been doing the last couple years. We’ve tweaked it a little bit after talking to Jared (Anderson) and (the LUSD Clinic),” said Joe Richmond, Moundsville building inspector. We’ve managed to average about 20 buildings a year demolished. Only a handful of those the city has paid for. The majority of them have been put back on the owners and the owners have done something.” 

Dilapidated / Vacant Structure Registry When the city's comprehensive plan was created in 2013, Moundsville’s vacant and dilapidated structure registry included 111 buildings. In 2016, that list had been reduced 59% to 45 properties through intensive city efforts. Strict building code enforcement and landlord cooperation have reduced the number of properties on the registy to 1% of all properties within the city. Also in the furtherance of this goal, the city is in the process of planning to establish an Urban Renewal Authority.

The third goal sought to encourage commercial and economic development. Objectives within this goal have progressed slowly, as some require communication efforts with the state or neighboring municipalities. The city is in the process of collaborating with Marshall County in a Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Initiative. The city would like to revitalize its historic district and explore funding options. No progress has occurred with developing the industrial park, but the ongoing annexation process, addressed in goal one, weighs heavily on major business development.

“We are built out to the point where really there is not much room to expand,” said Richmond.  “For the most part, Moundsville’s city limits are built out to the point that to make any major changes, we’d have to buy a major section, demolish it, and rebuild.”

Transportation concerns within Moundsville were addressed in goal four of the comprehensive plan. An objective to limit industrial traffic through Jefferson was abandoned because it is a state route. Alternatively, the city hopes to work with affected property owners by extending 1st street and developing a Capital Improvement Program. A surface condition survey of roads and sidewalks has not yet begun.

The fifth goal addressed planning for the gas industry to grow in Moundsville. These goals were all long term projects, not expected to be completed before 2020. Campgrounds have opened as a result of the industry, and regulation of these campgrounds has become a priority.

The final goal within the comprehensive plan dealt with recreational amenities and programming for citizens. Fostering youth-sports leagues was the only high-priority objective. While the city does have sports organizations, the city government is not necessarily directly involved in any.