After a five-year trial run in four cities, the West Virginia Municipal Home Rule Program will expand to include more communities. The Municipal Home Rule Board will be accepting applications starting January 2014. The final cutoff is June 1, 2014.
Senate Bill 435 authorizes a total of 20 communities to participate in the home rule program. It allows participants in the program to have more local control.
Four communities - Bridgeport, Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling - participated in the first phase of the program.
Bridgeport reduced the number of business license classifications from 81 to 1 and simplified the wide range of rates to one flat $15 fee. Now, all West Virginia municipalities have the authority to create an annual general municipal business license for multiple purposes.
Charleston and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) agreed on an expanded urban deer hunt season, which DNR implemented statewide.
Huntington's Fire Insurance proposal and subsequent Fire Insurance Proceeds Bill allowed the city to save approximately $165,000 in demolition costs, retain nearly $250,000 in property value and reduce the number of arson fires. Subsequently, the state granted all municipalities and counties the authority to file a lien for a portion of fire insurance policy proceeds to help with the removal of burned-out structures.
Wheeling developed a vacant property registration program, resulting in the registration of 155 properties and the demolition of 19 properties. In 2010, the state code gave all municipalities the authority to register vacant buildings and file liens on property for unpaid and delinquent vacant building registration fees.
The application guidelines are available now on the website of the West Virginia Municipal League. Questions can be directed to the West Virginia Municipal League at 800-344-7702.