Westover seeing big growth from retail, business development; mayor hopes to lower taxes someday

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WESTOVER — In its quest to grow, the City of Westover hopes to one day reduce taxes after the development of sufficient business.

Mayor Dave Johnson, who has held the post for nine and a half years, said when he was first elected the goal was to expand the city’s boundaries with the ultimate goal of providing better services and lowering taxes for city residents. Too often, he said, municipalities have increased the tax burden already placed on their residents rather than expand and increase the overall tax base.

“We want to make and maintain a nice and good quality of life for our people,” the mayor said.

It was to that end that Westover moved to annex the nearby Morgantown Mall and Morgantown Commons retail plaza. After two failed attempts, the Monongalia County Commission voted 2-1 to approve the city’s 102-acre annexation by a minor boundary adjustment.

However, the mall appealed the annexation and the case remained in court for years. That changed in September when the West Virginia Supreme Court voted 4-1 to affirm a previous circuit ruling on Westover’s behalf.

Johnson said those properties now have the benefit of speedier emergency services and the ability to participate in the city’s affairs. As for the prospect of stores raising their prices to compensate for paying Westover’s business and occupation taxes, the mayor said doing that would only make the mall uncompetitive in view of the University Town Centre or other retail opportunities in Harrison County.

However, Westover also annexed property just of Interstate 79 near the Star City exit, the first exit southbound travelers encounter after crossing into West Virginia.

The Gateway development, built on said annexed property, now includes two hotels, restaurants, a gas station, Hobby Lobby and more. The development also includes Triple S Harley-Davidson, which relocated from its previous site off Cheat Road. With plenty of space yet to fill, the Gateway continues to grow.

“We have a good relationship with the developer,” Johnson said, noting that the properties wished to be part of the city from the beginning. “As far as businesses go, I think we’re in good shape.”

Susan Riddle, executive director of the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitors Bureau, noted developments such as the Gateway are, at least strictly in terms of services, actually a bigger boon to travelers than locals given its location. Many of the customers that stop there, she said, are Canadian visitors that use I-79 as their main travel corridor. Nevertheless, it’s a good way to bring money into the community.

“When we have any development done we — such as the University Town Centre and ballpark which were done well — it benefits everyone,” she said.

With more business expansion planned, Johnson said the end goal is to lower property taxes, something he said will benefit residents since most of Westover’s new real estate is commercial properties that pay twice as much as residential. Property taxes, he said, are Westover’s second highest income source behind B&O taxes. 

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Craig Ballantyne

I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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