Jefferson County Vision Continues Legal Action Against City of Ranson
RANSON, W.Va. (July 16, 2020) — Jefferson County Vision (JCV) filed an Amended Complaint for Declaratory Judgment in the Rezoning case against the City of Ranson on July 15, 2020. The original complaint filed by JCV in 2018 asserted that a rezoning hearing for the site of a Rockwool Insulation factory was improperly publicly noticed. On May 5, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge David Hammer agreed that Ranson had failed to provide adequate public notice.
The Amendment, filed by JCV on July 15, alleges that the City of Ranson violated its 2012 Comprehensive Plan and engaged in illegal and improper spot and/or contract zoning on behalf of Roxul USA, doing business as Rockwool.
The filing by the law firm of Arnold & Bailey is in response to claims made by Rockwool and the City of Ranson on July 2, of “Suggestion of Mootness.” In those filings addressed to the Circuit Court, both entities argued that a vote by the Ranson City Council on June 30, approving an Industrial Reallocation Ordinance, corrected procedural errors made in the initial advertising of the Ordinance in the summer of 2017.
The Ranson City Council reenacted the ordinance five to one on June 23, but due to irregularities during the Zoom meeting, the decision was not validated. Speakers, mostly opposing the ordinance, were not notified of their turn to give testimony or were cut short. Also, there was no public connectivity toward the conclusion of the meeting when the Council discussed and voted on the Ordinance. After receiving protest from citizens and attorneys, Ranson Mayor Duke Pierson admitted, “that the remote meeting technology used did not facilitate full and fair public discussion and public deliberation…the vote taken [that] night, was not considered the final action nor will the City act in reliance upon that vote.”
When the Council reconvened on June 30 for the continuation of the public hearing, Charles Town resident Beverly Ross closed the public testimony by saying, “I received an email with the heading ‘Opportunity to share your testimony.’ The citizens of Jefferson County are not venting or sharing a testimony with the City of Ranson. We are holding the City of Ranson accountable for the wrong doing. Our collective research over the past two years supports our position that any zoning change, including a reallocation is illegal.” After a dozen people had the capability to speak, the Council, without discussion, voted for the ordinance again five to one.
JCV concedes, since Ranson reissued the proper legal notice and held a public hearing, that the procedural error has been corrected and is moot. However, JCV lists in the complaint two dozen substantive examples of how the zoning ordinance violates the 2012 Ranson Comprehensive Plan. In addition, the complaint states, “The zoning changes and map amendments further constitute illegal and improper spot zoning for the Rockwool facility, as special consideration was given for Rockwool’s zoning needs, and the area was classified in a manner differently from the surrounding area.” These actions violate Section 19-19 of the Ranson City Code (2018).
The amendment, the latest step in a grassroots effort to stop the inappropriate industrialization of Jefferson County, requests that the Court declare the subject zoning ordinance changes and zoning map amendments invalid and void as a matter of law. The plaintiffs further request an award of attorneys’ fees and costs.