County Delays Road Decision

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Belmont County commissioners delayed a decision Wednesday on whether to fund a road connecting U.S. 40 with proposed development west of the Ohio Valley Mall and Ohio Valley Plaza.

After more than two hours of debate, Commissioner Matt Coffland made a motion to transfer $1.9 million in county infrastructure money to the city of St. Clairsville and the Belmont County Transportation Improvement District to begin construction on the project. The motion died following the lack of a second from Commission President Ginny Favede or Commissioner Charles Probst.

Favede and Probst questioned during the meeting whether the Ohio Department of Transportation would in fact stop the road project if commissioners failed to provide the $1.9 million they previously agreed to commit to the project.

Also discussed Wednesday was a past legal agreement in which the Stein family- owners of property near the Ohio Valley Plaza – had been required to improve an access road linking U.S. 40 with the property as a condition of making it a public road. The improved road has yet to be built, and Probst wondered if the county would become a party to any past lawsuits with property owners if it gets involved with building the road. He explained he wants more legal advisement.

“If there is a critical need because some development is coming to the Stein property – then we need to take a look at that and build that road right now,” Probst said. “But nothing has come across here other than people telling me huge development is coming to the Stein property. I don’t even see any utility infrastructure being started on that property.”

“I don’t understand, and I need help with this because I’m to the task of making a decision here.”

Connie Klema, an attorney representing the Stewart family – owners of land near the Stein property – said the Stewarts are in favor of development coming to the area. But she advised the commissioners to examine the legal agreement, and hold the Steins to past legal obligations.

The $1.9 million in Belmont County money would be used to fund a proposed stub, or access road, beginning near the All Fore One miniature golf course along U.S. 40, then extending west of the Ohio Valley Plaza behind Sam’s Club and winding behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store. It would link up with a roadway being constructed behind the Ohio Valley Mall by the Cafaro Company, owners of the mall, and an ODOT project to extend the new highway to Mall Road.

Coffland said he had been told by ODOT Deputy Director Lloyd MacAdam the road project “would be shelved” if Belmont County commissioners didn’t transfer the money.

Commissioners talked to MacAdam by phone Wednesday, and MacAdam indicated ODOT would reassess the project if the county dollars weren’t available by February. He said they would ask property owners to help fund the roadway, and he expected the project could be delayed by as long as two years.