By Stephen Smoot
Region 8 Planning and Development Council welcomed Samuel Canfield from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection last week. His presentation focused on three opportunities for the council and local government bodies within Region 8.
First, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay seeks to set up a tour of environmental infrastructure in Berkeley Springs for both Region 8 and Region 9. Officials would tour various sites, have a breakfast meeting, and other “learning exchanges for local elected officials.” The events will take place on June 30.
Next, Canfield described the upcoming installation of green infrastructure at Potomac State College. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection scheduled a meeting on March 22 to discuss it. Finally, Canfield shared grant opportunities connected with Tree City USA. This is a nearly 50-year-old project of the Arbor Day Foundation that has 3,600 communities participating in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC.
Tree City USA can provide grants to pay for planting trees in towns. Municipalities must meet four criteria. They must pass a tree ordinance, spend $2 per person in the community on trees, have a tree board, and formally recognize Arbor Day. Trees provide benefits through screening pollutants from the air, improving a town’s appearance, providing more cooling spaces, and helping to absorb excess rainwater.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Program Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “at least $1 million in funding is available in FY23.” It goes on to say that “jurisdictions may submit applications for multiple, unique projects” that do not run outside of the $100,000 to $300,000 range.
The goal of the project lies in restoring and conserving forest buffers, expanding the national urban tree canopy to 2,400 acres, and create, re-establish, or enhance the function of 235,000 acres of wetlands.
The council also shared information about a Potomac Valley Transit Authority meeting on April 14 from 10 a.m. to noon. According to the information release, the meeting will “discuss gaps in transportation service, opportunities, and priorities.”
In the budget review, the council shared information on the proposed budget. Member governments receive the planning and development budget, including a request for local government funding support. Terry Lively, executive director of Region 8, stated that “if a majority of towns and a majority of counties approve the budget, then all local governments are responsible for their contribution.”
Lively added that local funds provided to Region 8 help to “secure state and federal operational funds.” In over 50 years of operation, Region 8 has obtained between six and eight dollars for every single dollar contributed by local governments. The total tally is $551,607,145. Lively explained that grants have increasingly demanded higher levels of matching funds, making it more expensive to qualify.
In its opening year, 1972, the council imposed a 25 cent per person contribution rate. Lively explained that the rate adjusted for inflation would be $1.78 in 2023, but stated that “the council recommended that the per capita rate increase to $1.00 for FY 23.”
Despite uncertainty about a variety of factors in 2023, Lively said “I feel comfortable . . . passing this budget now.”
Additionally, the council announced the schedule of Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy meetings. Moorefield will host the first meetin at 11 a.m. March 30 at Mullins 1847 Restaurant. Keyser will host the second one at the same time April 6 at the Candlewyck Inn.
Finally, Lively announced that April is Fair Housing Month. He stated that “it’s a month to celebrate the Fair Housing Act, that Americans have access and that housing is free from discrimination. He also suggested that municipalities that have not passed a fair housing ordinance should do so to remain eligible for small cities block grants.
The next meeting will take place at 12:30 p.m. on the second Thursday in April at the Region 8 office.