Greenmont residents frustrated by lack of Pennsylvania Avenue progress

MORGANTOWN — There are places in Morgantown you might expect to find a tent. The meeting chamber in Morgantown City Hall isn’t among those places.  

And yet, there a tent sat Thursday afternoon. 

It was carried in and placed before members of the Morgantown Land Reuse and Preservation Agency by a contingent of Greenmont residents frustrated with what they view as a lack of progress addressing Pennsylvania Avenue. 

The 20 or so attendees were further motivated by rumblings that the agency is now at risk of losing the $600,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money the city committed to help purchase and raze dilapidated Pennsylvania Avenue properties. 

ARPA dollars must be obligated by Dec. 31, 2024, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026. 

LRPA Chair David Satterfield confirmed the city has put the agency on the clock. 

“If these are expiring funds, it would be foolish and reckless of the city council of Morgantown to allow them to sit and be expired,” he explained. “What they’ve said to us is that there’s no decision that’s been made, but we need to speed up our act; see where we really are and that sort of thing. By end of summer, early September, that’s when the decision would be made.”   

Adelheid Schaupp was one of nine neighborhood representatives to address agency members. 

“We brought a prop today,” Schaupp said, gesturing to the tent, which was found decorated with a colorful warning. “It’s been unsightly. I hope it makes you uncomfortable. That’s why we brought it. This is what we deal with every single day … We take down one, another one pops up. We don’t feel like we’re getting any support from the city. It is legit a lawless zombie apocalypse down there. It’s bad. And at night, it’s worse.” 

Mohamad Ahmad said he “bet on the city” when he purchased a house on Pennsylvania Avenue after learning of the city’s plans to clean up the area. 

Now, with his wife about to give birth, he said they’ve been forced to consider selling due to the “nightmare” at the end of the street. 

“If you want to hire me for free, I’m willing to work for free to get this thing done. I am an assistant professor at WVU. I am willing to take next semester off. I’m not kidding. I’m willing to do that to get this thing done. … We don’t want this money to go away,” he said. 

“There’s a great shot that this money is going to fix that street and that’s going to reflect on Greenmont. Greenmont is the oldest neighborhood in Morgantown. I’m not from Morgantown. I’m not from West Virginia. I’m from overseas, but I love Morgantown and I love that place.”  

The LRPA retained Sam Bossio as its real estate agent to help acquire the properties. 

In March, the agency approved the purchase of 657 Pennsylvania Ave. for a price not to exceed $60,000. That property sits at the split of Brockway and Pennsylvania avenues and includes a “tear down” structure on .03 acres. 

While other acquisitions are in the works, that appears to be the only finalized purchase along the targeted avenue. 

Morgantown City Councilor Danielle Trumble said she would like to see a joint meeting between city council and the agency to get everybody on the same page. 

“This remains a priority of ours. We do not want to see that funding reallocated. We want to see those properties purchased. We want to see those properties demoed and we want that land to become useful to the community instead of the blight that it is now,” she said. 

Members of the LRPA expressed their own frustration with how the process has played out, citing confusing directions regarding deadlines and a lack of participation in agency meetings from city administration. 

Ultimately, Satterfield said, “the buck stops with me.” 

“Is it moving as quickly as we’d like? No, it’s not. But some of these things don’t move as quickly as you’d like. I’m not going to get into what happened or what’s happening. I believe we are making progress,” he said. 

TWEET @DominionPostWV