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Council repeals occupation tax

Mar. 11, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Huntington City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Monday that repeals the 1 percent municipal occupation tax.

City Council approved the tax in June 2011, but Steel of West Virginia, Cabell County Commissioner Bob Bailey and several other parties challenged its legality in Kanawha Circuit Court before it could take effect. Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey has not issued a ruling in the case.

City officials began negotiations with the plaintiffs to settle the case a few months ago but they hit a snag. Mayor Steve Williams said the plaintiffs wanted the city to pay for their attorney fees, a request that the mayor vehemently opposed. The plaintiffs have since backed off of that request, he said.

City Council met with their attorney in the case for more than 30 minutes before voting to repeal the tax, but there was no discussion during the meeting about the case itself.

Williams said the tax's repeal will favor Huntington and other cities as they await the West Virginia Legislature's decision on whether to continue and expand the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program. A bill extending the program through July 1, 2019, and allowing 10 more cities to participate passed the state Senate last week.

The four cities that have been in the program since 2008 -- Huntington, Charleston, Wheeling and Bridgeport -- have touted the program as giving them the flexibility to operate more efficiently and tackle urban problems such as dilapidated housing. Huntington also used the program to adopt the occupation tax, which prompted a wave of complaints from constituents to members of the Legislature.

In other business Monday, the council advanced an ordinance that prohibits residents from storing certain items on their porch or front yard to a second reading. The items include upholstered furniture, mattresses and any other products not intended for outdoor use. The ordinance also prohibits building materials from being stored outdoors unless they are for a permitted project on the property. Penalties include fines of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail or both.

The ordinance is part of Williams' multi-pronged approach to improving the quality of life in Huntington by stepping up code enforcement.

Also advanced to a second reading is an ordinance that rezones property at 19 7th Ave. W. from R-4 Residence to C-1 Neighborhood Commercial. The petitioner, Kroger Ltd. Partnership, wants to build a fueling station in the parking lot of its grocery store.

The council also unanimously approved a resolution that allows the Huntington Sanitary Board to proceed with a bond refinancing. The move will result in the Board saving $331,000 through the maturity date in November 2016, said Kit Anderson, the agency's executive director. The refinancing will lower the interest rate on the bonds from 4.5 percent to less than 2 percent, he said.

The council also honored the Huntington High School wrestling team for winning the school's first state Class AAA wrestling championship last month. Head coach Rob Archer also was honored during the meeting with the reading of a proclamation.

Follow H-D reporter Bryan Chambers on Facebook or Twitter @BryanChambersHD.

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