Chief Deputy Terring Skinner is shown discussing the distance between the former Elderado structure and T & L Hot Dogs. Shown from left to right clockwise are Taylor County Clerk Georgianna Thompson, Chief Deputy Terring Skinner, property owner Tim Gerard, Valorie Hebb, Shannon Hebb, Commissioners David “Rusty” Efaw and Tony Veltri. Present, but unable to be seen is this photo, was Commissioner Dave Gobel.
GRAFTON – Shannon and Valorie Hebb of Clarksburg approached the Taylor County Commission Tuesday evening to request permission to put a Hot Spot gambling facility in the old Elderado building owned by Tim Gerard.
Gerard reported that the couple had put over $10,000 of their own money into the structure, preparing it to reopen as a video gambling establishment. Over the years Gerard’s structure has been home to a variety of restaurants, bars, and even a church, but this is the first time that it had been considered for a video gambling facility.
Mr. and Mrs. Hebb are the owners of BSS Hebb LLC. of Harrison County. The couple currently operates one such facility in their home county.
As the Hebb’s approached the commission, they explained that they wanted to opened the business as a “family restaurant” with a gaming facility included. The couple explained that they had already invested nearly $13,000 in this particular business adventure.
Commissioner Dave Gobel inquired if the Hebbs had checked to see how far their establishment was from the Hot Spot facility operated in the T&L Hot Dogs building. Hebb noted that he believed that it was around 1,875 feet.
Noting that Chief Deputy Terring Skinner was waiting in the hall, the commission invited him into the chambers to inquire of him the distance between the two facilities. Skinner brought with him an aerial map system on his laptop. The aerial mapping system allowed Skinner to draw a line from the proposed building to the T&L building, to which software would then calculate the distance between the two structures.
Skinner’s computer calculations declared that the buildings were 1,543.6 feet apart.
The commission also noted that they had been in contact with Grafton City Police Chief Robert Beltner, who had been in charge of the Taylor County 9-1-1 mapping system. Beltner had also calculated the distance for the commission, and his calculations were very similar to that of Skinner.
The commission then referenced restrictions that were included in an ordinance adopted by the commission on June 15, 2006. They explained to the Hebbs that the ordinance was a document that caused the commission to be under great scrutiny during its construction. “These chambers were packed when we were writing it,” explained Gobel.
The commission went on to note two restrictions in the ordinance, which would keep the commission from accepting the Hebb’s request.
The ordinance declares, “No video lottery or gaming establishment shall locate closer than two thousand (2,000) feet from another such establishment, nor from a residential dwelling, church, school which is part of a public or private system of education, public park, or recreation center, within Taylor County, West Virginia.”
The ordinance also outlines the measurement criteria for the 2,000 feet by stating, “The distance shall be measured as the shortest distance between any portions(s) of a building or buildings constituting, without regard to intervening structures or objects, a video lottery or gaming establishment, and any residential dwelling within Taylor County, West Virginia.”
Taylor County Prosecuting Attorney, John Bord, was then recognized by the commission as their legal council. Bord advised the Hebbs that the commission was bound by the ordinance, and would thus have to deny their request. “It is etched in stone,” noted Bord.
Bord was then asked by Mr. Hebb if there was any way to get special permission in this case since so much money had already been invested in remodeling the structure in preparation for its opening.
Bord advised that there was nothing the commission could do. He went on to note that if the Hebbs really wanted to try and pursue this adventure, that they could acquire signed releases from each residence, the owners of T&L Hot Dogs, and the members of the Taylor County Fair Association, and then get an attorney and take it before the Circuit Court of Taylor County.
Realizing that there was no hope for opening their video lottery facility, the Hebbs and Mr. Gerard thanked the commission for their time, and then excused themselves from the commission chambers.
The commission went on to note that Taylor County already has nine such establishments in operation. An operator of two such establishments noted that he was present for the commission meetings when the ordinance was originally adopted, and noted that he believed the county didn’t need any more video lottery facilities. “We have looked, but there is honestly no way to put another video lottery in Taylor County. The ordinance wouldn’t allow it. We have checked.”
The ordinance clearly states, “The County Commission of Taylor County, West Virginia believes that the unrestricted proliferation of video lottery or gaming establishments throughout the county is detrimental to the health, safety, and welfare of the community due to the potential for increased crime, poverty, negative influence upon children, poor appearance of the community to visitors, and deleterious effect upon property values in the vicinity of the establishments, and therefore must be subject to restrictions so that such establishments do not unreasonably proliferate across the county.”
The commission further noted that each of the video lottery facilities within the county are in compliance with the restrictions outlined within the ordinance. The commission further noted that some of these establishments are in compliance due to a grandfathering feature included in the ordinance.