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Municipal Home Rule Board approves Lewisburg, Shepherdstown, New Cumberland and Auburn for home-rule status

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - At its meeting April 4, 2016, the Municipal Home Rule Board approved four more municipalities to join those that have already been granted Home Rule status. 

Home Rule plans from Lewisburg (Greenbrier County), Shepherdstown (Jefferson County), New Cumberland (Hancock County) and Auburn (Ritchie County) were approved. 

With this action, Shepherdstown, New Cumberland and Auburn filled the final three

openings for Class IV municipalities to receive Home Rule status. Class IV is the designation for towns or villages with populations of fewer than 2,000 people.

In addition, the board approved Lewisburg for Home Rule status as a Class III municipality. Thirty slots for combined Classes I, II and III municipalities have been allowed by the state legislature for Home Rule status. Lewisburg’s acceptance brings the total approved so far to 28, leaving only two slots open. Those slots may be filled at the next meeting of the Home Rule Board July 11, 2016, in Charleston.

The Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program was created in 2007 and began with four cities: Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport. The initial pilot program lasted five years and granted those cities authority to enact ordinances, acts, resolutions, rules and regulations without regard to state law with several exceptions. Home-rule municipalities must still comply with the constitutions of the United States and West Virginia, and some state laws, such as criminal and controlled substance laws, are still off-limits. 

Based on its initial success, the 2013 Legislature moved to continue and expand the program to 16 more cities. On March 14, 2015, the West Virginia Legislature expanded the program a second time, permitting the addition of 14 more municipalities. The bill specified that four of the new municipalities must be Class IV.

Municipalities seeking Home Rule authority may submit applications to the board any time, and there is no deadline to apply. The application must include a written plan outlining which state laws, policies, acts, resolutions, rules or regulations are preventing the municipality to carry out duties in the most cost-effective, efficient and timely manner, as well as specific problems created by the laws and proposed solutions. 

The application, guidelines and a checklist are available online at www.wvcommerce.org/homerule. More information about the program is also available there, as well as applications submitted by existing home-rule municipalities.