KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — Plans are moving forward for the construction of a new school for students who previously attended Clendenin Elementary School and Bridge Elementary School. But neighbors near Wolverton Mountain Road are up in arms after they were informed that their property might be considered for development, forcing them to move.
Jack Swiney has lived on Fairwater Road since 1962. His family has owned the property even longer.
"This was my grandparents' home built around 1890," Swiney said.
Then came the flood of 2016.
"I had about 18 inches in my house; four-and-a-half feet in the garage,” Swiney said.
Thousands of dollars later, Swiney moved back into his renovated home where he and his family intended to spend the rest of their days - until they received a letter from Kanawha County Schools.
"This is absolutely the worst part of my job," said Charles Wilson of Kanawha County Schools. "Eminent Domain is defined in West Virginia code as the process in which the government can access private land for the good of the overall public."
Over the course of the next year, Swiney and his neighbors could be displaced. Officials say the site is elevated, and while it's not in a flood plain, some of the surrounding area is - including Swiney's home.
"There's going to be a lot of water runoff once they blacktop it," Swiney said.
"We don't know if we'll be taking some homes, but engineers felt there's a lot of water issues that it's flood-prone,” Wilson said.
Engineers are in the very early stages of the design of the school. They're still awaiting the results of environmental testing and considering several options in terms of the actual development of the land.
"Once that's determined, we'll have some decisions to make. Because we are looking at the property, we've notified everyone. Some are okay with it, and some are not,” Wilson said.
For Swiney and his neighbors, only time will tell.
"I'm not a bit happy about it. I'm 82 years old, and I have a home sitting here. But that's the way things go," Swiney said.
If plans continue to move forward with the property, timbering could begin as early as this fall with construction to follow in the early spring.