Letter to the Editor
(This letter is as written without editing)
I will be formally announcing my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor of West Virginia in September. (Unlike other candidates I believe nine months is more than sufficient time to engage in an active campaign for Governor.) As a candidate I believe it is important for your readers to know my position on certain environmental matters which are of concern to them.
In the 1996 campaign I vigorously opposed the construction of a pulp mill in Mason County, and as such I was labeled by some pro-business groups as anti-business and/or a "wacko" environmentalist. I am neither, but I was then and I continue to be opposed to the construction of the type of pulp mill that was planned for Mason County.
With respect to the Blackwater Canyon issue, I want readers to know that my wife and I own a home in Tucker County. Our family (four young children) regularly visit our home in Tucker county for hiking, skiing, and the rest and relaxation that comes with spending leisure time in one of the most beautiful areas in the world..
I am absolutely opposed to logging of the Blackwater Canyon, and as Governor I will do everything within my lawful power to halt this practice while being fair to the current owners of the property within the canyon. I am opposed to commercial development within the canyon, although I am not opposed to some reasonable development in the vicinity of the canyon that will permit people to come visit this beautiful area and enjoy the canyon.
With respect to Corridor H, I favor the completion of Corridor H, knowing full well the environmental impact the road will have for the area. However in balancing the environmental impact versus the economic impact I believe, on balance, the highway is good for West Virginia. I also believe this highway will be built despite the continued and quite legitimate opposition to it. Given this eventual outcome, I would urge the Highlands Conservancy and other interested parties to begin focusing their efforts, at least in part, on land planning around the highway after construction.
As Governor I would favor the majority of the highway being designated as "scenic" status with commercial development and billboards/ signage prohibited in these areas. I would favor specific, limited, development zones in certain areas along the highway where development and growth can move forward.
However, everyone involved in this issue, whether pro or con on the construction of the highway, should begin to devote some attention to this issue. Given that zoning and planning issues and restrictions promote a great deal of discord in our State, land planning decisions along this highway need to be made before construction of the highway to avoid huge headaches and protracted litigation after construction.
I hope my comments are beneficial to your readers in evaluating my candidacy. Readers can reach me as (304) 344-9651 or e-mail at email@example.com .
James B. Lees, Jr.