By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Residents of a community near Bramwell objected to the Mercer County Commission Tuesday about plans for building an ATV resort they fear will disrupt their way of life.
In August, representatives of the Coal Camp ATV Resort LLC spoke to the county commission about the plans to build a facility with 50 cottages on a 30-acre site in the Shinbrier Mountain area. Long-term plans call for adding a restaurant and an ATV wash.
One homeowner, Ronald Gullion, told the commissioners Tuesday that he and his neighbors had worked hard on their homes, and they are worried that ATVs will disrupt their community.
“The community has come together,” Gullion said. “We oppose the construction of the ATV resort. It’s a quiet neighborhood, and most of us on the mountain are retired senior citizens. There are seven families up there. I have lived up there for 25 years. We have worked to make our homes and our farms nice. We enjoy the serenity. That’s why we moved up on the mountain, to be left alone in our senior years and just go away quietly.”
Homeowners keep horses and chickens along with dogs and cats, and there is a lot of local wildlife, Gullion said.
“The wildlife is already suffering from the ATV Hatfield-McCoy Trail. They are coming out of the woods and coming up to my place,” he said.
There are also concerns about noise and ATV traffic, Gullion added. The single-lane road is already a challenge for property owners if they encounter each other while leaving or going to their property. Signs warning ATV riders to stay off property are ignored.
“It’s bad now. It’s going to get a heck of a lot worse. Somebody has got to take lead on this,” Gullion said.
Anthony Simpkins, one of the resort’s developers, said he and his partners planned to offer the resort not only for ATV riders, but also for family reunions and as accommodations for visitors attending local events such as the Bluefield Coal Show. There were no plans to put ATV paths near the homeowners’ property.
“They don’t come here to ride through people’s yards,” he said. “They come here to ride the trail, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail which West Virginia has opened up for these people.”
“We’re not trying to walk on anyone,” he added.” We’re not trying to not get along with anyone.”
Simpkins said a gravel road going past homeowners’ property leads to a piece of personal property he does not plan to develop.
“We’re down in the lower part. Our facility will offer jobs for people in the area, it will bring a lot more people into the area,” he said. “We have no intentions doing anything out of the way. We plan on building a nice facility, a quiet place. Hopefully it will benefit everyone. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Matthew Kesler, who is working with Simpkins, said the resorts cottages would replicate the look of a turn-of-the-century coal camp. A layout is being put together, and he would be willing to share it with neighbors.
County Commission Gene Buckner said the commission could not tell Simpkins how he could develop his property, and the county commission was not the place to debate the resort.
“We can’t tell Mr. Simpkins what to do with his property like we can’t tell you what to do with your property,” Buckner told Gullion.
Mercer County currently does not have any county zoning ordinances, said Mike Vinciguerra, president of the Mercer County Commission. The commission does plan to see what could be done to establish such ordinances.