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Cross Lanes group seeks to unite community

CROSS LANES, W.Va. -- If it were incorporated, Cross Lanes' roughly 10,000 residents would form the fourth-largest city in Kanawha County, behind Charleston, South Charleston and St. Albans.

But residents have repeatedly rebuffed incorporation in the past, including rejecting such a proposal during a 1987 referendum.

Still, there are certain services a central office for a community can provide, and the new Cross Lanes Development council seeks to serve that purpose -- while keeping the area unincorporated.

"In some cases, there's a lack of community that occurs just naturally," said Barry Holstein, who is heading up the organization.

In September, the Cross Lanes Development council held its first meeting at Perrow Church, and Holstein said between 12 and 15 "very interested" people attended. Since then, the group has continued to get off the ground and running.

"We're in the early stages," Holstein said. "We're putting together the infrastructure, if you will."

For those opposed to incorporation, it's important to note the Cross Lanes Development council isn't going to be a government agency. It isn't affiliated with a religious organization, either.

Instead, the Cross Lanes group will be a nonprofit community organization, thereby taking a page from the Greater Sissonville Development Council, which operates a similar venture in the Sissonville area.

"We're following the Sissonville road map," Holstein said. But, "Cross Lanes is different than Sissonville. We have different needs."

The Cross Lanes group will seek to serve as a "conduit" to connect residents, businesses and other organizations in the community, and could also legally serve as a channel for grant money.

The organization can also work to identify and tackle issues affecting Cross Lanes, two of which are traffic and signage improvements, Holstein said. The group could also coordinate other activities, like neighborhood watch programs.

"There are plenty of opportunities in Cross Lanes if the knowledge exists and a way to connect the resources that are there," Holstein said.

The idea for the Cross Lanes group was born between Holstein and other Cross Lanes residents.

"We found ourselves complaining about certain things," he said. "Instead of complaining, let's do something positive."

The Sissonville organization is helping the Cross Lanes group navigate the legal and community channels to get started.

Tom Crouser is the Greater Sissonville Development Council's secretary and the liaison to the Cross Lanes group. He said the Sissonville council has served as a go-to organization not just for residents and local businesses, but for state and local government officials as well.

"You have someplace that our county officials can come to, our delegates can come to," Crouser said of the Sissonville council.

The Sissonville group itself is comprised of business and community leaders in Sissonville and surrounding communities. The Cross Lanes council will likely have a similar makeup tailored to that community.

"You need to bring leaders of the community together," Crouser said. "There's just so much that can be done."

In Sissonville, for example, the decade or so-old Greater Sissonville Development Council has served as a "pass-through" for grant money to the community, and has been instrumental in community projects, including the sidewalk project several years ago.

Crouser said in order for the Cross Lanes group to see similar success, it needs to first identify what community institutions exist and then identify businesses and services present in the city. The group also needs to make sure it meets monthly, regardless of what's on the agenda.

"I think they have a great opportunity to do a lot of good stuff out there," he said.

The second public meeting for the Cross Lanes Development council is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 14, also at Perrow Church.

The organization is also operating a Facebook page. Search "Cross Lanes Community Development" or type http://bit.ly/IEIwV0/.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him on Twitter @DMLocalGov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ DailyMailLocalGov


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