The expected controversy regarding the partial rezoning of one section of Philippi's historic district from residential to commercial was non-existent at a public hearing Tuesday, City Administrator Karen Weaver said.
Philippi City Council approved two ordinances on its second and final reading that would allow a local man, Shawn McPherson, to move forward with his plan to create a 20-room motel near the intersection of Walnut and Church street.
"It was a very short meeting," Weaver said. "If anybody wanted to make any comments, they had the opportunity. But there wasn't anybody there to speak."
The short-lived public hearing offered the opportunity for citizens to comment on McPherson's proposal and the rezoning ordinances one last time before it appeared before the City Council for a final vote. This time there was only silence.
With the approval of the ordinances, the Philippi City Council has authorized the amendment of a 1995 zoning ordinance to rezone Blocks 100 and 200 in downtown Philippi from residential to commercial. It also allows for a small motel of 30 or fewer rooms to operate on the C-2 level of commercial property, which ordinarily would require the motel to be within a C-3 commercial zone. A C-3 commercial zone would allow for unwanted businesses, like a dump, to operate within the historic district.
Philippi City Council members announced at previous meetings that the exception for the C-2 commercial zone would allow McPherson to continue with his goals for the motel, and it would give the City Council more control over the types of businesses which could operate from those locations.
McPherson calls his proposed motel the Battlefield Inn and Suites. He has argued that the parents and family members of Alderson Broaddus University students need additional local options for their overnight stays. He said that family members who can't find a room are forced to stay outside of Barbour County.
While many voiced their support for McPherson's plan, others stood up against it previously. Some residents of Philippi said they were opposed to the location he chose for his motel. Multiple people expressed an opinion that the corner lot is too small for McPherson's plan.
Gordon Church owns the Covered Bridge Bed and Breakfast located on the opposite corner of Church and Walnut streets from the proposed motel. His home and business were listed for sale, but were then advertised for auction. The auction was held Aug. 24.
In other matters, City Council also approved a bid for a sludge hauling truck. The low bidder was Matheny Motor Truck Co. of Parkersburg for $180,872.09.
Council members also appointed Lara Foster and reappointed Lemuel Jones to the Philippi Planning Commission for a five-year term.
A new sergeant in the Philippi Police Department also was appointed by council members. Scott Gillis was promoted to sergeant. He is filling a vacancy left when former Sgt. Jeff Walters was promoted to police chief. Weaver said the city council plans to hire another officer.