Rezoning recommended to Philippi Council

The Philippi Planning Commission voted to recommend to the City Council the rezoning of a property in the downtown historical district Thursday despite dissenting opinions.

Shawn McPherson of Philippi plans to build a 20-room, Victorian-style motel called the Battlefield Inn and Suites on a lot currently zoned as residential. His plan has met with controversy since the announcement of his proposal.

To move forward, the lot will need to become a commercial zone and special provisions allowing a small motel still may be necessary.

More than a dozen properties along Walnut and Church streets in Philippi could be affected by the proposed change. The Philippi City Council has the ultimate decision regarding rezoning.

“Some decisions are not made easily,” Planning Commission Chairman Dorothy Hayhurst said.

The Planning Commission also voted to amend the C-2 commercial zoning description to include a small motel. It defined a small motel as containing no more than 30 rooms. Rooms that count as part of the restriction include maintenance closets, lobbies, offices, conference rooms and rental rooms.

Planning Commission secretary Craig Cobb said that restrooms would not count against the 30 rooms, as many would be considered part of the rental rooms.

A property owner in the affected area, Gordon Church, openly asked why other properties further into the residential district, including the block where Mayor Jerry Mouser resides, were not considered in the rezoning proposal. He also asked if Mouser didn’t want the rezoning to affect his own property.

“The mayor has no objections if they want to consider the property he lives in as a C-2 or a C-3 or whatever else they want to consider,” Mouser said. “If they go through the process that they went through, then I will not stand in the way of process. I may oppose it, but I will not stand in the way of it, and I will follow the rules and the rule book.”

Some citizens were concerned about the historical preservation of Philippi. Code enforcement officer Bill Annon said that, as the site of the first land battle of the Civil War, Philippi would stay a historic city. Annon also said that he was asked by City Council to review the history of an area between the Philippi Covered Bridge and the Subway restaurant, and he found that during the past 20 or more years, 19 businesses have left town.

“We’ve lost everything,” Annon said, adding that the Business and Occupation taxes also have dropped during those years. “The City of Philippi has got to stay in line, and they’ve got to operate. The state law forbids them to operate in the negative. They have got to operate in a positive cash flow. This is the concern that they had. The bottom line is, the city’s just trying to grow.”

Annon was asked by a member of the audience how many new businesses have opened in the same area. He estimated that about three opened in the last year.

Church said that the hotel could lower his property value, generate unwanted noise with traffic and slamming doors, and the lights on both day and night would be invasive. Church operates the Covered Bridge Bed and Breakfast, located across the street from the proposed Battlefield Inn and Suites site. The Covered Bridge Bed and Breakfast features a “For Sale” sign located on the property.