Buckhannon to purchase former bank’s drive-thru
BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon City Council has voted to purchase the former Chase Bank drive-thru at 15 Madison St. from current deed holder Citizens Bank of West Virginia for $200,000.
The second and final reading of Ordinance 443, a formality required for the municipality to purchase the property, passed 6-1 on a motion by councilwoman Mary Albaugh and seconded by councilman C.J. Rylands during the most recent council meeting.
With the city purchasing the property, Citizens Bank has agreed to donate $100,000 to Stockert Youth and Community Center’s capital campaign towards construction of the new multi-purpose gym and receive naming rights for 20 years.
Mayor David McCauley first read a statement before the vote.
Following the last council meeting, a committee made up of McCauley, city recorder Randy Sanders, councilman C.J. Rylands, director of finance and administration Amby Jenkins, director of public works Jerry Arnold, street commissioner Brad Hawkins and real estate appraiser Stan Rexroad met to further evaluate the acquisition of the 1.032 acre property.
“The building was accessed multiple times and the group believes that there is great potential use of and value respecting the current building located upon these premises,” McCauley said. “This property is highly desirable to our city’s other operations either adjacent to or across the street from the Citizens’ property.
“Parking is at a premium in our downtown and with expanded events at Jawbone, the PSC and Stockert, this property is highly strategic to the city’s future operations and sponsorship of events all within a block or two of this location, while adding dozens of parking spaces, green space, public art, etc.
McCauley noted that the City’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan unanimously adopted by this council specifically calls for continued development and enhancement of our city parks, including Jawbone Park.
“The value of this property well exceeds the purchase price of $200,000 even without the $100,000 gift back to Stockert’s capital campaign,” he said. “In fact, six comparables for downtown real estate were generated indicating a price per square foot as follows- $5.28, $4.66, $5.74, $10.71, $3.79 and $5.88.
McCauley thanked Rexroad for generating the square footage information for our consideration.
“The per square footage value for the bank’s Madison Street property is $4.45, less than all of the other above comparables except for one,” he said. “When factoring in the Citizens Bank gift-back provision of $100,000, the effective square footage acquisition price for this property is $2.22.
About 75 percent of the current lot is concrete, and the current market value to pour .76 of an acre of property with concrete is $194,000, according to figures from Arnold and Hawkins that McCauley listed
“The property is worth even more as a result of the way it is presently set,” he said.
McCauley also said the addition of the $100,000 to Stockert’s capital campaign enhances the city’s AML grant application seeking $3.8 million because it “evidences our commitment to the project. Our opportunity for grant success is substantially elevated with this gift. We will notify the state immediately upon council’s acceptance of the gift.”
McCauley said the city has the means and funding available to acquire the property through the rainy day fund, a combination of council discretionary funds and rainy day fund or through financing and taking advantage of historic all-time low rates.
Councilman Robbie Skinner, who voted against moving forward with the purchase until a plan was in place at the last council meeting, cast the dissenting vote on Thursday.
Skinner said, “I disagree with the fact that we should move forward with the purchase of the property without having the fully developed plan in place that we would like to realize. In addition to some of my concerns last time, I still would like to see a hard copy of the appraisal. I hear the numbers you are quoting but I would like to see them to make a decision on this.”
The councilman also questioned the need to move forward with the purchase, not knowing what would happen with the economy due to Covid-19 factors.
“Our revenues could go down; our expenses are certainly not going to go down and I certainly don’t want to go into our rainy day fund to purchase this property,” he said. “I agree with you – if it’s going to happen- it should be financed because rates are low. I believe we should hold off on this certainly until we know what is going to happen relative to the health crisis we are facing now and what monies we need available to help us as we go into the future. “
But during his remarks, McCauley said, “Those that insist on a specific plan for the actual use of this property miss the point. The property is needed and time is sensitive as there are other suitors seeking to acquire the property.”
The mayor said a public meeting in mid summer could be held to work on design and uses for the space.
“We will bring all constituencies together to consider design and usage of this property, e.g., Create Buckhannon/Festival Fridays, Gambill Amusements/Shane Turner, the West Virginia Strawberry Festival, Stockert, ART26201, the City landscape committee and horticulturist Dixie Green, etc.
McCauley said the city is saving a half a million in insurance costs with changes for the next fiscal year.
Rylands said he supported the purchase and felt it was an investment in the city’s capacity for events.
He said the previous process of using public planning for Jawbone Park could be used with the new property to gain public input.
Albaugh said, “As business people on this council, it’s our responsibility to seize that moment when you can. We really got a good deal.”