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Buckhannon Council agrees to put together design criteria

The Inter-Mountain photo by Amanda Hayes Two additional historic sign turnstiles like this one outside Mountain Lakes Insurance Agency will share more of Buckhannon’s history for visitors.

BUCKHANNON — More stories from Buckhannon’s past will now be read at eye level and Buckhannon City Council agreed to put together suggestive design criteria for the historic district.

Vincent Smith, zoning officer, presented a plan for the installation of two more turnstile signs that will be placed on each block — one on the Upshur County Courthouse block and one on the Dairy Queen block to compliment the one already in place on the center block.

“The Historic Landmarks commission did the turnstile sign that you see on Main Street,” he said. “Nice sign. I think if we get those out, it has good information on it. That was the general consensus of the Historic Landmarks Commission that it looked good and did what we wanted it to do to be very informative.”

The turnstiles will bring some of the stories down from the upper poles that are hard for visitors to read.

Council member C.J. Rylands said, “I tried to convince Noel (Tenney) to transfer the little stories on the ones up high down to the ones low. Is that the content or do you have different content?”

Mayor Robbie Skinner said, “We had discussed at Historic Landmarks that in these blocks, we already had two of them done. It may take some tweaking and some modification of the format to get them to fit. We already have two stories basically per block, the way it is now. We were going to take the content that is already up in the air and make it down to eye level, street level.”

“The turnstiles would replace what is currently there that is hoisted up higher,” Skinner said. “We want to make sure that things are written concisely with maybe a picture or two. That way people can read it in 30 seconds and take the information with them that is a talking point moving forward. Trying to model what CJ has already done in front of our insurance agency and Miller’s Pharmacy and taking that to the other blocks of town.”

Rylands approved the turnstiles with a second from council member Pam Bucklew and the motion passed. Smith also shared the conversation from the historic landmarks commission regarding having design criteria for modifications to buildings.

“Some of our neighboring areas that have historic areas have very strict design criteria,” he said. “That is a double edged sword. You can have people hold them to those standards but some of them are not going to put the money into the building to fix it up, so then you have a delipidated building. You have to be very careful with that.” Instead, the commission is looking at suggestive design criteria it would base off of what other communities are doing.

“It would suggest that we would like to see it done to match what is in the surrounding areas,” Smith said. Skinner said, “The historic landmarks commission has reviewed different cities that has very stringent design criteria outlines.”

The mayor pointed to Shepherdstown which has very specific, strict design criteria.

“If you have been to Shepherdstown, it’s a very historic community,” he said. “Virtually every building there would be considered historic and built 100 years ago. It’s been very well taken care of.

“It’s a different culture there,” he said. “They have a lot of Washington, D.C. influence that has come in there and a lot of people with a lot of money have put money into those buildings there.” The commission also reviewed Wheeling criteria which is more stringent than what Fairmont has closer to home.

“Our point here is we just want to share the information, share what would be considered to be historically accurate for structures contributing inside the historic district as just suggestions,” he said. “As a council member I served on the commission and for at least three of the four years, we discussed this. This was unanimously suggested upon we just create a nice listing of suggestions…for the property owner.

“We are supplying them with the information, if they choose to utilize what we are supplying, that’s great. If they have a different idea, that’s fine as well. That way, we are not being too intrusive, we are not trying to dictate what people can and can’t do to their property. We want people to have that freedom.” Smith added, “Ultimately we want them to fix their property up.”

Skinner said, “We fear if we get too stringent, it’s going to become too costly and the properties are just going to sit there.”

Rylands asked who would develop the suggestions. Smith said the historic landmarks commission could pull from other communities to come up with guidelines. Skinner said this would also include input from an architect, city attorney, Smith and Rylands as a historic property owner downtown.

“This tonight is to basically get the head nod to move forward that that is the direction we want to go instead of developing an actual ‘you must do this’ type of listing,” he said.

Smith used Community Care of West Virginia as an example of a building owner that took over and remodeled an old building that was in disrepair.

“Community Care made a very nice office there,” he said.

Councilmember Dave Thomas, seconded by councilwoman Mary Albaugh, approved moving forward with suggestive criteria for the historic district.

Smith also reported on several other zoning matters:

•Armory Pharmaceuticals has been issued a demo permit for the old armory which is zoned highway commercial for the first 100 feet from Route 20 and then industrial on the rest.

“They wanted to do the demo so the architect could come in after the demo and make sure his plans are right for the rebuild,” he said. “They are going to do a good job with it.”

The business has requested an 8-foot fence with barb wire around the property and will be making it black to blend in.

“They want to have a secure facility,” he said. “I think we all understand that.”

Smith said that matter will end up coming before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

• Two years ago, the city issued letters to property owners who have storage buildings placed in the flood plain that were not properly anchored. Some property owners complied at that time, but some didn’t.

Smith said the city will be taking a more aggressive stance on those property owners who did not apply.

“When FEMA comes in for their review, if it’s not done than they take points from us,” he said.

• Smith reminded residents to keep sidewalks clean from snow and ice and to take their trash containers back away from the front of their house.

• Smith also noted it’s a state requirement that doors have to removed from refrigerators outside to prevent a child from climbing inside and suffocating.

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