PHILIPPI - A citizen's distress over the proposed rezoning of residential property to commercial property on Wabash Street in Philippi didn't stop city council last week.
Members voted 4-2 to approve the rezoning.
The property is owned by Richard Mace, owner of Mace's Pharmacy. Philippi Mayor Jerry Mouser said Mace plans to open retail stores on the site.
The names of the stores were not revealed, but Mouser said Mace assured him that the stores would be open during the day. Mouser also said there are unconfirmed rumors that the businesses could be health-related.
Resident Linda Hess said she did not want a loud business in an area that's designed to be residential.
"How would you all - please be completely honest with me - how would you all like to have a store, a retail business, right at your bedroom window?" Hess asked at the Philippi City Council meeting Dec. 17. "That's how close our property
Mouser was the first to respond.
"If it was a saloon with a whole bunch of motorcycles, I probably wouldn't like it," he said. "If it's a normal business, a retail store, where some people go in and buy stuff, I don't really expect folks to be, I guess, yelling and screaming and that sort of thing."
Councilman Terrence Boyd said he experienced a similar situation firsthand when someone across the street from him wanted to open a business in his neighborhood. Boyd said he was not thrilled about it at first, but after conversations with that neighbor, he was able to come to terms with the situation.
"Initially, was I in agreement with it? No," Boyd said. "I wasn't, but after speaking to him and looking at the city as a whole - how we're wanting to grow and attract different businesses - it's the best thing."
Hess was not placated.
"That's what Main Street is for," she said. "They call it downtown."
Boyd told her she brought up a good point but that the city's downtown area has limited space for prospective businesses.
Hess said there is no way to know in advance exactly what a proposed commercial business will be. Mouser said that the definition of the particular type of commercial property, classified as C-2 Community Commercial zone, restricts the types of businesses permitted, giving the city more control.
"You can restrict some certain things, but you cannot tell him whether he has (to have) a beauty shop or a flower shop," Mouser said.
The property will be rezoned to community commercial from an R-2 multi-family residential zone.
Although the council approved the rezoning, as recommended by the Philippi Planning Commission, two councilmen voted against it.
Councilman John Green said he voted against it because the property had once been used as a Chevrolet garage business prior to its rezoning. "I don't see why it needs to be rezoned," Green said, adding that it hadn't been rezoned when the other business was operating there.
Councilman Jeff Allen said he opposed the rezoning because of feedback he has received about it.
"No one contacted me that wanted it," he said.
Prior to the vote, Mouser temporarily placed City Clerk Tammy Stemple in charge of the meeting, thereby allowing the mayor to vote. The motion to approve was 4-2.
Hess asked, "Where does it stop?" She said,"If you do it to this residential area, someone else can say, 'Well he got away with it, they got away with it, let's go over here in Mansfield and start building businesses.'"
Earlier this year, in August, the council voted to rezone the 100 and 200 blocks of Walnut Street from residential to commercial. Resident Shawn McPherson owned a parcel and proposed construction of a small hotel.
Boyd told Hess, "That's the beauty of the whole process." He said, "When you have a public hearing, you have folks that come in and talk - voice their opinions for or
Boyd, who voted in favor of the rezoning, said it was all about making an informed decision.
"I want to make a good decision, because I want to be able to sleep at night and know that I made the best decision that I could based upon the information. And in doing so, you're not going to make everybody happy."
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