By Wendy Holdren
At its Tuesday night meeting, Beckley Common Council approved the closure of Cedar Street and transferred the right-of-way to Austin Caperton, owner of the former Beckley Feed and Hardware.
Cedar Street is located adjacent to Robert C. Byrd Drive and in front of the old Beckley Feed and Hardware store.
Councilman Chris Hall was the only member of Council who voted against the street closure.
He asked why the city would convey a “valuable” and “significant” piece of property such as Cedar Street, when the city has not conveyed other properties in the past.
“This is a very low impact street,” Mayor Emmett Pugh said. “There is very little traffic and the property will generate tax revenue for the city.”
City attorney Bill File noted that a new McDonald’s is planned for the former Beckley Feed and Hardware store location.
“I’m not happy to lose the building,” Pugh said. “But it’s empty.”
He said although the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, all city department heads have determined there is no problem with selling it.
Hall said he simply wanted to be consistent in street closings and he questioned whether the city could make a profit from selling the street.
File responded, “The city is not in a position to sell it. It’s a city right-of-way. We don’t sell that type of property, but we do give the rights to landowners.”
As an example, File said for Sheetz to be built on Harper Road, the city had to close property for the land to be developable.
Hall also posed concerns about the traffic flow in that already congested area, especially with implementing a business “as busy as McDonald’s.”
Pugh said traffic plans must be approved by the planning commission. He said a traffic study will be conducted by the state to determine the level of service at the intersection. That study will then be given to the developer, Paramount Development Corp., before a permit will be given.
After the discussion, all council members except Hall voted yes on the ordinance.
Under old business, council discussed, yet again, what to do with the uptown “hole.”
Councilman Tom Sopher said after the Sept. 24 council meeting, he spoke with John Mize, who owns one portion of the property.
Sopher said Mize is still planning to rebuild, and even expressed interest in buying the city’s piece of property.
“We’re council. We need to be able to make a decision on a corner lot.”
Pugh said if the property is sold, it must be done by public auction or sealed bid.
Councilman Ron Booker suggested the city’s property should be used for additional parking and Councilman Mike Atterson suggested the property should be utilized for storage and bathrooms for Chili Night and other uptown Beckley events.
“We’ve talked about this 50 times,” Booker said. “Let’s get something done.”
Pugh asked councilmembers to think it over and decide whether or not to put the issue on the agenda for a vote.
Also under old business, Hall said he would like to know who is interested in filling the mayor’s position after Pugh resigns at the end of the year.
“I would like to know who is interested in the job, both on and off council,” Hall said.
He asked that anyone interested in the position send a resume or letter of intent to his attention at city hall by Friday, Nov. 1.
Sopher noted that Bill O’Brien, Pete Torrico and Mel Hancock had expressed to him their interest in the interim mayoral position.
A three-year 1.5 percent capitol lease from Chase was approved for the lease of 36 air packs, a rescue pumper and a truck for the Beckley Fire Department.
The purchase of these items was already sent out for bid and approved by council; Tuesday night’s discussion focused on the financing of the purchase.
Recorder and treasurer Byrd White said he will meet with Fire Chief Billie Trump to discuss whether or not the city has enough fire levy money to pay for these items in cash; if not, then the items will be leased through Chase Bank.
Councilwoman Ann Worley said the comprehensive plan workshops last week had “intense, good discussions” and approximately 60 people attended during the course of the workshops.
She serves as the chair for the steering committee and she said Poggemeyer Design Group will submit a draft of the comprehensive plan in December.
Pugh noted that trick-or-treating will be held in the city on Halloween from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The next common council meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
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