From left, Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner and councilman CJ Rylands, a member of the City of Buckhannon's Planning Commission, at council's June 17 meeting.

City officials hope to have ‘actionable plan’ for redevelopment of old bank drive-thru within three months

BUCKHANNON – Discussions about how to redevelop the old Chase bank drive-thru lot on Madison Street are still ongoing, but they won’t be going on forever.

City officials have indicated they want to have an “actionable plan” within the next several months to clear the way for demolition and construction to begin on the 1.03-acre-lot during the summer of 2022.

At Buckhannon City Council’s June 17 meeting, councilman CJ Rylands, who sits on the Planning Commission, briefed the rest of council on public feedback gathered at a special June 15 Planning Commission meeting. The June 15 meeting had been scheduled to gather input on the future purpose of the Madison Street lot and what’s transpired since the meeting. (You can read about the input received in this story.)

“We got a lot of positive feedback. There was a lot of support for a skate park of sorts, so we took all the information in,” Rylands said. “At Create Buckhannon, a contingency of skateboard enthusiasts showed up and had some prepared remarks, and we entertained a conversation for about 30 minutes about how to incorporate that into the development of that property and we’re going to have another meeting next Tuesday (June 22) to further review this … and have an ongoing conversation with the city architect (Bryson VanNostrand).”

Rylands said one realization he came to as a result of the meeting was that while there’s an established ratio for the number of public restrooms that should be available per ‘X’ number of people at an event, there was no similar standard for parking spaces. Several participants suggested the city’s number of free parking spaces – 489 – was adequate and said they didn’t believe more parking spots were necessary, Rylands recounted.

(When the city purchased the lot from Citizens Bank of West Virginia in March 2020, council members said it could provide additional parking, expand greenspace beyond Jawbone Park or both.)

“There’s a standard ratio of public restrooms – there’s supposed to be one for every 75 people at an event … but one of the interesting things that came up was that there’s no standard ratio for number of parking spaces per ‘X’ number of people,” Rylands said. “When it was brought up about how many parking spaces are needed per number of people, there is no standard ratio, so it was pointed out to us that we have 489 free parking places, and we don’t need any more parking … or do we? That’s the question.”

“We’re maybe rethinking that a bit and maybe duplicating one parking lot similar in size and capacity to the [Upshur County] Development Authority’s [parking lot], which would allow for some other utilizations of the property on the left or the right. We’re thinking about a rectangular skate park of sorts.”

Rylands said he wants the city to have a concrete plan by September.

“This is still all in conversation, but my intention is to have an actionable plan within 3 months,” so the city can begin any necessary demolition and preparation for redeveloping the space.

“I’m glad to see progress on that and I reinforced with these young folks, find your public voice and public advocacy is the most powerful action you can take if you want to make something happen,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”

Planning Commission President Dr. Susan Aloi is expected to address city council about the Madison Street lot at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. July 15 in city hall’s council chambers.

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