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CVB hopes to move into cedar log home

May 28, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

BOLIVAR, W.VA. -- A case that languished in the courts for seven years ended this month when a Jefferson County judge ordered the owner of a cedar log home business to move her building off state property immediately.

The ruling, issued May 14 by Judge David H. Sanders in Jefferson County Circuit Court, ordered Vickie Drumheller, owner of Cedar Images Inc., to move her building and its contents off West Virginia Division of Highway property.

Sanders' order might solve a dilemma for the Jefferson County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). The CVB has wanted for years to move out of a tiny trailer at 37 Washington Court that serves as its welcome center for tourists. The trailer is next door to Drumheller's building.

The CVB had, until 2002, operated its visitors center on the first floor of Drumheller's building on a lease with Drumheller while she ran her business from the second floor.

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The CVB bought the trailer in September 2002 after Drumheller received notice from the West Virginia Department of Transportation officials that she had 60 days to move her building off Division of Highway land.

The state took its case to circuit court when Drumheller didn't comply. It was that case that Sanders ruled on this month.

Ronnie Marcus, president of the private, nonprofit CVB, said Thursday his agency's top priority is to move out of the trailer because it creates a poor image for the area. On average, between 60,000 and 100,000 tourists visit the facility every year, said Paulette Sprinkle, executive director of the visitors center.

This will be especially true this year, the start of a major celebration of the Civil War, beginning with the 150th anniversary of abolitionist John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859.

Marcus wants Drumheller to sell her building to the CVB, which has accumulated more than $60,000 through Washington Heritage Trail grants.

Drumheller said she wants $160,000 for the building.

Drumheller said she also is trying to make arrangements to move the building a block up Washington Court to an acre of land she owns.

"I'm prepared to follow the court order, but I need the building to run my business in," she said.

Drumheller estimated it will cost upwards of $60,000 to move the building. She also needs water and sewer hookups and a zoning variance, all of which would take time.

The CVB was created in 1988 by a group of hotel, inn and restaurant owners to promote the area. Its annual budget, around $250,000, comes from hotel/motel taxes.

Officers, in addition to Marcus, include Erwin Assam, owner of the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va.; Nina Vogel, owner of the Washington House Inn in Charles Town, W.Va.; and Bernie Heiler, owner of the Gilbert House B&B in Middleway, W.Va.

According to Drumheller, her two-story chalet was built in 1999 on Division of Highway land by Terry Sullivan in a deal with then-Gov. Gaston Caperton as part of his Partners in Progress Program. The program was an effort to combine government and private enterprise to boost economic development.

Drumheller bought the building from Sullivan.

Sullivan could not be reached for comment.

"They put the building on our property with no right to do so," Anthony Halkias, the Division of Highways' lead lawyer, said Thursday in Charleston, W.Va. "When you build on someone else's land, it ends up being your building. The court ruled it was our property and she had no right to be there."

Halkias said if CVB officials want the building, they'll have to buy it from Drumheller.

"She has to move or sell to the CVB," he said.

If the CVB buys the building, an arrangement could be worked out with the Division of Highways for the visitors bureau to lease the land under it for a nominal rent, a deal not available to private citizens, Halkias said.

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