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Officials hope new CVS boosts development in Charles Town's west end

January 26, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Most redevelopment projects in downtown Charles Town have been done in the city’s east end with little activity in the west end, Mayor Peggy Smith said Thursday.

That’s been changing since the announcement last fall of plans for a new CVS pharmacy store at the corner of West Washington and North West streets.

The city of Charles Town, the planning commission and the Charles Town Historic Landmarks Commission have all approved the project even though four buildings in the Downtown Charles Town Historic District have to be razed to make room for the pharmacy, City Manager Joe Consentini said this week.

The only bureaucratic holdup is whether the West Virginia Division of Highways  — Washington Street is a state road — accepts or rejects the results of a traffic impact study being done by a private consulting firm hired by CVS. The study is expected to be submitted to the Division of Highways on Monday, said Ken Clohan, a DOH regional engineer.

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A sticking point stems from a state highway requirement for a “right in” entrance off of and a “right out” exit onto Washington Street. CVS wants a left-turn exit on to Washington Street.

The highway department will review the consultant’s study before making a decision, Clohan said.
An alley that runs along the east side of the property to West Liberty Street will remain open to the public.

Two citizens opposed to the project are Robin Huyett Thomas of Charles Town and Curt Mason of Summit Point, W.Va. Both are active in historic preservation efforts in the city and Jefferson County.

“They want to put a cookie-cutter store in the downtown historic district,” Mason said.

Huyett Thomas said she objects because the size and scale of the project “is ill-suited” to the historic fabric of that part of downtown, and it’s too close to a busy intersection,” she said.

The opponents are pinning their hopes on a city ordinance that  allows only the city, not the state highway department, to remove parking meters, five of which would have to be removed with a

Washington Street entrance and exit. They said they would ask the council not to remove the meters.

Consentini said removing the meters would not be an issue for the council.

Mayor Smith on Thursday acknowledged that the four affected structures are in the city’s historic district, but only one is considered to be historic.

It’s a decrepit early 19th century duplex on North West Street near the corner of West Liberty. It’s basic construction is log, which has long since been covered with siding.

“It’s in terrible condition,” Smith said.

The project is estimated to cost between $3 million and $5 million, Cosentini said.

It will boost the revitalization efforts of the west side of town, Smith said.

“It will anchor that corner. We’ve improved the east end, but not the west end,” she said.

The project includes demolition of a home across North West Street from the CVS site.

Auto Serve, a vehicle repair company in the former Citizens Fire Co. headquarters across North West Street, owns and uses part of the proposed CVS property as a customer parking lot.

Consentini said an agreement between the two companies calls for Auto Serve to relinquish its parking lot in return for CVS to buy and raze a house near Auto Serve for a new customer parking lot.

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