Request to rezone historic Hunter Hill home in Charles Town denied

March 26, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • The Charles Town (W.Va.) Planning Commission on Monday night denied a request to rezone Hunter Hill, a historic home on East Washington Street, from residential to commercial.
Photo by Richard F. Belisle

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — A move to rezone Hunter Hill, a historic home on East Washington Street, from residential to commercial was denied by a unanimous vote of the Charles Town Planning Commission on Monday night.

The big sticking point among the four members present was the fact that the owner has no specific plans for the 4.4-acre property between Liberty and East Washington streets.

The owner, William Trussell, was not present. He was represented by Mark Dyck of William H. Gordon Associates Inc., a local consultant firm.

The large white, four-square home was built right after the Civil War as a replica of an earlier home built on the foundation owned by Andrew Hunter, the chief prosecutor in the trial of abolitionist John Brown.

Hunter’s cousin, Union Gen. David Hunter, told his men to burn down Hunter Hill in July 1864, an order stemming from what was believed to have been a family feud, according to a local historian. Hunter also burned down two stately homes near Shepherdstown, W.Va., around the same time.
The Charles Town Historic Landmarks Commission did not oppose the rezoning, as long as the house would not be moved and the historic nature of the property would be preserved.

The home is not on the National Register of Historic Places.

Trussell’s father, a local veterinarian, at one time had an office and kennel on the property in a separate building.

According to Dyck, Trussell has no definite plans for the property if it is rezoned general commercial, which allows for a wide variety of commercial uses.

He spoke of a “high-end” hotel as a possibility, but said nothing of that nature would be possible as long as the old house stands in the way. Moving the house would not leave room for a viable commercial building site, he said.

If the zoning remains residential, single or multifamily homes could be built on the tract, but that would not generate the kind of tax revenue that a commercial venture would.

If the city decides to leave the zoning as is, Trussell could do what he wants with the house, including tearing it down, Dyck said.

Several longtime Liberty Street homeowners said they worried that their street would become a thoroughfare leading into a hotel complex, should one be built.

The commissioners balked at rezoning a property without a defined plan for its use.

The four who voted to deny the rezoning were Chairman Mark Reinhart, and members Al Craven, Jeff Wogan and Mark Meredith. Commissioner Mark Roper was absent.

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