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PUTNAM COUNTY COMMISSION NEWS: More Fraziers Bottom Acreage Zoned C-2

The December 28 Putnam County Commission meeting began at 5:30 p.m. and ended approximately 10 minutes after 9 p.m. All but about 23 minutes of that time was devoted to a single agenda item — discussion and decision regarding the rezoning of 36 acres from C-1 (Suburban Commercial) to C-2 (High Density Commercial). The property, located in Fraziers Bottom, fronts State Route 817 between Caldwell’s Farm Market and the Fraziers Bottom United Methodist Church. The Putnam County Planning Commission voted to recommend the zoning change in a 5 to 4 vote on November 21.

Following a 14-minute presentation describing the zoning change request and a public hearing of 2 hours and 50 minutes, Commissioners Brian Ellis, Steve Deweese, and Andy Skidmore stated the reasons why they favored granting the change and voted unanimously to rezone the entire 36 acres.

The change to C-2 did not sit well with most in attendance. During the public hearing 38 of the 42 individuals to address the Commission spoke against the change. Those opposed included both new and lifelong residents of Fraziers Bottom and family members. The property owner Dave Hobba, Megan Parsons of the Putnam County Development Authority, Jason Asbury, and Jacob Holdeman from Indianapolis were much in favor of the Commission’s action. Holdeman is charged with developing the property for a client who was not identified.

Holdeman told the Commission that all county, state and federal regulations would be followed and that traffic and safety issues will be addressed with traffic specialists working with the Department of Highways. He said that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) had been reached with WV DOH stating that shift changes would not occur during peak traffic hours. He also stated that construction would not involve the 13.5 acres which are identified to be in the flood plane (area fronting Route 817) or the acreage furthest from the road and that wetland and historic preservation regulations would be fully met.

Many of the residents present expressed fear that Amazon may be the undisclosed client for which Holdeman is working. An internet search conducted by the Breeze reveals that Holdeman is a Director of Development at Scannell Properties. The website scannellproperties.com lists numerous large construction projects which the company has completed. No project involving Amazon is listed but Scannell has been involved in building at least five warehouse facilities for FedEx and a $50 million distribution facility for Home Depot.

Jason Asbury, a resident of a subdivision on the north side of the Kanawha River and a recently appointed member to the Putnam County Solid Waste Authority Board, urged the Commission’s approval because the zoning change would bring jobs to Putnam County.

Those opposing the change argued that the C-2 zoning would destroy character of Fraziers Bottom. New residents cited the quiet, peaceful, and safe character of the area as their reason for locating there. Lifelong residents made impassioned pleas for the Commission to consider the impact of C-2 zoning upon safety and the history and aesthetics of the area. Jimmy Thaxton presented a history of zoning and zoning changes throughout the county. Thaxton stated that the Planning Commission was presented misleading and/or false information concerning the zoning description of abutting property when it voted to recommend the change.

Charlie Caldwell, an abutting property owner, stated that a portion of his farm was apparently designated C-2 without his knowledge of how or when it was so zoned. According to another speaker, the Fraziers Bottom United Methodist Church property which is adjacent to the 36 acres that faces Route 817 received its C-2 designation when the US 35 Comprehensive Plan was adopted. At that time, all frontage within 400 feet of the road was assigned either C-1 or C-2.

Karen Thaxton shared the history of her home and the Methodist Church which was constructed in the 1840’s. She said that C-2 zoning would destroy the atmosphere has brought visitors to the wedding venue on her property which has welcomed guests from neighboring states, California and Italy. Thaxton’s home is opposite to the 36 acres on 817.

Her plea and the pleas others were heard by the Commission but failed to sway a single vote against the rezoning.

The Commission denied a request by Valdeacourt Farm to rezone 130 acres of Fraziers Bottom in the same area on January 31, 2023. The Commission’s stated reasons for denying that rezoning appears to be consistent with the reasons given for approving Hobba’s request. At that meeting, Ellis stated that Valdeacourt’s request for C-2 zoning met the general welfare requirement specified in Putnam’s zoning ordinances and met the US 35 Corridor Plan guidelines that the highest value land use zoning be given preference. Deweese, on that occasion, stated that C-2 zoning did not meet either general welfare concerns or the US 35 Corridor Plan because of safety issues. Skidmore stated that Valdeacourt’s request met the US 35 Plan, but the proposed jump in zoning from R-R (Rural Residential) to C-2 (High Density Commercial) was too great to be in the general welfare of the county.

Ellis’ reasons for voting to rezone the 36 acres were the same as the reasons that he supported rezoning Valdeacourt’s 130 acres. While Deweese voted differently on December 28, 2023 than he voted on January 31, 2023, his reversal was dictated by safety concerns. Deweese stated that the change to C-2 and increased traffic would necessitate the DOH to install traffic lights. Traffic lights on US 35 at both the business park entrance and Hurricane Creek Road are needed. Skidmore stated that while he recognized the effect of rezoning on Fraziers Bottom, he believed rezoning was to the benefit of general welfare of the county as a whole.

In other business, the County Attorney Larry Frye read a resolution issued by the Commission honoring the public service of Kylene Dunlap Brown who is retiring from Magistrate to take a position on the West Virginia Parole Board. Her service roles include Putnam County Deputy Sheriff, 911 Dispatcher, Eleanor Police Chief, Putnam County Field Assessor, Jail Administrator, and 31 years as Magistrate.
Commissioner Deweese reported that the Fire Service Board is discussing plans to place a Special Levy on the ballot which will eliminate the fire fee that is currently in effect.

The Commission also amended the by-laws of the Animal Shelter such that the shelter director shall be under the direct supervision of the Shelter Board of Directors.

The next Commission meeting will be Tuesday, January 9.

The 36 acres as viewed from State Route 817.
The historic Alexander family cemetery adjacent to Fraizers Bottom United Methodist was zoned C-2 many years ago.
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