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Kingwood council seeks help tearing down dilapidated buildings

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Economic Development Authority is trying to help Kingwood with a dilapidated building downtown.

Mayor Jean Guillot told council Tuesday the group agreed to look into helping the city get the Sweet Annie’s building on South Price Street torn down. On Wednesday, PCEDA Director Robbie Baylor said the partnership is an outgrowth of Kingwood’s participation in the Blueprint Communities program.

“I think everybody agrees something needs to be done with that building. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to get it done,” Baylor said.

She has had discussions with the Northern Brownfields Assistance Program, where she sits on the board, Baylor said about getting help.

“The first step is trying to figure out who actually owns that building,” Baylor said. For that, they hope to get the WVU Law Clinic involved.

Two city attorneys told council the building is still owned by Ann Brown Gupta, even though property taxes have not been paid on it for years. No one bought the leaning building at a tax sale.

Last month, council voted to board up the front door and cover the large glass windows looking out on Price Street. Council had already boarded up the back door. Council members expressed concern that the lean of the building is putting enough torsion on the windows they may break, injuring someone.

Council contacted Gupta repeatedly, without results. A bill for the window and door work will be sent to her.

PCEDA knows there are other bad buildings in Preston County, Baylor said, “but in discussions, my board thought that this one posed an immediate health risk, which is why they kind of gave us authorization to move forward and see what we can do with it.”

The process to address this building will give an idea of how difficult it would be to address other dilapidated buildings in the county, Baylor said.

Also at the meeting:

Main Street Kingwood Director Mary Hibbs said the organization is interested in moving the Veteran’s Plaza from in front of the former chamber of commerce building on Main Street to a vacant lot owned by the city on Price Street.

Two weeks ago, council voted to put the narrow lot up for sale, with a minimum bid of $5,000. Recorder Bill Robertson wondered if MSK would be interested in foregoing a couple quarters of its annual total $10,000 donation for the lot.

Hibbs said she would take the suggestion to the board. Meanwhile, council approved its quarterly donation of $2,500 to Main Street.
Councilman Mike Lipscomb said he worries the narrow lot could block progress in the future, if landowners on either side want to build. Ultimately, council agreed not to advertise the lot for sale until Main Street decides on the offer.

Council approved a business license for Shear Joy Pet Grooming LLC, at 161 Plaza Court. The owner hopes to open in November.
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