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Kingwood Council approves hot spot downtown

KINGWOOD — Kingwood Council approved a business license for a hot spot downtown Tuesday because it meets zoning regulations, but some members didn’t like the idea.
The final vote was 4-2, with Recorder Bill Robertson and council members Mike Lipscomb, Dick Shaffer and Michelle Whetsell voting for the business and Josh Fields and Karen Kurilko against it.
The application was for Kimmy’s Hot Spot LLC at 101 S. Price St., the Herring Building, at the corner of Price and Main. Crystal Ellifritz is the owner. Council also will give documentation to the State Alcohol Beverage Control Administration, noting the business does not violate zoning.
Lipscomb made the motion, saying, “the forms are all in order.”
“It is zoned accordingly. However, I have to say, I must have gotten at least 50, 60 phone calls over the weekend,” Mayor Jean Guillot said. “People in town do not want to see a hot spot across from the courthouse in our historic district. They would prefer a different location.”
Also, Guillot said, the State Fire Marshal has indicated the building must be inspected.
Robertson said building permits will have to be obtained for signs and other work on the building. Ellifritz said she hasn’t started the work yet.
“I did not sign a lease yet. That was pending on a decision tonight,” she said.
Kurilko asked if she looked elsewhere in town.
“I’ve not been able to locate any other locations that would fit the criteria,” Ellifritz said. “And I just like the building. The building’s full of character and it’s a shame to just let it sit there.”
Guillot said the landlord told him there is another tenant interested in renting space in the building.
Whetsell, who works with Kingwood’s Blueprint Community board, said, “We have a great vision for what we want to see go on Price Street, and a hot spot isn’t one of them.”
The group is looking at possibly working with the building’s owner in the future to do renovations, she said.
But, Lipscomb and Robertson said, the paperwork was in order and meets current zoning ordinances.
“So we’re pretty much obligated to approve it,” Lipscomb said.
“Although it does meet the criteria, I just don’t think it’s a proper fit to put a hot spot in the historic district,” Guillot said.
Only one person came to speak against the business. Mark Gnik, a local business owner, said that when the late Sonny Peddicord was mayor, he put a moratorium on new hot spots.
“What you’re going to have, you’re going to have the kids getting off from school, they have to walk past that,” Gnik said. And, he added, “Nothing is more attractive to a downtown than a bar where people are going to be hanging out smoking outside when you drive by. So it’s really not going to be that aesthetic historical look when you have that kind of atmosphere.
“If I didn’t live here, man, you could do your thing. But I live here, and I live a block from it,” Gnik said. “I just don’t think it’s aesthetically what you want to see in a downtown.”
Many of his customers agreed, he said. Robertson said if people don’t like it, they should have been at the meeting.
“I agree with you. It’s not what I want to drive by, but it meets our standards,” he said. “So I feel obligated to vote yes.”
Ellifritz said with any business you could have smoking outside. She wants, “a casino-style environment,” not a bar environment. They do not intend to sell liquor, she said.
The mayor said after the meeting that he was “very disappointed” that only one person came to speak on the hot spot after so many complained to him beforehand.
In other action, after some discussion, council decided not to contract with the West Virginia State Police for troopers to provide city police patrols at the rate of $60 per hour.
Kingwood has only one officer since Officer J. Knotts resigned to take a job with the sheriff’s department.
But, Guillot said, Morgantown Police Officer D. Montague, who lives in Preston County, agreed to work part-time for the city. A second officer is being interviewed for another part-time slot, he said.