Latest News

Morgantown Council finalizes Richwood rezoning, purchase of MFD site

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown City Council adopted an ordinance Tuesday rezoning 55 parcels — the overwhelming majority of the 10-acre Richwood redevelopment area — from R-1 (single family) and R-2 (single and two-family residential) to B-1 (neighborhood business.) 

As with the Dec. 5 first reading of the zoning change, the vote went 6-1 with Councilor Brian Butcher voting in the minority and Councilor Danielle Trumble offering what she called “another reluctant” vote of support. 

Both Butcher and Trumble reiterated their concerns that despite repeated public statements about the intent of the Monongalia County Development owner (property owner) and Biafora Holdings (master developer) to include a mix of housing types to match the 300 student bedrooms to be razed, there’s nothing to guarantee that’s what will ultimately be delivered.   

Particularly as housing in a B-1 zone is currently only allowed as part of a mixed-use building – typically meaning residential over office/retail. The buildings in a B-1 zone cannot be one story but cannot be more than 40 feet above street level. 

“There continues to be a very pointed expectation of the kinds of things that will be available at this site. It worries me every time that it comes up because I wonder what is being said … not to us,” Butcher said.   

Representatives of the MCDA have said they would welcome changes to the city’s zoning code allowing additional housing types in the B-1 zone. 

Further, a representative of project architect Omni Associates has said the goal is to create a walkable area adjacent to the city’s downtown that will focus on a mix of housing and neighborhood-friendly businesses.

Mayor Jenny Selin said the critical 10-acre redevelopment has already taken years of work from a list of stakeholders. 

“I appreciate the fact that this is a large project that has shown that we can all work together in some ways, even if there’s a lot of discussion that needs to take place to make it work,” Selin said. “We’re moving forward. There can be redevelopment in the city, which is a really important thing to show and actually do.”   

Also on Tuesday, council finalized the purchase of just under 1.5 acres at the corner of Don Knotts Boulevard and Prairie Avenue to be the future home of Morgantown Fire Department Station 1.   

The land is comprised of 11 parcels. It’s being sold by Merit Development for $725,000. 

Unlike the unanimous vote in support during council’s Jan. 2 first reading, Tuesday’s vote went 5-2, with Trumble and Louise Michael voting against the purchase. 

Trumble, who wasn’t present for the Jan. 2 meeting, said she’s heard from “many members” of the city fire department in recent weeks who feel the city’s rank and file firefighters weren’t properly included in the process of selecting the new site. 

Further, there were concerns expressed that council is agreeing to purchase the land — the site of a former service station — without knowing exactly how much remediation will be needed and what it will cost. 

“I feel like there are a lot of unknowns for me to sign off on the purchase of this. Not because I’m necessarily against this location or against the fire station moving. I just feel like there’s a lot of unknowns I’m not comfortable with at this point,” Trumble said. 

City Attorney Ryan Simonton said the environmental study of the site will be completed by the end of February. 

“If the city’s environmental investigation finds the property isn’t fit for its intended use due to environmental conditions, there’s a process by which they can talk with the seller about what remediation is required and either negotiate or the parties can walk away,” Simonton said.