BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon City Planning Commission held an open meeting on Tuesday evening to welcome the community’s input about the future of the dilapidated Madison Street property.
City Planning Commission President Susan Aloi opened the meeting by introducing the other Planning Commission members which include Mike Sharp, Kelly Tierney, City Recorder Randy Sanders, Vincent Smith and City Councilor CJ Rylands. Another member of the committee, Rich Clemons joined via video call along with other members of the community and other committees. After introductions, a moment of silence was held and then Sharp led the meeting attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The agenda only consisted of one item and that was the potential use of the city’s Madison Street property. Many are familiar with the property, as it used to be the former Chase Bank drive thru. However, the city reportedly wants to start viewing the property as a part of Jawbone Park.
The Planning Commission invited the community to attend and take part in discussion to solicit some new ideas, but they did not make any recommendations during the meeting. The ideas garnered from the meeting will be shared with City Council in context of Buckhannon’s 2025 Comprehensive Plan.
City Councilor Rylands gave a short history behind the property and what the City’s intention was behind the original purchase. “When we were negotiating to purchase this property, the intention was the expansion of Jawbone Park as an event destination or space. The property is in a flood plain, which is why it didn’t really get picked up by developers or anyone for the couple of years that they were attempting to sell it. With that intention, probably 4-5 months ago, I said you know, COVID-19 restrictions were still in place, and I talked to Mr. Vannostrand, the City Architect, and some of the folks like the Mayor and Recorder and some others, and had some preliminary planning sessions trying to identify what could be, what exists and what are we looking for,” explained Rylands. “But it’s by no means, as Susan said, written in stone. We’re not going to start construction tomorrow. So, now that we’re able to meet in public and have community input, that’s why we’re here tonight.”
Vannostrand ran through an explanation of the layout and existing structures of and on the property. While doing so, the City Architect explained that his recommendation for the property use would be for green space as well as two, possibly conjoining, parking lots. That idea seemingly struck a nerve for a few of the community members since a parking map created of Buckhannon already shows 498 parking spaces.
Two members from the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, Chris Garrett and Emrebe “James” Arhuidese, spoke on the idea of using the property for a permanent structure to hold bathroom facilities. They believe the structure could offer the community an opportunity to help with the sanitation needs of families and people visiting the park. With the growing use of Jawbone Park, the need for sanitation facilities grows as well. “The permanent structure can help with the odor of the portable toilets. The accessibility of a restroom with running water is a great addition to the public,” Arhuidese said.
A pay per use facility was also brought up to help solve the city’s worries of vandalism and upkeep. The bathrooms located at Jawbone Park are not unlocked during the day unless an event is registered through the City of Buckhannon.
Rise Hanifan, the director of Christian education at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, spoke on the 2025 Comprehensive Plan and the lack of mention regarding parking. Hanifan said the plan mentions in multiple places the need for more outdoor activities for people. “I didn’t see anywhere in the plan that it said we needed more parking and green space. I don’t have an issue with parking or green space, but we live in West Virginia, and it is green all around us,” expressed Hanifan.
Hanifan instead offered the idea of a community splash pad or skate park. Multiple other community members spoke in support of the idea of a family centered event area. Along with support, help was offered in the fundraising department of the idea. However, some spoke in support of giving the property back to the residential area. Some residents reportedly think that the residential area should stay just that—residential.
These are just a few of the prompted ideas that will be passed to City Council for consideration. The community was also invited to attend the meetings at City Hall to offer further explanations of their ideas.
The Madison Street property will reportedly be used for the betterment of the community, but for now, the decision as to how it will be used remains unclear.