MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Morgantown City Council is moving forward with plans for a new downtown fire station and the Richwood Redevelopment project.

Danielle Trumble

Council voted 6-2 to purchase 1.45 acres at the corner of Don Knotts Boulevard and Prairie Avenue for $725,000. The two dissenting votes were Louise Michael from the Third Ward and Danielle Trumble.

Nearby resident Peter Wentzel complained to council members that he and others in the neighborhood have received information they’ve requested about the selection process for the property. Wentzel asked council members to slow the process and consider another parcel and the cost of environmental remediation. Wentzel suggested that during the “slowdown” of the process, the future of the current fire station and the neighborhood could be considered.

“What is going to happen to the current location of the fire department? What’s going to go there?” Wentzel asked. “What is going to be appropriate for a residential neighborhood? What is going to add to that neighborhood? What legacy can you all here provide that is going to make that neighborhood stronger?”

The second environmental survey will be completed on February 29, and the city could terminate the agreement if the clean-up is determined to be too costly. If the city agrees to proceed after the second assessment, the sale will close within 30 days.

City Manager Kim Haws said as many as five parcels went through an evaluation process that included Fire Chief Eugene Deem, a select group from department leadership, and nationally recognized FGM architects. The Don Knotts Boulevard property met the requirements for response times, the footprint required for a modern fire station, and room to grow, according to Haws.

“The property we’re looking at now is larger and offers a unique site layout that was appealing to the chief and others involved in the decision-making process,” Haws said.

The proposed new downtown fire station is being designed for a 50-year lifespan with new features. Fire department design has evolved from a big building for trucks to a location where architects use new concepts to create separation between personnel and hazardous chemicals and compounds they come into contact with daily.

“Instead of having to go through the garage bays to take care of business, they’d be able to enter from another level, which is not available at other sites,” Haws said.

Councilors also approved the second reading of an ordinance that would rezone 55 properties from residential to business B-1 zoning by a vote of 6-1.

The rezoned properties included in the ordinance are located on Richwood Avenue (19), as well as parts of Pine Street, Dallas Street, Locust Avenue, Allen Avenue, Cass Street, Snider Street, and Gem Street (32). Seventh Ward representative Brian Butcher was the lone no-vote.

Hayley Day from the West Virginia University (WVU) Student Government Association (SGA) said they have met with the Morgantown Area Partnership, and they believe this type of project could help WVU retention figures.

“Not only for students that are living here through multiple academic years, but we’re really focused on keeping students here after they graduate and making Morgantown a place they can call home, Day said. “I think this project has endless and boundless opportunity.”

WVU SGA member Garrett Oursler is studying environmental science and told councilors there could be many value-added projects, some even for students.

“There could be beneficial, sustainable actions,” Oursler said. “I think this project could have really great opportunities for rain gardens and pollinator spaces on the sides of the buildings.”