CHARLES TOWN — The state’s cultural affairs office is demanding that the Division of Highways retract its approval of a request by the developer of a proposed retail pharmacy in the downtown.
In a strongly worded Feb.10 letter to a state highways project engineer and engineering division director, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Susan M. Pierce called a Feb. 9 approval granting roadway access to and from the proposed 14,000-square foot CVS retail store a direct violation of State code and has asked that the permit be remanded.
In her letter to District Engineer J. Lee Thorne and engineering division director, Gregory Bailey, Pierce said members of the historic preservation office had spoken with staff at the highway office on Feb. 7 and questioned why the permit was issued before the Division of Culture and History was consulted.
“The fact that this permit was issued without following State Code reflects negatively on your agency, an apparent lack of regard for proper procedure and lack of consideration for the protection of our historic resources,” wrote Pierce, who said the project will adversely affect both the Downtown Charles Town Historic District and the Old Charles Town Historic District.
The state highways office OKed a request by project engineer Kimley-Horn & Associates to allow left and right turns onto Washington Street in a letter dated Feb. 9.
The project, which would stretch the length of West Street between Washington and Liberty streets, would include the demolition of as many as six buildings, four of which possess historical significance, said Charles Town City Manager Joe Cosentini.
In a Dec. 2 letter to Kimley-Horn about the plan, Pierce said the demolition of contributing buildings to an historic district threatens the eligibility of other buildings in that district for future financial assistance for rehabilitation of tax credits.
The Charles Town Planning Commission is scheduled to meet Feb. 27 to review the highways office permit.
The project has also drew the attention of a statewide historical preservation nonprofit, which maintains the size and construction of the store is not in keeping with the character of the downtown.
Preservation Alliance President Jeremy Morris said one problem with the building as proposed is how far back it is set into the block.
“In a perfect world, we would love to see historical buildings incorporated with new construction in a seamless streetscape or with a zero setback and parking in the back of the building to prevent cars from facing the street,” Morris said.
Cosentini said the city is currently updating its zoning ordinance to include setback requirements.