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Town council discusses ‘The Spirit of Shepherdstown” Bench Project, changes to town

By Staff | Aug 14, 2020

These locally built benches are part of the 10 initial benches in the Shepherdstown Shares Bench Project that will feature art based on the theme, "The Spirit of Shepherdstown." Community members can watch the painting for the project taking place in front of Trinity Episcopal Church, beginning this Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Tuesday evening, the Corporation of Shepherdstown’s newly elected town council members gathered together on Zoom for their first official meeting.

During the meeting, the town council approved the appointment of Shepherd University history student Kelsey Cooke to the Historic Landmarks Commission and Shepherdstown resident Hani Al-Saleh to the Planning Commission. The town council also approved a resolution submitted by the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association, to promote awareness and preserve the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown.

According to the mayor, a few new businesses are moving into town.

“We have three new businesses moving into town along German Street. We have a barber shop, a tattoo parlor and an organic cosmetic shop!” Auxer said.

Auxer also brought the fact that he is trying to address concerns over the trains passing through town.

“The trains going in and out of town are two or three miles long, and they’re blocking our ability to go in and out of town if there’s an emergency. A train can be in Maryland and still blocking the tracks at Morgan’s Grove,” Auxer said, mentioning he’s currently talking with the county about possible action that can be made to fix the situation. “I want you to know that I’m looking in.”

Auxer and Amerikaner also discussed concerns over an increasing number of vehicles with loud mufflers that have been passing through town. The Shepherdstown Police Department has held at least two meetings with concerned community members and town representatives about the issue, and is currently holding a two-month trial period of pulling over drivers with loud mufflers, to see if that will deter them from driving through town. Amerikaner said the town is also considering placing signs at town entrances, to ask drivers to control their noise levels in town.

The majority of the meeting focused on a new project, proposed by Shepherdstown Shares. “The Spirit of Shepherdstown” Bench Project will feature local artists painting locally built wooden benches with pre-approved designs inspired by local history and culture. Community members will be able to watch all of the benches being painted, with the first two being completed this Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m., in front of Trinity Episcopal Church.

“We are making an attempt to add seating to town to accommodate more outdoor dining, to make it more comfortable downtown and to offer more employment opportunities to Shepherdstown residents,” said Shepherdstown Shares President Marianne Davis, mentioning the local artists participating in the painting will be paid with Shepherdstown Shares financial donations or sponsorships. “We hope to employ some people and get some art on our streets.”

According to Shepherdstown Shares, the 10 benches must be beautiful works of art, and cannot be “political, commercial or vulgar.” They will be placed along German Street, in accordance with Public Works Ordinance Title 11.

“We have standards,” Davis said. “They cannot be closer to a front door than six feet and must have four feet of clear sidewalk in front of them. Any business owner must approve them being placed in front of their business, so we can avoid injuring their appearances or being placed in front of loading zones.”

The town council approved the project, on the condition that Shepherdstown Shares work closely in the bench design approval and placement decisions with the Public Works Committee.

Bench sponsors will have a say in the painting design of their chosen bench. To sponsor a Spirit of Shepherdstown bench, email shepshares@gmail.com.