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Stonewall Jackson Hospital officials to appeal court order

by Nora Edinger

REGIONAL EDITOR

WESTON -- Officials at Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital say they will appeal a court order denying their I-79 development site a right-of-way through an adjacent strip mall.

"We are considering our options at this time and will definitely appeal the decision," said hospital administrator David D. Shaffer in a faxed statement Thursday.

Lewis Circuit Court Judge Thomas H. Keadle ruled in late April that the hospital did not have a legal standing to access the 80-acre property it is developing southeast of the I-79/U.S. Route 33 intersection through the adjacent Market Place shopping center.

The hospital filed suit in late March against O.V. Smith and Sons of Big Chimney, owners of Market Place, and Eastern Lodging Inc., owners of the Weston Super 8. SJMH claimed prior Market Place owners had conveyed right-of-way easements through the shopping center's "roads, streets, alleys and ways" to land now owned by the hospital.

Keadle said the property deeds of record contained "insufficient and failed language," to guarantee such access.

W.T. Weber Jr., a Weston attorney who was part of the O.V. Smith defense team, said the hospital primarily wanted to bring potential future traffic in through the shopping center's main entrance and then across the parking lot near the McDonald's and Super 8 developments.

Ironically, the hospital land and the Market Place land were once owned by the same individuals, Carl and Shirley Martin, Weber said. The two properties were handled under separate limited partnerships, however, using the names Market Associates and Highway Properties, respectively.

O.V. Smith purchased Market Place, which was in foreclosure, in the mid 1990s, Weber said. The Smith family owns mini-malls and several other commercial developments throughout the state.

SJMH also bought its property in the 1990s. Julia Spelsburg, hospital public relations director, has said in recent interviews the hospital is preparing the land for future development opportunities not necessarily related to health care.

In a similar situation, St. Joseph's Hospital in Buckhannon developed a Hampton Inn on U.S. Rt. 33 that opened this year.

Hospital legal team member Randall Light of Steptoe & Johnson's Clarksburg office said the hospital has four months to file its appeal.

Regional editor Nora Edinger can be reached at 626-1403.

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