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Sale pending on house owned by Darrell McGraw, Jorea Marple

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The former home of two ousted state officials could soon become headquarters of an established Charleston lobbying firm, as long as the city's Board of Zoning Appeals approves a variance on the California Avenue property.

Chad Robinson, a lobbyist for Compensation Strategies Inc., said Wednesday the lobbying group is in the process of purchasing former Attorney General Darrell McGraw and State School Superintendent Jorea Marple's former home at 81 California Ave.

The three-story, off-white stucco house is located on the corner of California and Quarrier streets, a stone's throw from the state Capitol's east wing.

McGraw and Marple put the house up for sale in January, and have since retired to Florida.

Last November, the state Board of Education fired Marple after McGraw lost his office to Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey.

"It's probably the best location on the block," Robinson said. "That whole triangular block, the majority are now associations or lobbying groups. It's a pristine location.

Robinson said the firm began looking at the property during the legislative session earlier this year. The sale did not go through a real estate agent. Compensation Strategies is purchasing the home directly from Marple and McGraw.

Robinson would not say how much the firm would pay for the house, because the deal is not yet finished. They are waiting on a decision by the city Board of Zoning Appeals to approve a parking variance.

According to city ordinance, residential properties get two parking spots. Offices abide by different rules. Office spaces are required to have one parking space for every 300 square feet in the structure.

Lori Brannon, neighborhood planner for the Charleston Planning Department, said McGraw and Marple's house would be required to have eight parking spaces under that rule.

"They're requesting a variance so they don't have to comply with that ordinance," Brannon said.

Robinson said Compensation Strategies only has three employees and doesn't need all that parking. The house currently has four parking spaces - two in a garage and two just off the street.

Brannon said without the variance, Compensation Strategies would either have to find other parking arrangements, such as purchasing space at a neighboring property, or would not be allowed to run a business at 81 California Ave.

The zoning board will vote on the variance at a meeting today.

Parking variances are not uncommon in the area east of the Capitol, Brannon said.

"Over the last 10 or 15 years, that's been the trend in that neighborhood. This is consistent with what many properties have done," she said.

Brannon said parking variances actually help with historic preservation efforts, keeping old houses in use and out of danger of demolition.

Compensation Strategies currently is located at 2210 Washington St. E., about a quarter-mile east of their possible new location.

If the deal goes through, they'll be next-door neighbors to the West Virginia Manufacturers' Association, and just a few houses away from the West Virginia Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority and the West Virginia Sheriff's Association.

Elsewhere on the block are headquarters for the West Virginia Municipal League, Harvit and Schwartz law firm, the American Legion of West Virginia, the West Virginia Bar Foundation, the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association, the West Virginia Tracking Association and the West Virginia Wholesalers Association.

Compensation Strategies, founded by Nelson Robinson in 1989, represents several state interest groups, including the West Virginia Optometric Association, the West Virginia Chiropractic Society, the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority and Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort in Chester.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@ dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.

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