City May Permit Camps for Gas Drillers

As out-of-towners seek lodging while working at oil and gas drilling sites in the area, Wheeling City Council may allow temporary trailer camps in the city on a limited basis.

Assistant Director of Economic and Community Development Tom Connelly said he’s received “numerous inquiries” from property owners seeking the opportunity to capitalize on the drilling boom by allowing workers to live on their property in campers and recreational vehicles. However, city code currently forbids the establishment of any new temporary trailer camps, and the only existing one is located on Bow Street.

“There have been numerous inquiries, but two were serious, I’d say,” Connelly said, noting those inquiries came from property owners in the areas of Rock Point Road and Peninsula Street.

During its meeting Wednesday, the city Finance Committee unanimously supported the measure, which must go before council for approval. A public hearing, which has yet to be scheduled, also is required before the change could take effect.

The new rules would allow temporary camps only on property zoned I-2 General Industrial. The property on which the camp would sit must be at least 1 acre and each rental unit would have to be a minimum of 1,200 square feet in area, comply with floodplain regulations and have adequate access roads, water and electrical supply and sewage and garbage disposal. Under those rules, a 1-acre site could accommodate no more than about 35 units.

Property owners also would have to submit a detailed plan for restoration of the property once tenants leave.

If passed, the amendment would also update the license fee structure for such sites, which hasn’t been changed since 1955. City Manager Robert Herron told council the new fees should be designed to offset the loss of revenue from other sources that could result if trailer camps are available in the city.

“This is, theoretically, going to be taking people out of hotels … and those fees are probably low,” said Herron.

The annual license fee would increase from $2 per rental unit to $750, and the fee to transfer a permit would increase from $10 to $100. Councilman Don Atkinson said those fees shouldn’t be a huge burden, noting he heard one such camp in Marshall County makes an average of $44,000 per month in rent payments.

In April, Triadelphia Town Council unanimously passed an ordinance forbidding such campgrounds, citing concerns over potential fire hazards and a negative aesthetic value on the community. But Atkinson said the requirements in Wheeling’s plan seem “pretty stringent.”

“People who want to do this are going to have to spend some money to make that place right,” he said.

Areas in Wheeling currently zoned I-2 include parcels at the north end of Warwood; along the Ohio River between North 20th Street and Garden Park; the area around Centre Foundry; a strip of land along River Road; much of Fulton and the area along Rock Point Road; in South Wheeling from Interstate 470 south to 37th Street; and along the Ohio River from 38th Street to the city’s southern boundary. Not all of those areas contain property that would satisfy all the proposed rules, Connelly noted.