City Ensuring the Future While Preserving the Past

Embracing the changing character of some of Wheeling’s residential neighborhoods while preserving the integrity of those that have remained largely intact over the years was on the minds of Wheeling’s comprehensive plan steering committee Tuesday.

Tuesday’s meeting focused on reviewing the future land use maps submitted by Compass Point Planning, the firm Wheeling is paying $81,000 to help develop its new comprehensive plan. The city has until the end of this year to finalize the plan, according to state law.

According to Tom Connelly, assistant director of Wheeling’s Economic and Community Development Department, no zoning will change as a result of the maps, which are incorporated into the final comprehensive plan.

The maps instead will serve as a guide for the Planning Commission when reviewing future projects and zone change requests.

Some significant changes from current land use highlighted on the map include increased commercial use for property fronting on Warwood Avenue, potential mixed-use development on the southern end of Wheeling Island, which now is primarily a residential neighborhood, except for Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino Racetrack; and mixed use development in the Clator neighborhood.

One item on the map that concerned committee members was an expansion of commercial use along National Road. Committee members acknowledged that recent years have seen more businesses spring up in the neighborhoods known as “out the pike,” but that development has mostly been confined to properties along the main thoroughfare.

“We want to make clear that the commercial development is only on National Road. … I’m very big on protecting the neighborhoods that are intact there,” Commission Chairman Howard Monroe said.

Monroe added he views this process as an opportunity for the Planning Commission to change the way it approaches one of its primary duties: Site plan review for potential development.

He said the 1997 comprehensive plan update came about largely as a result of dissatisfaction over the development of what he termed the “Blockbuster Plaza” on National Road, which today is home to DeFelice Bros. Pizza, Radio Shack, Advance Auto Parts and Gumby’s – a project some felt was poorly designed. One of the ideas which came out of that was for the Planning Commission to take a more active role in the site plan process, demanding more of developers.

“The intent was to be more aggressive. We have never done it the way it was supposed to be done. … That’s where we have been for some time: Whatever you do is fine,” Monroe said. “We’ve got to decide what we want this to be.”

The steering committee consists of four Planning Commission members – Monroe, James Mauck Jr., Councilman Don Atkinson and Barry Crow – and four other city residents – Terence Burke, Christopher Dean, Jeremy Morris and Elizabeth Paulhus.