Zoning Board Chairman Is Stepping Down

Martin Sheehan has resigned as chairman of the Wheeling Board of Zoning Appeals, citing professional obligations as the reason for his decision.

Sheehan, a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully in the May Republican primary for a 3rd District House of Delegates seat, said in his resignation letter he has enjoyed serving on the board, but felt it was time to step aside as he prepares to assume a new leadership role.

“Other commitments in my life would put a strain on continuing in this capacity. Effective in September, I will be the president of the National Association of Bankruptcy Trustees.

The preparation for that role has already made things more hectic,” Sheehan wrote.Sheehan could not be reached for further comment.

City code charges the Board of Zoning Appeals with three primary duties: Deciding requests for zoning variances, hearing appeals of decisions made by the city’s zoning office or Planning Commission and considering requests for conditional use zoning permits – a relatively new responsibility created since Wheeling’s 2008 acceptance into the Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program.

Sheehan’s departure leaves the board with four members: David Ellwood, Steve Johnston, Ronald Sinclair and Sherry Sligar. That situation could make it difficult for the board to conduct business if a replacement isn’t appointed soon. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21.

Despite the vacancy, it still takes three board members to achieve a quorum, according to City Clerk Janice Jones. And if one of the four board members is absent from a meeting and another is forced to abstain from voting on a particular item due to a conflict of interest, it would be impossible to pass the motion.

“We need to get that filled. … It takes three positive, affirmative votes to pass anything,” Jones said.

Ellwood, who as vice chairman will now move to the top spot for the time being, believes the board benefited from having an attorney such as Sheehan as one of its members. He said he hopes McKenzie will take that into consideration as he selects a replacement.

Jones said several members of the community have expressed interest in serving on a board or commission, though no one has specifically inquired about the Board of Zoning Appeals slot just yet.