Hearing Set On Church Buildings

The city’s Planning Commission will hold another public hearing Monday on the future of former church buildings in Edgwood set to be torn down to build a bank.

The hearing will center on a request to change the zoning for properties at 1154 National Road and 2 Laurel Ave. from a residential district to an educational, medical and office, or EMO, district. After residents raised concerns regarding plans for the properties at a previous public hearing in January, the properties’ owner commissioned a traffic study and changed the request to be for an EMO district instead of a regular commercial district.

Such an EMO district would limit the use of the properties to facilities such as office buildings, educational institutions, nursing homes and medical buildings, according to Wheeling’s city code.

“At this point, we believe we’ve addressed the primary concerns of the neighbors, one being traffic, two being what this property could turn into if the financial institution were to sell,” said Gerald Lofstead, an attorney for property owner Thomas Tuttle, at the commission’s previous meeting Feb. 11.

At that meeting, Tom Connelly, Wheeling’s assistant director of economic and community development, said the city’s legal department advised that the commission hold another public hearing on the matter in March to “hear out anyone who may have additional comments.”

Tuttle, represented by attorney David Croft, originally requested the zoning change as part of a plan to sell the properties to be used as a bank with drive-thru service. That plan involves tearing down the church buildings, previously used by Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.

At the commission’s Zoning Committee meeting Feb. 4, a representative from the firm that conducted the traffic study on the area reported that development of the bank wouldn’t adversely impact the road network around it. The committee still recommended denying the zoning change due to concerns about the size, scope and intensity of the project.

“One of our primary concerns is to maintain the residential integrity of neighborhoods,” Planning Commissioner Howard Monroe said of the matter. “We need to discuss the fact that this is a well-defined, occupied, single-family neighborhood.”

The switch to an EMO district in the zoning request was designed to alleviate part of those concerns.

“You would have offices that could go in, professional offices. It’s essentially an office building at that point,” Loftstead said of the EMO district. “No restaurant or bars, nothing out of the ordinary with odd hours.”

Loftstead said the former church is already bordered by commercial buildings along National Road and the plan would replace the abandoned, unused building with a $2 million “state-of-the-art” facility.

At Monday’s meeting, the commission will either vote to approve or deny the request, send it to the Zoning Committee again or table it, Connelly said. He recommended the commission approve the request based on its consistency with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, he said.

The Planning Commission meets at 5 p.m. Monday at City Council’s chambers in the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

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