Washington Avenue Zoning Controversy Moves to Council

WHEELING – A neighborhood zoning controversy prompted by Wheeling Jesuit University’s plan to build a three-story, 36-unit graduate student housing complex on Washington Avenue now moves to City Council.

Legislation calling for a portion of that street to be re-zoned for high-density residential use is up for first reading before council during a meeting set for noon Tuesday at the City-County Building. A vote on the ordinance likely would take place Sept. 17.

The university wants to address a lack of available housing for its more than 400 students pursuing graduate degrees. But the stretch of Washington Avenue where it wants to build the facility is zoned for single-family housing only – and that’s how many residents on the street want it to remain.

Several neighbors appeared before the Wheeling Planning Commission to express concerns about the plan, including traffic and parking. Some of them also wonder whether Wheeling Jesuit has the resources to maintain the new facility, citing ongoing issues with rodents and trash at a vacant, university-owned house at 400 Washington Ave.

The proposed arrangement between Wheeling Jesuit and its developer, Double J Realty, also raised some eyebrows. The university would maintain the property but Double J Realty would own it, leading a couple planning commission members to question whether non-university tenant might end up living there if Wheeling Jesuit can’t fill all the units.

The apartment complex would occupy 232-240 Washington Ave., but the proposed zone change would affect that entire side of the street from Interstate 70 to Alice Avenue.

Also up for first reading Tuesday is an $81,000 contract with Compass Point of Blue Ash, Ohio, to develop Wheeling’s new comprehensive plan. After interviewing a half-dozen firms, the Planning Commission recommended Compass Point – owned by a Martins Ferry native – for the job.

It last updated the document in 1997, but in 2004 the Legislature voted to require cities to update their plans at least once every 10 years. As such, Wheeling has until the end of 2014 to comply with the law. The city will use federal Community Development Block Grant money to fund the project.

In other business, council will vote to place a total of $71,345 in liens against seven properties in an attempt to recover the cost of demolishing dilapidated structures there, including: 45 Pike St., last known owner Eric Stadler, $11,590; 315 Kenny St., last known owner Jack Long, $14,675; 1222 McColloch St., last known owner M.R. McWha, $6,375; 1222 Baltimore St., last known owner H.E. Hieronimus, $7,500; 133 14th St., last known owner Excalibur Group, $12,275; 340 Highland Ave., last known owner Daniel Glaspell, $10,475; and 53 Jones St., last known owner Joshua Harris, $8,455.