Fewer Parking Spaces Allowed

WHEELING – The Wheeling Board of Zoning Appeals will allow a developer to provide 18 fewer spaces than city code requires for a proposed 36-unit apartment complex on Washington Avenue – a neighborhood where residents say on-street parking already is at a premium.

The board voted 3-1 to grant a variance reducing the required number of parking spaces for the building from 54 to 36 at the request of Jonathan Bedway of Double J Realty. Martin Sheehan, Ronald Sinclair and Steve Johnston voted in favor of the request, with Sherry Sligar opposed and David Ellwood absent.

Despite some skepticism, a majority of board members were satisfied with an offer by nearby Wheeling Jesuit University, which hopes to fill the complex with graduate students and faculty, to make up the difference with 18 on-campus parking spaces on the hill above, accessible from the building via a lighted walking path. That agreement, Bedway said, is for 20 years with two additional five-year options.

The building will include 18 two-bedroom units and 18 single-bedroom units, Bedway said. He added the complex could be built closer to the street to allow room for additional on-site parking, but the property was designed with a 30- to 35-foot setback to address concerns residents expressed previously about the aesthetics of building all the way to the curb.

Washington Avenue resident Randy Miller and Valley View Avenue resident Randy Berisford both told board members it’s absurd to believe tenants will park on campus and walk down the hill rather than take a legal, open space on the street closer to the building – even if a requirement they do so is written into their lease, as university attorney Ron Musser said would be the case.

And Berisford, pointing out City Council’s recent decision to rezone the entire west side of Washington Avenue between Interstate 70 and West Washington Avenue, believes Tuesday’s request will be just the beginning.

“If you allow it here, you’re going to set a precedent for other properties,” Berisford said.

Although the school owns a number of properties on the west side of Washington Avenue that City Council recently rezoned for high-density residential use, Musser said no additional development projects are forthcoming. WJU Community Relations Director Gary Gwynn pointed out the university’s original rezoning request was only for the five lots from 232-240 Washington Ave. on which the complex is to be built, and noted it was the city Planning Commission which took things a step further by expanding the proposed rezoning area.

Because the proposed building is larger than 4,000 square feet, the Planning Commission must sign off on Bedway’s site plan before he can proceed. The matter likely will come before the commission on Dec. 9, according to Tom Connelly, assistant director of Wheeling’s Economic and Community Development Department.