Housing Development May Help Community

WHEELING – Howard Karnell said he’s lost lifelong friends over a business deal he believes will ultimately help struggling people in the community.

Karnell sold his 7-acre lot along Cherry Hill Road to Chaplin Realty, which is constructing apartment buildings that will be rented to income-eligible people.

About six years ago, Karnell; his wife Jen; and sister and brother-in-law, Jennifer and Dave Duymich, purchased the acreage adjacent to their homes to control the fate of the property.

Karnell used the former Graceland Bar building on the property as a rental hall for awhile, and then decided it was time to do something more with the lot.

The family considered installing water hookups to allow pipeliner campers to park there.

They tried to strike a deal with the nearby village of Clearview to annex the property and have the village turn it into a community center. Finally, they were approached by Wheeling-based Chaplin Realty, which proposed purchasing the property for the purpose of building the apartment units.

To some people’s delight and others’ dismay – including some of Karnell’s old friends – they decided to sell to Chaplin.

“We bought the property so we would have control over what was next door to us,” Karnell said while sitting on his home’s back deck, where one can see the future housing development under construction.

“People need a place to live that they can afford,” Karnell said. “We liked what Chaplin offered. … We have no problem living next door to people who need a break.”

Karnell said Chaplin’s original plans included 40 units offering two and three bedrooms. He said he was not sure of the rent prices – estimating $365 to $400 for a two-bedroom – but noted the cost was supposed to be based on one’s income. One aspect of Chaplin’s plan that Karnell liked was that if one’s income increased, they would not be asked to leave the complex – their rent simply would be increased. Not having to move right away, he believes, will serve as an incentive for people to better themselves.

When contacted late last week, Chaplin Realty officials declined to comment on the project.

Karnell said for many people in the region, trying to find affordable housing has been difficult because landlords are inflating their prices and renting to natural gas industry workers.

“People are getting squeezed out of the housing system. … Obviously we could have made much more money (on renting to gas workers), but that was not the original goal when we bought the property,” he said.

Karnell said people in his neighborhood and the village of Clearview should not have anything to fear with the development.

“What other people think – I have no control over that,” he said. “I like it. People need a break and a start. That’s what it’s all about.”

Karnell said the sale to Chaplin was completed last October. He believes the company started site work in January. He also believes the original Graceland Bar building will be torn down.