Planning Commission Eyes Activity After Permit Denied

WHEELING – City Councilman Don Atkinson said officials will keep an eye on activity at a 95-acre parcel of wooded hillside in Woodsdale, for which the Planning Commission denied a zone change last year.

During the Planning Commission’s meeting this week, commission member Barry Crow expressed concern after reading a story in Saturday’s edition of The Intelligencer detailing a stormwater construction permit issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to GC&P Development for the property, which overlooks Bethany Pike. Crow, a former councilman, was one of six commission members who voted in March 2013 to deny a request from GC&P Development owners Kevin Coyne and Doug Grayson to rezone the land from residential to commercial.

A contractor has been moving dirt on the hillside, apparently in preparation for an access road to the site. The DEP permit allows for 2.99 acres of land disturbance – just below the agency’s 3-acre threshold that triggers more stringent requirements.

Crow sees the figure as a blatant attempt to avoid hitting that mark.

“That’s four square feet,” Crow said of the difference between the land disturbance area listed on the permit and the 3-acre threshold. “Does that bother anybody but me?”

Atkinson said the city is aware of the activity at the site.

“We’ll be watching that very closely,” he said.

Atkinson cast the lone vote against denying the zone change in March 2013. He said at that time his vote was not in favor of a zone change, but instead in support of referring the matter to the Planning Commission’s zoning subcommittee for further review, rather than denying it outright.

Tom Connelly, assistant director of Wheeling’s Economic and Community Development Department, said GC&P Development has not filed another application for a zone change request, and the property remains zoned residential.

However, Connelly said he believes Coyne remains interested in pursuing a mix of residential and commercial development on the property. He noted Coyne has appeared at public meetings related to the city’s ongoing comprehensive plan update urging that the final plan reflect the possibility of such a use for the site.

Members of a neighborhood group calling itself Woodsdale United have vocally opposed any development whatsoever on the hillside. Although no such plan has been brought before the city, officials have noted its current residential classification would allow for a large housing development, subject to site plan review by the commission.

Repeated attempts to reach Coyne for comment have been unsuccessful.