Downtown Building Height Requirements Up for Vote by Wheeling City Council

Photo by Casey Junkins Contractors work to complete the new headquarters of The Health Plan in downtown Wheeling.

WHEELING — Things are happening so fast in downtown Wheeling that city leaders want to spend $45,000 to determine if traffic patterns are up to date, while they also plan to require new structures to be at least three stories in height.

Because Tuesday is West Virginia Day, Mayor Glenn Elliott, Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday and Councilmen Ken Imer, Brian Wilson, Ty Thorngate and Dave Palmer, will meet at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday on the first floor of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

During each of the last two meetings, members tabled an ordinance that would compel those who build new structures in the downtown area to make them at least three stories tall. Members did so while acknowledging some potential developers expressed concern about the ability to fill the two upper floors.

Now, council will consider a resolution to allow City Manager Robert Herron to provide “incentives” to developers who cannot find occupancy for the second and third floors. According the resolution, incentives could include some or all of the following:

∫ waiving business and occupation taxes associated with the construction;

∫ tax increment financing revenue related to the annual increase in property value; and

∫ waiving building permit fees.

The requirement will not be retroactive, so it would only apply to new buildings, council members have said. The boundaries of the area in question are Interstate 70 in the north, the Ohio River to the west, Eoff Street in the east and Wheeling Creek to the south.

An architect by trade, Scatterday serves as council’s member on the Wheeling Planning Commission. She said developers could apply for a variance to the new requirement, but these matters would be considered on an individual basis.

The ordinance does not address the current maximum height restrictions on downtown buildings. Currently, if developers wanted to build a new structure taller than 10 stories in the downtown area, they would need a variance.

Also, as the city prepares for a new $8.7 million streetscaping project, with the direct cost to the city being $2 million — and for hundreds of new employees to enter the downtown area each weekday when the new headquarters of The Health Plan opens — members are considering a $45,000 study of downtown traffic patterns.

On more than one occasion, Elliott has said he would like to make both Main and Market streets two-way streets. For many years, all vehicles traveling on Main Street through downtown have gone south, while those on Market Street have traveled north.