House of Hagar’s Permit to Remain in Place After Wheeling Planning Commission Meeting

Photo by Alan Olson Wheeling City Solicitor Rosemary Humway-Warmuth speaks during Monday’s Wheeling Planning Commission meeting.

WHEELING — East Wheeling’s House of Hagar can continue operating as normal after coming under review by the Wheeling Planning Commission for suspected violations of its special use zoning permit.

After some discussion during their meeting Monday, commission members took no action regarding the permit, review of which was sparked by complaints from neighbors that some who frequent the house — which include many homeless individuals, the sick, or those in need of a meal — had been disruptive or leaving debris around the property.

Kate Marshall, who operates the House of Hagar in her home at 114 14th St., said she was pleased with the commission’s decision, which she said will allow her to continue practicing her Catholic faith freely with her acts of charity, without fear of reprisal from the city.

“I’m glad we were able to work very hard to get to a place where not only we can practice my family’s faith as Catholic workers, but other people’s traditions, under the First Amendment, here in Wheeling, but also come to a place that I hope will protect and foster unity in our neighborhood,” Marshall said. “East Wheeling’s our family. I can’t imagine our lives without them. For us, it’s where our faith is lived out. We love people, and we’ve found a home there.”

Wheeling City Solicitor Rose Humway-Warmuth said the matter is resolved, for now, and that the House of Hagar is no longer under review.

However, should repeated, documented issues occur there, the city could step in.

“I’m hoping that everyone in the neighborhood works together, and if it doesn’t work out, then certainly we’ll follow up,” Humway-Warmuth said.

After reviewing comments made during a public hearing at the commission’s last meeting in September, as well as other information presented to them since, members decided to leave the permit in place. However, they urged that specific complaints — such as noise or litter — be handled by the appropriate city agencies.

“Several of these … conditions of approval are better directed to other entities — the building inspection department, police department, health department,” commission member Howard Monroe said. “Those entities, if they discover there’s an ongoing problem, will still refer that to us. … If there’s a level of concern at any of these agencies, that are sort of a first line of defense, that’ll still come back to the zoning department and planning commission.”

However, commission member and Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday said she still has reservations about the House of Hagar’s special use permit. She said the operation, by its nature, can have no defined hours of operation — unlike other entities such as businesses, charities or churches — potentially posing a nuisance for neighbors.

“My concerns are in being able to provide the neighborhood with some type of certainty. It is a special district of East Wheeling. … The point of a special district is to promote mixed use, and that’s a good thing,” Scatterday said. “But all of the agencies that are operating have operating hours. They do have some parameters. They do have some limitations on what happens on a day-to-day basis, even the church. … Right now, we aren’t doing anything in terms of providing certainty to the neighbors in terms of what happens on a day-to-day basis with limitations. It’s 24-7.”