Wheeling City Council Considers Tiny Home Issue

Photo by Casey Junkins Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott reads a report during Tuesday’s city council meeting at the Warwood School as student Lauren Taylor looks on.

WHEELING — Martin Wach believes hundreds of portable “tiny homes” could resolve the Upper Ohio Valley’s affordable housing shortage, but Wheeling Island resident Gerald Antigo said the structures will reduce the value of nearby property.

“It’s going to kill our property values. We have enough trouble on Wheeling Island already,” Antigo told Wheeling City Council members during their Tuesday meeting at Warwood Middle School. “You tell me: Is that something you would want to have across the street from your house?”

Just prior to the regular council meeting, the city’s rules committee met to discuss plans by Wach to build the small dwellings — each measuring about 8.5 feet by 24 feet, at a cost of about $37,500 — on vacant lots on Wheeling Island. There is one now in place at the rear of 37 S. Broadway St.

“Millennials, retirees … many people are interested in tiny homes,” Wach told the committee. “This is something that could really help us with the housing problems around here. … It’s a house just like your house, only smaller.”

Wach said the main reason Wheeling Island makes sense for tiny homes is because it is in the Ohio River flood zone. This means building new or even rehabilitating existing structures on the island may be cost-prohibitive.

“It is a creative way to deal with the floodplain issue, which has clearly hampered development on Wheeling Island,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said of the tiny home concept. “I am inclined to support it, in theory. I would like to see some type of rendering of exactly what (Wach) is proposing before we take a final vote on the matter.”

During the committee meeting, members discussed making modifications to city code to allow the tiny homes. One of the changes will be to define a “tiny home,” while the other will deal with allowing wheels to remain on the home.

“Right now, you can only have a trailer in a trailer park,” City Manager Robert Herron said. “This change is needed to allow them elsewhere.”

Councilman Ken Imer and Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, who are members of the rules committee, voted to move the recommended changes forward for consideration by the full council. The third member of the committee, Councilman Ty Thorngate, was absent.

Herron said the city will hold a public hearing on the matter before council votes on the code changes to allow tiny homes. He said this would likely occur during a December council meeting.

In response to Antigo’s concerns about the impact on property values, Elliott said vacant lots throughout the city are more concerning to him.

“If anything brings down property values, it’s a vacant lot with weeds growing all over the place,” Elliott said. “No one wants to see that.”

Council also heard the first reading of a new snow removal ordinance, which will be up for final vote during the 5:30 p.m. Nov. 21 meeting on the first floor of the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

The intent of the new law is to compel those who own buildings in commercial districts — specifically downtown, the area around Centre Market, Zane Street on Wheeling Island and National Road in Elm Grove — to remove snow and ice within 24 hours of accumulation.

Failure to do so would result in city employees showing up to do the work. The city then would bill the property owner for the cost of removing the snow, in addition to 6 percent interest per year if the bill is not paid.

Councilman Dave Palmer has expressed concern about certain property owners relying on city employees to do the work and simply paying the bill. Herron said additional measures would need to be taken if this proves to be the case.

Also, Herron and Elliott said officials are now reviewing several resumes for those seeking to replace City Clerk Janice Jones, who plans to retire in January. Elliott said he and fellow council members hope to appoint a replacement soon so that person can learn as much as possible from Jones.

“Janice will be very difficult to replace,” he said. “This is a big hire for us, because whoever it is will probably be here for several years.”

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