Proposed Bank on National Road Discussed At Wheeling Ward 5 Meeting

Purpose was to provide clarity on National Road Zone change

David Croft, a lawyer with Spillman Thomas and Battle representing an unnamed bank, speaks to residents of Wheeling’s Ward 5 at a meeting held at Christ United Methodist Church. Photo by Alex Meyer

WHEELING — Bank representatives and city officials answered questions posed by residents who live near the site of a proposed bank on National Road at a Wheeling Ward 5 meeting Wednesday evening.

The purpose of the meeting, facilitated by Councilman Ty Thorngate and held at Christ United Methodist Church, was to provide clarity and allow discussion on a proposed zone change at 1154 National Road and 2 Laurel Ave.

“My goal is not to pitch or convince you of anything. My only hope is to answer questions about what our intentions are,” David Croft, a lawyer representing the bank, said at the start of the meeting. “We’ve tried to listen to what your concerns are. If the concern is ‘we just don’t want a bank,’ then we’re going to have to agree to disagree.”

The issue at hand involves a zoning amendment request to change the properties from a residential district to a an EMO, or emergency, medical and office, district.

The zone change would allow the bank to tear down a former church and a house on the property and build a $2 million facility with drive-through service.

Wheeling’s Planning Commission recommended denial of the zone change its meeting in March, and City Council now has the final say on the matter.

Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday, who serves on the commission, explained why council hasn’t yet made a decision on the zone change.

“The only reason it hasn’t been put on the agenda was basically so that the community could have a conversation, and whether or not, with additional input, there could be some kind of improved design to allow this to happen,” Scatterday said. “The whole dynamic is, how do we find a balance between corporate and individual, neighbor and business? This is the hardest type of issue and item for any city, any neighborhood, any planning commission where commercial and neighborhood interest come together and meet up.”

Croft gave a brief presentation to the approximate 30 residents who attended the meeting and then answered questions alongside Bub Caliendo of PWCampbell, the firm that designed the proposed bank.

The bank plans to conduct a second traffic study after residents expressed concerns that the original Jan. 21 traffic study wasn’t accurate, Croft said. The study occurred on a snow day when school wasn’t in session.

“We’re doing that again,” he said. “We’re going to do the most that we can to minimize any impact on the community.”

The bank and PWCampbell are open to change the design of the facility based on residents’ concerns about traffic and impact on the neighborhood, Croft said. If the zoning change is approved, the bank will have to go through the Planning Commission again for a site plan review, he added.

Caliendo said the current design for the bank is a loose schematic and that the configuration of the building on the property and drive-through lanes can be adjusted. He noted that construction of the bank would take about seven months.

Residents asked Croft and others questions related to their concerns about the bank, including the flow of traffic onto Laurel and Locust avenues and how busy the bank’s drive through will be.

Croft said the bank hopes to keep traffic closer to the bank and not farther down the streets into the neighborhood. The bank expects to see 10 cars an hour during peak business times, he said.

When asked what the name of the bank is, Croft said he isn’t able to say due to bank regulations.

Residents suggested that the bank could only permit entry and exit from National Road, and Croft noted that the West Virginia Division of Highways, which controls the road, prefers to not add new curb cuts.

“Typically their disposition on new curb cuts on a street like National Road, generally speaking, is no. That doesn’t mean it can’t be a yes,” Scatterday said.

In addition, another topic of discussion was Wheeling’s Comprehensive Plan, previously cited by both residents and bank representatives to argue that the bank is or isn’t allowed. The plan notes that future use of 1154 National Road and 2 Laurel Ave. should be commercial while also encouraging protection of neighborhoods.

“This doesn’t have to rule everything, and there are just as many reasons in the Comprehensive Plan to say that the bank should and could be here that there are saying things about balancing commercial and residential development,” Scatterday said. “This is one of the hardest decisions that come before any body anywhere across the city or in any other city.”

The latter portion of the meeting was devoted to discussion among Ward 5 residents, and bank representatives and the media were asked to leave.

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