Officials Hear from Developers on ‘Mixed-Use Village’
WHEELING — The city’s Planning Commission heard an initial proposal to build a “mixed-use village” on a hilltop in Woodsdale Monday evening.
Representatives of the company GC&P Development gave a presentation on their long-term plans for the site and answered questions from commissioners at the meeting, which was attended by about 30 residents.
Over the next several months, the commission will consider whether to amend Wheeling’s 2014 comprehensive plan to create a special area plan to accommodate the development. The commission will further discuss the plan at its next meeting Sept. 9 and tentatively hold a public hearing on the matter at its meeting in October.
GC&P Development, owned by investors Douglas Grayson and Kevin Coyne, aims to use a 100-acre piece of land along W.Va. 88 to develop commercial, residential, office and other space. The proposed “village” would include retail shops, office space, a grocery store, a movie theater and residential areas with townhouses and assisted living.
“We have the opportunity to preserve and attract the population of Wheeling by providing much-needed residential options with close proximity to office and retail,” said Michael Hooper, a lawyer with the Pittsburgh-based firm Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel LLP. “That’s the trick to this: live work and play within walking distance to all three.”
Hooper, along with Randy Watson of the architecture and engineering firm The Thrasher Group, showed a video featuring 3D animation of the plans for the site to the commissioners and attendees at the meeting.
The commercial and residential area would span 50 to 55 acres on the hilltop, with a 4-acre area below that would serve as an entrance from W.Va. 88. Specifically, the site would feature 77,300 square feet of commercial space, with 88 residential lots.
The site is currently zoned as a conservation development area, or land that is not developed but can be in the future, Hooper said. Commissioner Howard Monroe said commissioners will have to determine whether the potential development is enough to warrant changing the site’s designation in Wheeling’s comprehensive plan.
“This is not a zone change for that purpose,” Monroe said. “This is whether we want to change the comprehensive plan map to reflect something different than conservation development, and then at a later date it will come back to us as a zone change.”
If the commission approves the amendment, it will next have to consider a zone change for the property and finally a site plan review, said Tom Connelly, assistant director of economic and community development.
The representatives of GC&P Development fielded several general questions from commissioners, among them Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday, who originally opposed development of the site as a resident in 2013.
Scatterday presented to other commissioners a report from the West Virginia Ethics Commission that confirms she is allowed to be included and participate fully in the proceedings with GC&P Development while representing Ward 4 residents.
When asked by Scatterday what the timeline for the potential development is, Hooper said the first phase, preparing the entrance, would take a year and a half and the next phase, preparing the site on the hilltop, would take five years before construction could begin.
The company plans to make W.Va. 88 near the site more accessible with an “Oglebay Corridor Improvement Project” that would improve road design and add sidewalks that would connect to the Woodsdale neighborhood, Hooper said.
Preparing the hilltop would involve removing overburden, including soil and rock, Hooper said. The average cut would be about 100 feet, and a total of 9 million cubic yards of material would be removed, he said.
The company’s plans were reviewed by West Virginia’s Division of Highways and Department of Environmental Protection, which in turn delivered favorable feasibility letters to the city.
The development would also aim to avoid competition with Oglebay, Downtown Wheeling or The Highlands by excluding commercial tenants that would compete with those areas, Hooper said.
“This is an opportunity, this is a source of revenue, this a source of lifestyle improvement that Wheeling sorely needs,” he said.
However, Monroe expressed general concerns as to whether the hilltop project is feasible.
“The issue I’m going to have to grapple with in the first step of this is, is there a reasonable belief that the project in its entirety can actually be realized?” he said.
Commissioners will have time to ask more specific, technical questions at the body’s next meeting Sept. 9, Chairman Jeffrey Macuk said.
The meeting did not provide a time for the residents in attendance to speak. Connelly said questions and comments can be directed to city staff or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Application documents are available on Wheeling’s website at wheelingwv.gov/special-area-plan, and three dimensional renderings of the proposed development can be viewed at gcp-dev.com.
“This is something that we are going to have public meetings with and see if we can fine tune things to meet the needs of residents to allay some of their concerns,” Hooper said. “I hope I’ve allayed some of them tonight, but from my standpoint, we need this. And I don’t know where else this is going to go.”