Repeal Obstacle To Development

Downtown Wheeling has little or no future as a center of retail activity. It is important that city officials move on to make it as easy as possible for other types of development to occur there.

One step in that direction was taken Tuesday, when Wheeling City Council’s Development Committee approved a long-overdue change in zoning regulations.

For several years the rules for much of the city’s downtown business district have limited residential development. Dwellings in downtown buildings must be on upper floors, not at ground level.

One indication of the lack of realism in planning for redevelopment of the downtown area is that the rule was established in 2002, as a means of preserving the “integrity” of the district for commercial enterprises. By then, the writing on the wall already was clear.

On Tuesday, the development panel heard from a St. Clairsville woman who has expressed interest in developing rental property in downtown Wheeling. The ban on first-floor dwellings is an obstacle to that, she noted.

Members of the committee then voted to remove the ban. Before that can happen, City Council will have to approve the measure through two separate readings and votes.

Improving the business district’s appeal as a residential area has been among redevelopment strategies discussed by city leaders, both in and out of local government. The idea certainly has appeal.

Council should go ahead and rescind the first-floor dwellings ban. And, while city officials are at it, they should take a look at whether other restrictions in zoning rules or other municipal regulations are standing in the way of redevelopment downtown. If so, they, too, should be rescinded.