Say No to Bank

Editor, News-Register:

What is the City of Wheeling waiting on to make a decision on the zoning issue in the Lenox neighborhood?

The Lenox community has been fighting a proposed rezoning on National Road at Laurel Avenue (lots 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) since the beginning of the year. We have voiced our concerns to the Wheeling Planning Commission since Jan. 14, meeting where the zoning classification on National Road at Laurel Avenue was proposed to change from Residential to Commercial. The Lenox community members produced testimonies and evidence that convinced the committee to deny the bank the commercial category. After the bank failed to secure the commercial zoning they requested the zoning committee to make the zone change to an Educational, Medical and Office District (EMO).

The Lenox neighborhood citizens are very disappointed to have to continue to fight to keep our neighborhood a residential neighborhood. This second request from the bank was denied after another two meetings where there was much debate and discussion. Unfortunately, the final decision now rests with Mayor Elliott and City Council. On April 2, the council was not ready to make a ruling on the zoning change. They were not able to make a decision as stated by the mayor, “because they needed to study the issue further.”

We, the neighbors of the Lenox neighborhood, have been imploring the City Council of the City of Wheeling, to maintain the integrity of our Lenox historic neighborhood and stop businesses from encroaching on our homes. We presented the city with a petition with a total of 139 signatures from the Lenox community, showcasing that there is immense support and against the proposed rezoning from the present classification of R-1 B Single Family, Medium density to the EMO Educational Medical Office relative to Lots 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the map of Lenox in the city of wheeling to allow for proposed construction of a bank.

We have many reasons why we do not want this change. I’d like to start outlining the definition of an EMO according to the City of Wheeling Ordinance 1339.08, “An EMO is an Educational, Medical, and Office District. The objectives of the EMO district are to recognize those areas in the City where major institutional uses are the principal permitted land uses and to control their special bulk, density, and impacts. Residences are compatible uses in the EMO districts. In an EMO district, land and structures may only be used for:

(a) PRINCIPAL PERMITTED USES

Any residential use permitted in R-3.

Hospital and related facilities.

Educational institution and related facilities.

(Ord. 12225. Passed 4-17-01.)

Religious land use. (Ord. 12879. Passed 7-20-04.)

Senior housing.

Office building.

Funeral home.

(b) ACCESSORY USES

Uses and structures that are customary and clearly incidental to the principal use.

(c) SPECIAL PERMIT USES

Parking garage or parking lot.

Day care or nursery school.

Cemetery

Restricted accessory parking.”

A bank is not included in the definition. So what is a commercial bank? A commercial bank is a type of financial institution that accepts deposits, offers checking account services, makes various loans, and offers basic financial products like certificates of deposit (CDs) and savings accounts to individuals and small businesses. A commercial bank is where most people do their banking, as opposed to an investment bank. Commercial banks make money by providing loans and earning interest income from those loans. I would also point out the main principal use of this land currently is for residential buildings.

First, by changing the zoning district, we risk peace in our neighborhood. A bank would disrupt the peace the neighborhood enjoys. Our neighbors that live in Bae Mar Place next to Chase Bank shared that they have to deal with the noise from people utilizing the bank’s ATM 24 hours a day. People park, talk, and exchange money with each other at late hours with disregard to neighboring homes, which disturbs their peace.

Second, we believe that adding a bank to the property will increase the traffic flow and endanger the children in the neighborhood. We disagree with the traffic assessment that was completed by the bank. The traffic study was done on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a snowy day, a day when school was not in session and many of us stayed home due to the bad weather. Thus, it did not reflect a true study of the normal traffic flow.

Third, we are also very concerned that this change will decrease the property value of our homes. Our homes are our life-time investment. If I were a buyer, I would stay away from a neighborhood that has a commercial property right next to my potential new home.

Furthermore, we still believe that if this rezoning is allowed, it will cause a domino effect. It will drive other property owners to sell and seek financial gain by selling to other potential EMO entities. The change in rezoning from Residential to EMO will bring more businesses to the area and destroy our historic neighborhood.

According to the City’s 2014 comprehensive plan, spot zoning in neighborhoods like ours may be permitted but the City Council also stated in the same 2014 plan that the city would be establishing and enforcing policies and ordinances that will provide for the long-term protection of neighborhoods without creating excessive burdens on homeowners, in additional to protecting and ensuring the long term preservation and use of historic districts and buildings. The Lenox citizens are asking the mayor and city council to please honor your definition of an EMO and their promise to protect the dignity of the Lenox neighborhood.

We also want to remind the city that in the mid-1970s, city council denied a mall to be built downtown and as a consequence, downtown business disappeared. They then approved building a small strip mall throughout the city and more business left the downtown, making it a ghost town. Now with this type of spot zoning, the city is placing established neighborhoods in danger that property owners will be forced to move.

We are also very surprised to see Delegate Erikka Kerr Storch, president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, speak in favor of the zone change. We would expect the Chamber of Commerce to want to bring business back to downtown and not promote the destruction of Lenox Community integrity.

As good citizens we have done our part: We have paid our personal property taxes, state taxes, federal taxes, and flood insurance to keep our homes. Now we are asking the city to do their part. We are asking, Mayor Elliott and city council to vote against rezoning. We do not want another bank in our neighborhood.

Dr. Amanda Wakim

Joseph Wakim Jr.

Wheeling

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