WHEELING - Boxes packed with belongings line Jerome Poynton's upstairs hallway as the East Wheeling resident and mayoral candidate is under orders to vacate the premises and allow the city to proceed with a planned sports field in the neighborhood.
As city leaders and Poynton's attorney negotiate regarding a firm deadline for him to leave the 136 15th St. home, Poynton is weighing his options and isn't yet sure where he will live.
"I look at property every day ... but the paramount thing right now is I'm running for mayor," Poynton said.
Demolition to make way for a planned sports field in East Wheeling is under way, just yards from mayoral candidate Jerome Poynton's home, which also is slated to meet the wrecking ball.
Photo by Ian Hicks
The residency issue could become an important one for more than just Poynton if he defeats incumbent Mayor Andy McKenzie in the May 8 municipal election. According to Wheeling's city charter, candidates filing for the offices of mayor and City Council must sign certificates stating they are legally qualified voters of the city of Wheeling.
The mayor and council members take office July 1.
Noting he has a "fairly extensive" collection of literature, artwork and textiles that will take some time to move, Poynton said he hopes the city will allow him to stay through the end of May. Still, Poynton isnt ready to call the moving trucks just yet.
"My intention still is to win the election and save this block," he said.
City Manager Robert Herron said Tuesday night the parties were "making progress" toward negotiating a deadline. A March 23 notice informed Poynton he was to be out of the building and rental property he owns down the street by midnight Monday, but the city has yet to enforce that order.
Herron declined further comment this morning and said the city will make an announcement when an agreement is reached.
Poynton, while acknowledging some of the condemned structures need to be demolished, believes many of them can be restored with minimal effort and are architecturally superior to newer housing developments.
"Do you advance a city by destroying good housing as opposed to (rehabilitating) it?" he said. "These buildings are attractive to young, urban professionals and creative people."
Kenneth Peralta, a consultant for the Green Wheeling Initiative who lives in Poynton's building, brought an idea before City Council in April to demolish the buildings that need to be demolished and establish a park-like atmosphere where urban agriculture can thrive. He said this week that he couldn't identify specific sources of funding for his plan at this point, though he claimed he's prepared to make the city an offer to purchase the properties back at "fair market value."
In March, Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht upheld the city's eminent domain proceedings acquiring Poynton's properties. Poynton's appeal to the state Supreme Court for an emergency stay to the city's right of entry to the property also was rejected last week.
The city has acquired Poynton's property and that of numerous building owners in the area of 15th and 16th streets between Wood and Jacob streets. In addition to the community sports field, the city plans to upgrade the Elks Playground which borders the sports field site. The project has an estimated pricetag of $2.5 million and was announced in 2010 by Herron and Mayor Andy McKenzie.
Original plans showed a field for soccer, lacrosse and football and a running track. Some modifications have been made to the proposed plans including transposing the playground and basketball courts so that the playground equipment would sit between the field and courts as an added safety measure for the younger children using it.
To date, the city of Wheeling has spent $670,000 to acquire and abate the properties in the block of 15th and Wood streets. The remainder of the funding has not been identified but city officials are confident the project will proceed.
Associate City Editor Heather Ziegler contributed to this report.