WHEELING - Representing a group of residents calling themselves "Woodsdale United," David Croft and Wendy Scatterday urged City Council members Tuesday to uphold the Planning Commission's recommendation to deny a zone change request for 95 acres of wooded hillside along Bethany Pike.
Nine days ago, more than 125 onlookers packed the room to witness the Planning Commission's 6-1 vote to deny property owners Kevin Coyne of Wheeling and Doug Grayson of Pennsylvania their request to rezone the property from single-family residential to C-2 Commercial, as members were troubled by the developers' unwillingness to provide details regarding possible development at the site.
A crowd nearly as large attended City Council's meeting Tuesday, and several of those people, including Croft and Scatterday, spoke in vehement opposition to the request.
Photos by Ian Hicks
Wheeling Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge, Councilman Ken Imer, center, and Councilman Robert “Herk” Henry confer prior to Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Council - which has the final say on the zoning issue - took no action regarding the zone change, as the Planning Commission report from the March 11 meeting won't be up for a vote until April 2. If council approves the report as presented, the commission's decision will stand and cannot be reconsidered for six months - but the zone change request could be introduced if a member of council objects to accepting the report.
Croft said Tuesday that "the Planning Commission got it right" in denying the request. He also told council the West Virginia Division of Forestry on two separate occasions ordered an immediate halt to timbering operations on the property.
Documents show DOF representative Brent Lyons issued the first suspension order on Nov. 20, 2011 against Lemley Excavating of New Cumberland, for no timbering notification, no timbering license and not having a certified logger on site. Just two days later, the DOF issued a suspension order against a second company, Double D Logging of Colliers, this time for "uncorrectable soil erosion" allowing water and sediment to flow onto Bethany Pike and into Waddles Run.
That suspension order was lifted Feb. 13, 2012 after a re-inspection found the logging company to be in compliance with the DOF's orders for corrective action. Coyne could not be reached Tuesday evening for comment.
Although Coyne and Grayson's attorney, Jamie Bordas, told planning commissioners he believed divulging the nature of the project in a public forum would put it at risk, Scatterday, an Edgwood Street resident, told council she believes a "committed developer" would have presented plans for site grading, vehicular access and stormwater, erosion and sediment control when asking for a zone change.
"These documents would not corrupt any real estate negotiations," said Scatterday.
Scatterday also urged council to consider the impact of large-scale development on the ambience of the largely residential neighborhood, what she said is "part of what makes Wheeling special."
"It's a wholesale removal of at least 200 feet in elevation. ... If we destroy those hilltops, we will make Wheeling like everywhere else," she said.
Stuart Levy also spoke against the potential for hillside removal.
"Would you like them to be quarrying the material next to your home? ... Would you, as neighbors, want the devaluation of your property?" said Levy. "I am not against progress. I am not against jobs. I am against the poor selection of where this site is."
Each speaker's comments were met with rounds of applause from the crowd.
Following the meeting, Mayor Andy McKenzie said council has not discussed the issue as a group, but noted he's not aware of any support to overturn the Planning Commission's decision.
"I believe in the process. ... If you circumvent the process, why do you have it?" said McKenzie.
Council also heard from Warwood resident Tom Triveri, who spoke against GreenHunter Water's $1.7 million plans to establish a frack water recycling plant to be built at the site of a former gasoline storage facility on North 28th Street, expected to be online by this fall.
Triveri said he is concerned about the various chemicals used in fracking - a key component of the natural gas drilling process - being in such close proximity to the city's water supply.
"The intake system for the drinking water of Wheeling ... is only 1.2 miles south of where they want to build this plant," Triveri said, noting he believes there will be "a lot of people moving out of Wheeling" if the plant is built.
Following the meeting, Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge, who represents the Warwood area, expressed many of the same concerns as Triveri.
"It shouldn't happen. ... This is bad - bad news, and I will do what I can to keep it out of here," said Delbrugge regarding the planned facility.
In other business, council unanimously approved its $30.64 million general fund budget and $125,000 coal severance budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The budget is $750,000 higher than the one council approved last March, but is $586,000 lower than the budget as it stands today following revisions made based on a $1.04 million cash carryover at the beginning of the current fiscal year.