By FRED CONNORS
Senior Staff Writer
WHEELING-Nearly a year and a half after the Wheeling Planning Commission denied a zone change for 95 acres of wooded hillside overlooking Bethany Pike, a contractor working for GC&P Development is moving dirt in preparation for an access road to the site.
Photo by Fred Connors
Freshly moved dirt is piled near the entrance to 95 acres of wooded hillside overlooking Bethany Pike.
Freshly-moved dirt and a permit sign from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are visible near 194 Bethany Pike, indicating work has begun. DEP documents reveal the company has a storm water construction permit providing for 2.99 acres of land disturbance. A project disturbing more than 3 acres of land triggers more stringent notice requirements under state law.
On March 11, 2013, the Wheeling Planning Commission denied a request from Kevin Coyne and Doug Grayson, owners of GC&P Development, for a zone change from residential to commercial because Coyne and Grayson declined to tell city officials what type of development they had in mind.
Some neighborhood residents formed a group called Woodsdale United opposing the zone change because they feared logging, hilltop removal and the apparent lack of a plan to address traffic, erosion and other issues related to development of the area.
Tom Connelly, assistant director of Wheeling's Economic and Community Development Department, said the area remains zoned residential and the current work is not a reflection of a zone change.
"It is my understanding he is building an access road to the area to enable equipment to be brought in for core drilling to determine what conditions lie below the surface," Connelly said.
The DEP permit sign at the site bears a number assigned as the result of an application filed by Coyne in November 2012.
On Coyne's November 2012 permit application, the project description states "the City of Wheeling and their contractor need to borrow dirt from our site to cover six-inch fill on the 1.5-acre teardown project in downtown Wheeling between Main and Market Streets to be completed around Dec. 2."
The permit was issued May 31, 2012 with an expiration date of Jan. 3, 2018.
According to the DEP, storm water runoff from construction activities can have a significant impact on water quality. As storm water flows over a construction site, it picks up pollutants and sediment, debris and chemicals, the agency notes, which can harm or kill fish and other wildlife.
Attempts to reach Coyne for comment were unsuccessful.