Wheeling Planning Commission Denies Zone Change Request That Would See Vacant Church Demolished and Bank Built

WHEELING — The city’s planning commission voted Monday to deny a zone change to allow a bank to be built on National Road in Edgwood.

The 4-1 decision was met by applause from the few dozen residents in attendance at the commission’s meeting. The matter will next be considered by city council at its meeting April 2.

“These folks have worked hard on many occasions to come out and oppose any zone change that would impact the neighborhood and change it into something else,” said Jeffrey Mauck, commission chairman. “If neighborhoods are going to be preserved, first of all people that live there have to work to preserve it.”

At the meeting, which included a public hearing, several residents spoke against the zone change, with none speaking in favor. Residents also submitted a petition opposing the zone change that had more than 100 signatures from those living near the site.

The zoning amendment in question involved a plan to tear down former church properties at 1154 National Road and 2 Laurel Ave. in order to build a bank with drive-through service on the site.

The properties’ owner requested that zoning be changed from a residential district to an EMO, or educational, medical and office, district.

The applicants who submitted the request previously changed it to be for an EMO district rather than a commercial district to limit the types of structures allowed on the site to office buildings, educational institutions, nursing homes and medical buildings. However, residents didn’t think that change was sufficient.

“This commission has previously stated concerns about the size, scope and intensity of the project,” said resident Robert Dorisio, who lives within 200 feet of the properties. “Those concerns have not been changed simply by changing to an EMO.”

Dorisio and other residents said that having a 24-hour ATM available at the bank would hinder the neighborhood. Others said that, though a traffic study concluded the bank wouldn’t impact the area, they still have concerns about an uptick in traffic on neighborhood streets.

“A bank would disrupt the peace my family enjoys in the neighborhood,” said resident Amanda Wakim, who submitted the petition with her husband, Joe Wakim.

“If this rezoning is allowed, it will cause a domino effect,” Joe Wakim said. “The change of zoning from residential to EMO will bring more businesses to the area and destroy the historical neighborhood that we live in.”

Other residents expressed concerns that an increase in traffic would be a danger for children who play on yards and sidewalks near the proposed bank site. Other residents were unable to attend the meeting but sent comments opposing the zone change separately, said Tom Connelly, Wheeling’s assistant director of economic and community development.

David Croft, a lawyer representing the properties’ owner, Thomas Tuttle, spoke in favor of the zoning change and project at the meeting. The bank would involve a $2 million investment, create about 20 jobs and generate business and occupation tax on a now-unused site, he said.

“We’re not talking about a residential lot. We’re talking about developing a parking lot that’s surrounded by commercial buildings,” Gerald Lofstead, another lawyer representing Tuttle, said of the site.

Connelly added that city staff recommended approval of the zoning change because it is consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan approved in 2014.

After brief discussion, commissioners voted on a motion to deny the zone change. Commissioners William Schwarz, Christina Schessler, Rusty Jebbia and Mauck voted to deny the change, while commissioner Martha Wright voted against denial. Commissioners Howard Monroe, Wendy Scatterday and Christie Contraguerro were not present for the vote.

Next, City Council will receive a report on the matter at its meeting March 19 and will consider the zone change at its meeting April 2, Connelly said.

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