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Hearing on GC&P Development Draws a Crowd

Photos by Eric Ayres – Masked and socially-distanced attendees to Monday’s Wheeling Planning Commission meeting filed into the WesBanco Arena for a long-awaited public hearing regarding the GC&P Development’s proposed mixed-use development on the hilltop above Woodsdale.

WHEELING — Scores of people filed into WesBanco Arena on Monday night for the long-awaited public hearing on GC&P Development’s plan to create a mixed-use development on the hill above Woodsdale.

More than three dozen citizens waited in socially-distanced lines to speak during the Wheeling Planning Commission’s public hearing, and officials said a total of 180 statements on the matter were received in advance of the public hearing.

All of this information officially was entered into the record Monday night and will be considered by the members of the planning commission, who are expected to make a recommendation to Wheeling City Council on whether or not a special area plan by way of an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan should proceed — allowing GC&P Development to move forward to the next step in its plan to develop more than 50 acres of land on the hilltop site.

Planning commission members will consider all of this information before their next regular meeting on Oct. 19, when an official recommendation to city council is expected to be made on the matter.

The COVID-19 pandemic had caused the public hearing to be delayed on a number of occasions this year, as social distancing regulations made accommodating a large crowd problematic. On Monday night, however, the Planning Commission and city of Wheeling staff members — along with crews at WesBanco Arena — presented a highly-organized format with socially distant seating throughout the floor of the sprawling facility.

Many residents came with signs and T-shirts as part of Woodsdale United, speaking in opposition of the development. Woodsdale United came out in full force to speak out against the development, citing concerns about water runoff and flooding issues in their residential neighborhood at the foot of the hill, the city’s ability to handle additional sewage, abandoned mine issues and hillside stability, increased traffic, noise, blasting and other issues.

While a considerable complement of speakers came out to oppose the development, nearly an equal number of people attended to speak in support of the project, maintaining that the development will be good for the community, is expected to address watershed issues, create economic development, build new housing and bring something that will help keep young adults from leaving the Wheeling area for better opportunities.

An unofficial tally of speakers at the hearing estimated 20 people speaking against the project and 18 people speaking in favor of it.

“If history repeats itself, another 10,000 people are going to leave Wheeling sooner rather than later,” said Shawn Caldwell of Tablerock Lane, asking the planning commission to support the proposal. “GC&P Development is more than just a shopping center on top of a hill. It’s a chance to help grow our economy and keep our youth here. I would love to stay here and raise my family here, but it seems like Wheeling as a whole hasn’t given my generation a chance to thrive here.”

Perhaps the most notable speaker of the night was former Wheeling City Councilwoman and former Wheeling Planning Commission member Wendy Scatterday, who received a standing ovation from Woodsdale United supporters after stepping up to the microphone and delivering her comments. Scatterday chose not to run for re-election, and her term in office ended on June 30, before the repeatedly delayed public hearing could take place.

“Please do not ask me and my neighbors to live next to an industrial rock quarry excavation operation for the next five to 10 years,” Scatterday said. “If you decide to vote yes, please let me know which of you would be willing to buy my house in support of your decision.”

While Karen Kangisser of Woodsdale United submitted 25 pages of signatures in opposition to the project, local resident Jonathan Howard said a door-to-door survey of 962 homes in the Woodsdale area resulted in only about 10 percent of people against the project.

A number of residents noted they feared the site development would bring blasting, truck traffic and the removal of 9 million cubic yards of earth from the site. Some noted they were concerned the site development would turn the hilltop into a rock quarry with no guarantee a development would ever take place after the site is surface mined.

“A residential neighborhood is a treasure to a city,” Liz Prather of Edgwood Street said, who said her 20-year-old daughter is a young adult who is one of those people who will soon be in search for career opportunities. “This project is something that makes it less likely for her to stay in Wheeling, because she values the neighborhood, she values the people, and that’s where our priorities should be.”

Several young adults disagreed, noting they would like to see more opportunities for jobs and housing in the Wheeling area.

For those unable to physically attend in-person but wishing to speak during the public hearing, Wheeling City Clerk B.J. Delbert was able to host virtual attendees via Zoom, which was broadcast live over WesBanco’s giant four-way scoreboard suspended above the center of the arena.

The property is currently listed as Conservation Development in the city’s comprehensive plan. If the Planning Commission recommends approval of the proposed special area plan, the matter will still need to be approved by city council. In order for the development to proceed, a zone change request and site plan approval will have to receive similar green lights through the planning commission and city council.

According to GC&P Development partners Kevin Coyne and Douglas Grayson, the development itself will address many of the concerns of water runoff from the hillside, noting that 40 percent to 50 percent of the current water issues will be mitigated by the project.

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