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Wheeling City Council OKs Zoning Code Amendment

WHEELING — City officials have changed Wheeling’s zoning code related to land disturbance and mineral extraction, a move that representatives of Woodsdale United viewed as important in safeguarding the city’s residential neighborhoods.

Last year after nearly a decade of fighting against a proposed development on the hill above Woodsdale, many residents of the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Wheeling Planning Commission voted to deny a request that would bring one step closer to reality a proposed development of a 50-acre site on the hilltop.

The new amendment to the city’s zoning code may likely prevent similar proposals from gaining momentum in the city in the future.

A public hearing on an ordinance amending Part 13 of the city’s Planning and Zoning Code was held this week before Wheeling City Council voted to approve the measure. Former Ward 4 Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday, who also had served on the Planning Commission and was an opponent of the hilltop development, spoke out in support of the proposed zoning ordinance change.

Scatterday presented the city’s comprehensive plan and a map showing all of the sloped areas around the city, noting that this legislation would not only affect residents of Woodsdale, but residents in several other neighborhoods throughout the city.

“These sloped areas are the areas that have the greatest risk whenever land disturbance occurs,” Scatterday said.

Also speaking during the public hearing was Karen Kangisser, a steering committee member of Woodsdale United and an outspoken opponent of the GC&P Development LLC plan to develop the hilltop.

“The property owner that owns Woodsdale hill started stripping trees and brush off the hill in 2011,” Kangisser said. “In the last 10 years, they’ve applied twice to develop Woodsdale hill. Woodsdale United has filed court injunctions to stop unauthorized timbering and destruction.”

GC&P Development proposed creating a mixed-use development on the hilltop site, and although developers vowed to spur economic growth in the area and manage or even improve water runoff issues from the hilltop, Woodsdale United supporters had expressed lingering concerns over potential drainage issues, increased truck traffic and noise, and overall reduction in quality of life of the people living below the hill.

Some residents had expressed concerns that the project could begin with quarrying during site preparation with no guarantee that the promised development would ever come to fruition.

“We were very glad to learn about the changes to Part 13 of the Planning and Zoning Code,” Kangisser said. “For the protection all established neighborhoods nestled against our beautiful hills, it’s vitally important that city council members vote to approve changes to part 13 of the planning and zoning code.

“It is the opinion of Woodsdale United that any plan for extensive development of Wheeling’s hills will destroy ridges and damage streams adjacent to them. We are fearful that stripping off the ridges — if ever allowed — would exacerbate flooding, rockslides and soil creep and would damage our homes in Wheeling’s historic and well-established neighborhood.”

The amendment offers revised definitions for special permits, uses and actions subject to site plan approval related to minerals and “extractive industries,” land disturbances and other activities within the city limits. The new definition covers many activities from open pit mining and quarrying to preparation for site development.

During review of applications for special permits, consideration will be given to the proposed site’s “external boundary proximity to residential zoning districts as it relates to impact from noise, traffic, particulate matter, blasting, runoff and other secondary effects,” according to the amendment. Site restoration rules are also outlined under the revamped code, along with other supplementary regulations.

“These additions to our city code will protect the health, safety and welfare of our neighborhoods from rock quarries and other extractive industries,” Ward 4 Councilman Jerry Sklavounakis said.

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