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Wheeling City Council Sets Public Hearing on Demolition Review for Tuesday

File Photo by Scott McCloskey Crew with Raze International Inc. of Shadyside demolish and remove old dilapidated houses located along 15th Street across from the J.B. Chambers Sports Complex in February as part of a demolition contract with the City of Wheeling.

WHEELING — A public hearing is scheduled for the beginning of Tuesday’s meeting of Wheeling City Council before it votes on a proposed ordinance initiating historic review protocols for city demolition permits.

Members of the Historic Landmarks Commission, the city’s legal department and the Development Committee of Council recently moved forward with legislation for the proposed demolition review process, which has been in the works for several years. The ordinance’s first reading took place two weeks ago upon recommendation by the Development Committee. It is expected to be brought to the floor for a final vote during Tuesday afternoon’s regular city council meeting.

The public hearing is scheduled to take place at the beginning of the meeting at noon on Tuesday in council chambers at the City-County Building on Chapline Street.

City leaders have contended that a review process for demolition permits is needed to help protect property values within Wheeling’s historic districts. Under current city code, a property owner can easily obtain a demolition permit and raze a historic structure for any reason without any input of other homeowners in the neighborhood, who all can be considered investors in the historic district as a whole.

“Wheeling’s architecture and historic buildings are the crown jewels of our city,” Ward 5 Councilman Ty Thorngate said. “Currently, we are one of a few cities that lack a review period for demolition applications in historic districts. The proposed demolition review ordinance would give neighbors and other property owners within a historic district an opportunity to find out why a contributing structure is being demolished and offer alternatives to demolition.”

Thorngate, a member of the Development Committee and the city council representative on the Historic Landmark Commission, commended commission Chairman C.J. Kaiser and others who have helped move this effort forward.

“I’ll ask the other members of council to stand on the side of property owners and transparency by voting in favor of its passage during Tuesday’s council meeting,” he said.

If passed, the new ordinance would require notices to be sent out to neighbors and those within a design review district whenever a property owner seeks a permit to demolish what is deemed a “contributing structure” within a historic district. The Historic Landmarks Commission would review each application, and neighbors would have an opportunity to speak during a public hearing.

City officials said this legislation is not instituting “demolition prohibition,” but instead creates a process in which alternatives to demolishing historic structures can be explored before the wrecking ball swings. Officials have noted that historic architecture displayed by homes throughout Wheeling has increasingly become an important and valuable part of the Friendly City’s character.

In other action slated for Tuesday’s council meeting, a final reading is scheduled for an option agreement to purchase parcels of property on 17th Street for the new Wheeling Fire Department headquarters. Also expected to be read during the clerk’s report is a notice of application to operate a private club submitted by AJS holdings. This pertains to a liquor license for Salsa Joe’s new location at 2153 National Road in Elm Grove.

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