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Wheeling City Council Approves Design Review for Victorian Old Town Structures

Photo by Eric Ayres Members of Wheeling City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday on legislation that will require property owners in the North Wheeling Historic District to undergo a design review process before the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission before modifications can be made to the exterior facade and other architectural features of the buildings.

WHEELING — An ordinance to require a design review process for any proposed changes to buildings in the North Wheeling Historic District was approved by city council on Tuesday.

In a seemingly rare reaction, a handful of people present during the first regular council meeting of the month applauded city leaders for taking action on the measure. Representatives of the Victorian Old Town Association, which initiated the proposal, expressed their appreciation for the new regulations that are designed to help protect and maintain the character of the historic North Wheeling neighborhood.

City officials also expressed appreciation to their colleagues for supporting the legislation.

“Design preservation is such an important step forward towards protecting our beautiful and historic neighborhood of North Wheeling,” said Councilman Ben Seidler, who represents Ward 2, which includes North Wheeling.

The section of the neighborhood subject to design review by the Wheeling Historic Landmarks Commission is located along both sides of Main Street and the west side of Market Street between Sixth Street and the intersection with Interstate 70.

There are several meticulously maintained Victorian homes in this section of town — some that likely qualify as mansions and many that date back to as early as 1831.

“I frequently say that we’re only temporary stewards of these properties and these 100-plus-year-old buildings,” Seidler said. “We have a responsibility to ensure that the historical integrity and the character of these neighborhoods remain intact for generations well after we’re gone.”

There are currently a dozen Wheeling neighborhoods that have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places because of their historic and architectural significance, and the North Wheeling Historic District was one of the first to be named to the list. It received the designation back in 1988, as listed by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s records with the National Park Service.

However, it is now only their third historic neighborhood in the city to be protected by a design review process.

Councilman Ty Thorngate, who is council’s representative on the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission, had urged his colleagues to support the action.

“We have two design review districts in Wheeling already — Centre Market and the Chapline Street Row,” Thorngate noted. “It’s worked well in those areas, and I think the residents of North Wheeling would greatly appreciate this.”

During the public hearing and public comment process that took place before the Historic Landmarks Commission prior to the legislation making its way to city council, there were about 10 people who spoke out against the design review measure. However, the overwhelming majority of input from the public was in support of the issue, which in turn garnered recommendations of support from the Historic Landmarks Commission and the city’s Building and Planning staff.

Vice Mayor Chad Thalman presided over the council meeting, noting that Mayor Glenn Elliott was not feeling well and could not attend.

Thalman extended a public welcome to municipal leaders from across the state who are in town this week for the West Virginia Municipal League Annual Conference, which is taking place through Friday at Oglebay Park.

“The conference brings in mayors and councilpeople from all over the state,” Thalman said, noting that the last time the statewide conference was held in Wheeling was in 2015. “We appreciate the Municipal League for choosing Wheeling. We also appreciate members of city council and city staff, as well as members of the Convention and Visitors Bureau for working to pull off this event.”

Council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 17.

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