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Wheeling Council Faces Important Vote on Bank Zone Change

Editor, News-Register,

I recently attended a city council meeting, and was reminded of the wide variety of tough decisions that our local elected officials all are called on to make regularly. As an elected official myself, there are times when I have struggled to understand which choice is best for the people most directly involved, as well as the overall system. It’s challenging, and I am grateful to our city council members for their service.

My small community – six blocks wide and one block long – is currently fighting to preserve the integrity of our residential and historic neighborhood, as the city considers rezoning to make way for a bank – including offices and several drive through banking and ATM lanes. I’ve been reflecting on the thought process our city council members will go through as they land on a decision here, and I’m just not convinced that this is as difficult as other decisions they’ve had to make. As I see it, there is a small handful of stakeholders here. 1) There is a corporate bank (who remain anonymous to us for some reason) that seems to be hyper-focused on our residential neighborhood despite various alternative location options in our city; 2) There is an individual who purchased a church in a residentially zoned neighborhood who is now looking to sell the church, I assume at a profit; 3) There is a group of people who claim to represent the business community who have become involved (none of whom live in or run businesses in this neighborhood); 4) Finally, there is a community of families and home-owners who have repeatedly shared their concerns about this rezoning and potential project, citing worries about safe streets and sidewalks for our children, increased traffic in our narrow and already-crowded streets, decreasing property values in an already-depressed area due to outrageous flood insurance prices, and the “Pandora’s Box” that this rezoning may open for our neighborhood.

I imagine the city council is currently weighing the perspectives and influence of these different stakeholders as they make their decision. The question on my mind is, “Who gets to make decisions about what happens to a neighborhood, and who is responsible for those decisions, if not the people who live there?” Sometimes, that question is very hard to answer because a leader is charged with making a decision that is best for the entire system – in this case, the city of Wheeling. However, I cannot identify a single reason that a vote against this rezoning, or against this traffic-heavy bank project, would somehow harm our overall city. I think it’s a dangerous, false narrative to warn that a “no” on this vote means a “no” to business development in our city, and I know our local small business owners who would be negatively impacted by this increase in car traffic agree with me. Neighborhoods like this one, and the numerous young families who have invested their time, money and energy here, are exactly what we need to attract new business to our city. I truly hope that our city council members will make a decision that balances the perspectives of those who will be most directly impacted and what is ultimately best for our city. In my opinion, this is an easy one.

Sarah Koegler

Wheeling

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