Wheeling City Council and Planning Commission confer on zoning code | News, Sports, Jobs

Photo by Eric Ayres – Tom Connelly, director of Wheeling’s construction and planning department, speaks during a February special at WesBanco Arena. Members of the Wheeling Planning Commission and City Council met in a joint session to discuss proposed changes to the city’s zoning codes. A similar session will take place this evening.

WHEELING – City of Wheeling officials met Monday night for the first of what promises to be at least two joint city council and city planning commission working sessions to discuss proposed code changes zoning.

At last month’s meeting of the Wheeling Planning Commission, Vice Mayor Chad Thalman and Councilor Ty Thorngate presented proposals on some zoning codes that they believe should be reviewed and possibly amended.

Officials agreed that the best way to share ideas and discuss these proposals would be in a joint working session of city council and the planning commission.

Three main elements have been proposed for a zoning code review. They included a proposal to eliminate parking requirements for businesses, one allowing the reconstruction of non-compliant structures in the city and another allowing housing in accessory structures.

Officials met for nearly an hour and a half Monday night in the WesBanco Arena boardroom. They were able to discuss at length their thoughts for and against the proposals on parking requirements and non-compliant structures. They agreed to meet again next month to continue the discussion and address ancillary structures.

“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to start the conversation and dig a little deeper…just to identify some of the issues and identify some of the needs,” Planning Commission Chairman Jeremy West said.

Proponents of the changes said some of the city’s zoning codes present barriers to growth in certain ways – whether it’s opening a new business, rebuilding a structure destroyed by fire, or allowing a residential owner to use an accessory structure such as a garage or AirBnB.

“Our current parking rules are somewhat arbitrary,” Thalman said, noting that city code requires a certain number of parking spaces for businesses based on the number of square feet of space used by the building. “The thought process here was to allow companies to decide how many parking spaces they need to be successful instead of forcing them to invest in parking spaces or invest in demolition to build a parking lot they don’t don’t necessarily need.”

Thorngate noted that the proposed parking requirement would target commercial areas of the city, not residential areas.

According to Wheeling’s director of construction and planning, Tom Connelly, claimants routinely appear before the city’s zoning appeals board to seek a waiver to circumvent the minimum parking rule. He noted that the council is “business friendly” and grants deviations on a case-by-case basis all the time.

“Congratulations to the Board of Zoning Appeals for being open-minded and treating each of these individual cases on a case-by-case basis as to what is best for the community,” Councilman Ben Seidler said, noting that his principal concern is the impact. to neighboring residential areas. “But still, removing all restrictions seems dangerous to me. Why would we do that?”

Connelly said a business will only be successful if its customers have a place to park.

Officials discussed a possible compromise by relaxing parking restrictions in a C2 commercial zone as opposed to a C1 commercial zone, which has more of a residential character, or changing the language by stating that minimal parking would be a “recommendation” as opposed to a prerequisite.”

“I think it will depend on how close these businesses are to residential areas,” said planning commissioner Christina Schessler.

Some officials were surprised that records show requests for minimum parking waivers have been approved 100% of the time for the past 10 to 20 years.

Regarding the rebuilding of non-conforming structures, members of the planning commission mentioned that a recent issue related to this had just been denied in Warwood, where a landowner wanted to demolish a dilapidated warehouse and rebuild a new one. However, the zoning code would not allow it. Several residents came to a public hearing and spoke out against a proposed zoning change that would allow it to be rebuilt.

Owners simply choose to fix it instead – which would be allowed. City officials considered this a difficult problem, as a new structure would be a big improvement over a very old one that is being repaired.

Thalman gave other examples, such as residences lost to fire, or most notably, the famous Avenue Eats building that burned down on Washington Avenue. Under the current zoning code, Eats Avenue could not be rebuilt there.

“It comes down to this – a zoning code is for what you want in your community, not what you had,” Connelly said, noting that over time, through attrition, grandfathered structures end up disappear and no longer present any inconsistencies with a zoning plan or overall plan for a district.

“I think one of the big misconceptions of the Board of Zoning Appeals or the planning commission is that we can just ‘willy-nilly’ decide we want to give that person a zoning change and deny it to a another person,” said a member of the planning commission. Howard Monroe. “I can tell you – even recently – that I’ve sometimes voted saying, ‘That’s not really what I want to do, but that’s what the code tells us we have to do.

If the city were to make changes to the zoning code, public hearings would have to be held and official action must go through approval processes. Officials agreed to continue conversations and hold another joint session at 5 p.m. on March 21.

Today’s breaking news and more to your inbox

Aurora J. William