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Park View Residents Speak Out Against Zone Change Request

Damon Cater, CEO and Founder of Home Base Inc., addressed members of the Wheeling Planning Commission on Monday night before a packed crows of residents who spoke during a public hearing in opposition to Home Base Inc.'s proposal for rezoning residential property at 109 Park View Lane in Wheeling. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

WHEELING – Members of the Wheeling Planning Commission unanimously denied a zone change request Monday night after a room full of residents from the Park View neighborhood spoke in opposition of the proposal.

Home Base Inc. was seeking to amend the city’s zoning map by changing the zoning classification for 109 Park View Lane from R-1C Single-Family Residential, Medium Density, to EMO-Education Medical and Office. Home Base offers a variety of behavioral health services and operates a number of locations in West Virginia.

They planned to operate a new Wheeling-based office at the Park View Lane location, which is in a residential neighborhood but is adjacent to property that is already zoned as EMO. According to the staff report, a change to allow the requested use would be considered a permitted zone reclassification and not “spot zoning” because of the adjacent property – it would result in a boundary adjustment if it was to be approved.

“Generally most of the space would be used for visitation between foster children and their biological parents,” said Damon Cater, CEO and founder of Home Base Inc. “It’s basically just an opportunity for foster children to meet with their biological parents, and in many cases after the visit is over, the parents will meet with the counselor and talk about how the visits are going and provide the necessary mental health or social service to reunify the family.”

Damon Cater, CEO and Founder of Home Base Inc., addressed members of the Wheeling Planning Commission on Monday night before a packed crows of residents who spoke during a public hearing in opposition to Home Base Inc.’s proposal for rezoning residential property at 109 Park View Lane in Wheeling. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

According to Cater, the large house was to be transformed into one without bedrooms, but instead with spaces more like living rooms throughout. The residential appearance of the structure and the yard is intentional for their approach to offer a welcoming atmosphere that is beneficial for handling these types of reunifications, Cater indicated.

However, the staff report warned that the proposal was not consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, and future land use in this area is eyed as “Suburban Residential Core.” Members of the Wheeling Planning Commission agreed, as did many residents who came to speak against the proposal.

“We are not in favor of any additional commercializing of this property or in this area,” said Colby Homer, who along with her husband own a number of nearby homes on Park View Lane. “We do not need, nor can we handle, additional safety challenges.”

The nearby Park View School property was rezoned in the past for Commercial Office and has since been “overdeveloped, with approximately 60 parking spaces” and an influx of “non-resident traffic” into the neighborhood that already creates daily concerns, according to Homer, citing the growth at the Park View Professional Center offices next door to the sprawling old home at 109 Park View that is considered a landmark residence in the neighborhood.

Residents expressed concerns of increased traffic, impacted quality of life and decreased property values if the proposed zone change were approved.

An average of anywhere between 10 to 20 people could be at the Home Base Inc. facility when in use, if the proposal would have been approved. However, most of the counselors would also work in the field and not always be present at that facility.

“We all know that zoning changes are slippery slopes, and if this organization wanted to sell in the future or change their use from EMO to something else, they’d probably be in a better position to do so,” said Anne Harman of Evergreen Drive. “It’s a residential area, and this would dramatically change what is going on with the area.”

Homeowners said the neighborhood is very nice and even a “garden like” area that already gets an onslaught of traffic when Wheeling Park High School lets out. Several expressed concerns about any action that would further diminish the residential character of the neighborhood.

Members of the Wheeling Planning Commission, from left, Bill Lanham, Michael Baum and William Schwarz listen as residents of Park View Lane speak during a public hearing on a zone change request on Monday night. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

“The four years that I’ve been on this commission, we’ve come across a few issues that were encroachments on neighborhoods,” Planning Commission member and Wheeling City Councilman Dave Palmer said. “Neighborhoods, we feel, need to be protected. Listening to the folks here, I would gladly present the motion to deny the zone change from Residential to EMO.”

Planning Commissioner Howard Monroe seconded the motion.

“I drew the same conclusion that the staff report did – this is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan, and it is inconsistent with the future land use proposed in the Comprehensive Plan,” Monroe said.

All members of the Planning Commission in attendance during the meeting voted in favor of denying the zone change, casting a 7-0 vote to deny the request. The audience erupted in applause following the vote.

A staff recommendation to deny is expected to be forwarded to Wheeling City Council, which has the power to make a final decision on the zone change request.

Damon Cater, CEO and Founder of Home Base Inc., addressed members of the Wheeling Planning Commission on Monday night before a packed crows of residents who spoke during a public hearing in opposition to Home Base Inc.’s proposal for rezoning residential property at 109 Park View Lane in Wheeling. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

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