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Planning commission denies GC&P plan

WHEELING — Many residents of Woodsdale breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday after lingering concerns over a proposed development above their residential neighborhood came to a pivotal crossroads.

After years of planning by GC&P Development LLC and more than a year of discussion before the Wheeling Planning Commission, members of the commission on Monday voted unanimously to deny a request that would have allowed the proposal to move one step closer to reality.

The vote brings to an end GC&P Development’s request for a special area plan/comprehensive plan amendment that would have permitted a change of designation of a large piece of land on Woodsdale hill, which is listed as a Conservation Development Area.

GC&P Development proposed creating a mixed-use development on more than 50 acres of hilltop off of W.Va. 88. Many residents of Woodsdale living below the hill expressed concerns about the project, and many spoke against it during a recent public hearing held inside WesBanco Arena.

“This process has gone on formally in the public realm since March of 2013,” said Wendy Scatterday, former Ward 4 city councilwoman and former member of the Wheeling Planning Commission. “I’ve had so many folks express their concerns and their worries to me over all of these seven years and eight months. There’s a real human toll to this situation of uncertainty, and that has a real impact. So this is a big relief.”

Scatterday has been a vocal opponent to the GC&P Development project and founded the Woodsdale United group that collectively opposed the proposal. She was on hand during Monday’s meeting along with Karen Kangisser, president of Woodsdale United, and Councilman Jerry Sklavounakis, Scatterday’s successor in Ward 4 who himself has been an outspoken opponent of the proposed project.

Scatterday said the people of the neighborhood deserve credit for speaking out.

“There have been many sleepless nights because people did not have certainty about their health and safety and their own welfare and what was in store for the future of their own property,” she said. “This is a relief for the residents. I’m appreciative of all the work and all the effort of the neighbors who spoke out publicly to make the commission and the city hear all of their concerns.”

Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Mauck thanked the “few hundred” local people who provided comments on the matter during the public hearing and via emails and letters.

“In my opinion, this is democracy at its best,” Mauck said. “We appreciate all of these people. We hope they continue to be active in public service and visit the Wheeling Planning Commission meetings to keep us informed and abreast of issues that need to be addressed in our city.”

GC&P Development LLC partners Kevin Coyne and Douglas Grayson also were on hand during Monday’s meeting along with attorney Michael Hooper. The developers had previously stressed that many of the residents’ concerns — particularly that of water runoff — would not only be addressed by the project itself, but would likely improve through additional stormwater management.

After weighing all of the input, however, planning commission members noted the property’s designation as a Conservation Development Area as established in the city’s Comprehensive Plan should remain intact.

“I think this may be the right idea, but I think it’s the wrong place,” said Commissioner Howard Monroe. “I do not think we can automatically assume that water runoff would become worse with this, because I do believe that this would lead to a managed form of water runoff.

“I do not think Mr. Coyne and Mr. Grayson are some kind of nefarious schemers trying to destroy our community,” Monroe added. “I think they are legitimate developers who want to make use of the property they have and who believe it is the best use for the city.”

However, Monroe said the planning commission is charged with focusing on land use, and its members are “guardians of the comprehensive plan,” which was put in place to assure the residents’ quality of life.

Also Monday night, the Wheeling Planning Commission elected new officers for the 2020-21 term, action that had been delayed in previous months because of ongoing issues related to the GC&P Development. Members had expressed a desire to keep current leadership in place while a decision on the complex matter was still pending.

Officials unanimously voted to select commissioner Martha Wright to serve as the new chair of the planning commission and member Jeremy West to serve as vice chairman. They will assume their new positions at next month’s meeting.

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