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Park Drive project in Weirton takes next step

MAJOR PROJECT — Members of the Weirton Planning Commission listen as Thomas Wippenbeck of McKinley Architecture discusses aspects of the Park Drive development. (Photo by Craig Howell)

WEIRTON — A proposed retail and residential development in the city took a step forward Friday night.

Through a series of special meetings, members of Weirton’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals approved several requests for waivers and variances in connection with the planned Park Drive development project.

The Planning Commission, during two special meetings, held a public hearing, approved the preliminary and final subdivision requests, and recommended a text change to the city’s Unified Development Ordinance to allow mixed-use dwellings to be included in Planned Development Districts in the city.

The subdivision requests included five waivers from current regulations, primarily focused on the size of parking areas and the flow of traffic in the Park Drive development.

Thomas Wippenbeck, of McKinley Architecture, explained the reasoning for the requests, made by the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, which currently owns the property, and provided some details on the project.

“It’s a public-private development,” Wippenbeck said, noting, eventually, the City of Weirton will own and maintain the majority of the property involved in the 7.2 acres, with the exception of buildings.

Jessica Gumm, the city’s planning and development director, explained, as a result of the use of Tax Increment Financing funds and a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant, all roadways, parking lots, utilities and other infrastructure created for the project have to be owned and maintained by the city.

Gumm further explained the need for all the waivers and variances is to provide a more up-to-date design, none of which currently is included in city code.

“Our codes were done in 2005. Things have changed,” she said, noting the city is working on updating its UDO.

Of the buildings proposed for this portion of the development, Wippenbeck said one building will feature 12 retail areas, with space for 10 retail establishments in a second building. Both buildings are planned to feature residential apartment units on an upper floor.

Planning Commission Chair John Porco asked about the possibility of traffic lights at the intersections being created on Park Drive as a result of the development, but was told that would be up to the state Division of Highways.

Eric Frankovitch, of Park Drive Development LLC, which initially purchased the property and has remained involved in its development after the BDC acquired it from the group, said the project is unlike anything done in Weirton. He noted this also is only the first phase of development, with a total of 72 acres available.

“We’re really hopeful this is going to be something special for Weirton,” Frankovitch said. “If you go to any other community across the country, you’ll see this type of thing.”

Zoning Board members approved a series of seven zoning variances, focusing on the setback distances to adjacent property lines, parking and loading standards, and the storage and collection of garbage for the development.

Councilmembers Tim Connell, Flora Perrone and Enzo Fracasso, addressed the board, stating council has put its support behind the project.

“The full council agreed, unanimously, to endorse this project,” Fracasso said.

Perrone noted there had been numerous meetings with the developers, and city department heads also have signed off on the project.

Following the approval, Zoning Board member Bill Frohnapfel encouraged the developers to try and use local sources, as much as possible, during construction.

“I think it’s all better for the community,” he said.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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