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Weirton zoning board digs into community garden dispute

A community garden, the product of a cooperative effort between the Weirton Christian Center and New Life Worship Church, was the focus of Tuesday’s meeting of the Weirton Zoning Board of Appeals. (Photo by Craig Howell)

WEIRTON — A dispute over a community garden was the focus of Tuesday’s meeting of the Weirton Zoning Board of Appeals.

New Life Church, located at 1492 Knight Road, had requested a variance to permit a 6-feet-high fence in a front yard for the garden, which has been installed on the church’s property. Under current city code, the maximum height of a fence in a front yard is 4 feet.

Bob Marino, speaking on behalf of the committee working on the garden, explained the garden has been installed as a cooperative agreement between the church and the Weirton Christian Center.

The Christian Center previously established a community garden near its former location downtown.

“We didn’t feel it was safe to continue at that location,” he said.

The garden has been in the works for several months, with Marino admitting the fence already had been installed. The fence features a black mesh, with both wooden and metal posts, which Marino said was aimed at keeping wildlife out.

While neighbors in attendance Tuesday didn’t necessarily object to the idea of the garden, they expressed dissatisfaction with the current type of fence being used.

Donna Gialluco, of 136 Estes St., noting she has lived in the neighborhood all her life, urged the board to set stipulations on the type of fencing.

“I have to go by it every single day,” she said. “If I have to look at this fence, I’d like it to at least be presentable.”

Stathis Alatis, 115 Ivy St., also spoke against the state of the fence.

“If it’s not decent, I’m going to have to live with it,” he said.

City Code Official Matt Burskey explained while some concerns over the garden have been addressed, the fence is still an issue and will need to be worked on through the city’s property maintenance regulations.

“It’s just unsightly. It’s not something that should be in a garden,” he said. “I would not sign off on it.”

Concerns over the use of cardboard to prevent weeds, and other materials, which Marino said were temporary, also were discussed.

Zoning Board member Keith Huntzinger, noting the only thing the board could decide was the variance request, asked why the fence was installed before receiving the variance. Marino said they had applied for the permit, which had been approved, but Planning and Zoning Director Jessica Gumm said the permit was only for a 4-foot height.

Following a five-minute executive session, the board approved the variance, explaining Burskey would be monitoring any additional work on the construction of the garden.

Other requests approved by the Zoning Board Tuesday were:

¯ Matt Basil, 1094 Barone Drive, for a variance to permit the installation of a shed within his side yard;

¯ Lea Leas Bakery, 3385 Main St., for a variance to allow a 36-square-feet wall sign, which also already had been installed prior to approval. Under the city’s Unified Development Ordinance, the store would have been allowed a sign of only 20-square-feet;

¯ Country Delights, 243 Three Springs Drive, for a variance to allow a wall sign for the store, which is located within the interior of a building and does not have store frontage.

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

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