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Parkersburg planning commission approves small home district

Measure headed to city council

Parkersburg Assistant City Attorney Rob Tebay, right, speaks during a meeting of the Municipal Planning Commission Friday in City Council chambers as City Planner Mike Rosso listens. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — The city’s Municipal Planning Commission on Friday approved the creation of a specific zoning district for small homes and the reduction of its membership to make it easier to assemble a quorum.

Both measures now head to Parkersburg City Council for consideration in December.

The zoning overlay district would allow the construction of smaller-than-normally-accepted homes in a designated area roughly between Virginia and Laird avenues and 16th and Spring streets. The structures can be no larger than 1,250 square feet, with a minimum of 250 square feet per resident, and must be built on lots of at least 5,000 square feet. The houses must have permanent foundations and utilities.

One option for a developer would be to build multiple small homes in a “pocket neighborhood” around a shared green space. Mobile homes, campers and converted storage buildings would not be permitted.

City Planner Mike Rosso said smaller homes, sometimes referred to as “tiny” homes, might appeal to young, single people and others who don’t want or can’t afford a larger home. That’s something Parkersburg has plenty of with its older housing stock.

Parkersburg Municipal Planning Commission Vice President Eric Gumm speaks during Friday’s commission meeting in City Council chambers. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

“This is being done all over the country,” he said. “This is a very popular movement.”

The measure passed 8-0, as did one recommending the number of planning commission members be reduced from 15 to 11.

“Currently, the membership is set to be 15, which means we need eight people for a quorum,” Rosso said. “By reducing the number to 11, we would only need six members to have a quorum.”

There were nine members at Friday’s meeting before city Development Director Rickie Yeager had to step out, but the commission has struggled at times to gather eight members for a meeting. There are four vacancies on the commission now, so the change, if approved by council, would not cause anyone to lose their seat.

Earlier in the meeting, the commission voted 8-1, with Vice President Eric Gumm opposed, to table a request from a Shrewsbury Place resident to abandon a 15-by-100-foot unimproved alleyway section adjacent to her home.

Resident Brenda Sturm wants to use the portion of the alley that would revert to her as a fenced-in yard for her dogs. Neighbor Dale Markley objects to the request, saying the remaining right of way would be too narrow for his truck and trailer to turn into to access the back of two lots he owns.

Markley said he would not object if the entire alleyway was abandoned. Rosso said city officials contacted other affected property owners but received no feedback.

At the suggestion of Assistant City Attorney Rob Tebay and some commission members, Sturm agreed to amend her petition to request closure of the entire alley. Gumm said he did not understand how that would be preferable, as it would limit access to other properties.

Because 30 days of notice is required for the amended petition, the item likely cannot be taken up again before January, Rosso said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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