Between a Zone And a Hard Place
City rezoned strip between trail and river in 2000
5 March 2014
By Casey Junkins, Staff Writer
WHEELING - Even if the Coast Guard eventually allows barges to
carry natural gas fracking waste, Wheeling officials believe
GreenHunter Water's planned Warwood recycling facility would still
be out of bounds by violating the city's zoning code.
According to Tom Connelly, assistant director of the Wheeling
Economic and Community Development Department, the proposed
barging area between the Ohio River and the Wheeling Heritage
Trail is zoned for residential use. Therefore, no industrial
activity can take place there.
"In 2000, that property was re-zoned as 'residential' from
'industrial' to complement the walking trail," Connelly said.
"This is something we have brought to their attention, but we have
not heard back from them."
At one time, Wheeling's riverfront bustled with industrial
activity from Warwood to South Wheeling. However, as industries
began leaving the city, rails were removed to make way for the
John Jack, vice president of business development and operations
for GreenHunter, said opening the facility "does not make any
sense" without the barging aspect, adding, "We fully plan to build
out the facility, once we have the approval from the U.S. Coast
A deed in the Ohio County Clerk's Office shows GreenHunter
purchased the former Seidler's Oil Service along North 28th Street
for $750,000. This area is zoned for industrial use, but the city
of Wheeling owns the residentially zoned trail to the west of
GreenHunter's main site. The area further to the west between the
trail and the river - including the docks that extend out into the
river - is also zoned for residential use, according to Connelly.
Connelly and Ohio County Assessor Kathie Hoffman said North Fork
Landfill Inc. is the last known owner of this docking area.
Regardless of who owns it, however, Connelly said GreenHunter's
obstacle is that it is designated as a residential area. He said
the owner could request a zone change, but said no one has come
forward to do so.
"We don't own the property adjacent to the river. This will not
prevent us from moving forward," Jack said.
Jack disputes that GreenHunter cannot use the barging area because
he said the company has a utility easement that allows it to pump
material from the main site to the barging area. According to the
company's deed, GreenHunter has a right of way to "run certain
pipelines, wirelines and cable crossings beneath the old
railroad." The deed also states the company can run vehicular
traffic across the former railroad.
But Connelly said these provisions would have expired six months
after Seidler's ceased operations, adding, "it is the city's
position that a utility easement does not trump the zoning codes."
Following significant public discourse last year, the Wheeling
Planning Commission approved "Phase 1" of GreenHunter's plan to
transform the former Seidler's into a facility that will accept
and recycle water used in local fracking operations. GreenHunter
plans to construct 23 separate 1,000-barrel tanks on the 2.35-acre
site, some of which will hold clean rainwater, while others will
hold reusable frack water, drilling waste fluid, and flowback
water, the site plans show. Jack said approximately 30 trucks,
each carrying about 100 barrels of brine water from local fracking
operations, should arrive at the site each day once it is up and
GreenHunter would still need to present "Phase 2" of the project,
which involves barging the frack water, for commission
consideration. The company also needs a road use permit from the
West Virginia Division of Highways because of sight clearance
Meanwhile, Coast Guard spokesman Carlos Diaz said there is "no
timeline" for a decision on frack waste barging for GreenHunter,
or any other company looking to perform similar work throughout
"We received 70,000 comments on this. We will take as much time as
necessary to sift through them," he said.