“It’s time for a serious change.”
Wheeling Councilman Ben Seidler said those five words to our reporter on Wednesday evening as the two watched a long-vacant structure on Wheeling Island – the PC’s former Irish pub at 22 Zane St. – burn to the ground . City firefighters spent the evening and early morning Thursday battling the blaze.
Seidler, in comments to our reporter and also in a separate Facebook post, said he was fed up with the city not acting quickly and forcefully with landlords on the demolitions.
“It’s sad that we allowed this building to stand for so long,” he said, noting that the building was due to be demolished more than a year ago. “We didn’t have the courage to force the demolition, and here we are in a position where our firefighters are risking their lives to put out this fire. Where does it stop?
“It’s time to take rundown property in the great city of Wheeling seriously – and that means taking a strong stand against rundown property and the landlords who allow it to continue.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Wheeling is a beautiful city, with many magnificent structures in its neighborhoods. It’s also a city struggling with a growing number of dilapidated properties – Seidler said there are around 100 currently on the list for razing or repair. This is a common problem in many towns in our region.
These horrors lead to a negative perception of our city. The building that burned Wednesday was easily visible to those traveling over the Fort Henry Bridge. So, instead of seeing the rich architectural history of our Victorian-era homes, passers-by witness half-demolished buildings. City leaders have long talked about cleaning Wheeling’s walkways, and yet we still have these problems.
For Seidler, this must end – and now.
“It is time for our municipal court to stop taking it easy in these situations. It’s time for our legal department to declare war. It’s time for our code enforcement department to be proactive,” he said.
We still remember, in the late 1990s, when then-Mayor Jack Lipphardt marched a contingent from the city council chambers to the Rogers Hotel to post the first “red X” on a building. , with the intention of shaming the building owner into repairing the structure or tearing them down. The abandoned hotel and other structures emblazoned with this scarlet letter are still standing today.
Seidler is right — it’s high time for the city to take a tougher stance on run-down properties, especially those slated for demolition. Failure to do so only continues to damage our city while putting the public at risk.