WHEELING - Councilman James Tiu expressed concern that the city could take an "intrusive" approach to see who lives under one roof.
At Wheeling City Council's regular meeting Tuesday, Tiu criticized a proposed new definition of a "family" as it pertains to an R-1 Single Family Residential Neighborhood.
Assistant Economic and Community Development Director Tom Connelly suggested replacing the current definition, which describes a family as: "One or more individuals occupying a dwelling unit and living as a single housekeeping unit, also known as a household."
The ordinance introduced Tuesday proposes this new definition: "One or more persons occupying a single dwelling unit, provided that unless all members are related by blood, marriage or legal adoption, no such family shall contain over three unrelated persons.
However, where disability requires that more than three unrelated persons reside together; in such cases, there shall be no requirement for persons with disabilities to petition, apply or experience a process to obtain approval to live in any zoning district of the city."
Connelly said at a Rules Committee meeting that the new definition would prevent problems in quiet neighborhoods by keeping certain individuals from crowding into a single residence. It would prevent, for example, pesky young partiers or numerous low-income laborers from sharing costs of living.
Tiu said Tuesday the provision is still unclear about how the city would identify violators, particularly those who may already live in conditions that would violate the provision. He asked how the city would determine a household's marital or adoption status and if it would be an intrusive process.
City Solicitor Rosemary Humway-Warmuth answered those questions Friday. She said the new law would prevent future violations of this nature; regarding current violators, she said the city would act upon complaints.
If a complaint is received, the head of the household in question may respond and comply. If they do not, the city could file a court injunction and issue an administrative search warrant.
Humway-Warmuth said this modification has a precedent in Morgantown, which curbed West Virginia University fraternity houses from making their homes in quiet family neighborhoods and restricted them to particular Multiple Family Residential Neighborhoods, which are commonly found in Wheeling as well.
She added problems that can arise from a violation likely would relate to health codes, noise and an overflow of on-street parking.