By Sarah Romero
WELLSVILLE—Downtown Wellsville consists of one street lined by city offices and run-down shops on one side, and a church on the other. Some residents would like to see that changed.
On Wednesday, Wellsville resident Mary Majocha asked the Planning Commission for permission to open an antique and collectibles shop on Main Street, which is in the neighborhood-commercial zone.
“I’m hoping to bring our little town back to life a little bit,” she said. “Bring in some revenue.”
The Planning Commission approved Majocha’s request and she said she will open the shop June 1.
Majocha is not the only resident who believes the city “needs to come back to life.” Sam Winward, chairman of the parks and rec committee, said he is concerned about the city’s development plans for downtown Wellsville.
Winward said Main Street used to have a grocery store, hardware store and café. He’d like to see these businesses return.
“I have a few concerns with what Main Street looks like,” Winward said. “Those of us who will be here for 40, 50 years, I think we’ll see a lot of changes. I’d like to know if we have a plan to create a vibrant Wellsville.”
Councilman Carl Leatham said the city doesn’t have a formal plan for the development of Main Street. However, Winward says a formal plan is necessary to re-create a “vibrant” city.
“We need to take the steps necessary to make that happen instead of sitting back and waiting for whatever will happen to us happen to us,” he said. “I just don’t want to see it shrivel away and die. If we’re not proactive about it, that will continue to happen.”
But Councilman Gary Bates said creating a large-scale development plan might be difficult because Main Street consists of only one block, made up of small businesses and city buildings.
“As far as creating a vibrant downtown, a lot of downtown isn’t there anymore,” he said. “It’s just a city square with a church.”
City Manager Don Hartle said he remembers when Wellsville had “quite a bit of business.” But that was before Logan became so populated.
“Small communities struggle to compete with Wal-Mart, Smith’s, other big grocery stores,” he said. “You have to have rooftops to generate sales. If we build a Smith’s out here, nobody’s going to drive out here to shop at Smith’s.”
According to Hartle, Main Street has eight buildings zoned for businesses. Five are occupied with small businesses such as a dentist’s office and barbershop. After Majocha’s antique shop is opened, there will only be two vacant buildings.
“There’s very limited space for any businesses of large size,” Hartle said. “You could have a little market or pizza shop or something like that, but to have Lee’s Marketplace move in, there’s nothing here in downtown for that.”
However, Bates said there are areas besides Main Street that could be developed, such as the east side of U.S. Highway 89/91. This commercially-zoned area is owned by Wellsville and has been a controversial subject as the city decides what to do with it.
Planning Commissioner John Spence said multiple people have approached the city with plans to develop on the property, but no one has actually followed through.
“We’re just hoping eventually one day someone will come in and build a business because it would help our city,” Spence said. “It’d be good to have some revenue coming in.”
But Hartle said he predicts it will be years before there is any commercial development on the property.
“There’s not enough people here to make it a vibrant or profitable business,” he said. “Let’s say a person goes out there and puts up a restaurant. Are you going to drive out from Logan to eat at a restaurant in Wellsville when you’ve got 900 of them in Logan?”
In response to Winward’s concerns, Hartle said he would love to see some commercial development, “But I have to be realistic in my planning as a city manager.”