MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The owners of the building to be used as a home for the proposed K–6 Wisdom Academy Charter School want members of Morgantown City Council to look into the planning and zoning approval processes.

AST Morgantown Properties now owns the former Monongalia County Schools main office at 13 South High Street and plans to open a charter school with up to 300 students.

The planning commission has tabled their request for Type III development because of traffic safety concerns due to the location of Morgantown High School right behind the property.

One of the owners of AST Morgantown Properties, Mohamad Hefeida, asked the council to look deeper than safety.

“Just the absolute numbers of 300 compared to 2,300—there’s a question mark there,” Hefeida said. “A question mark about the safety concern, so is there more to it than a safety concern? That’s the first question I’d like you guys to look into because there seems to be some biases I am not aware of.”

During the public comment period, Fifth Ward Councilors and members of the planning commission expressed frustration with the claim. Trumble described the members of all boards and commissions as residents who care about their neighborhood and take on these positions without pay.

The plan for the K–6 Wisdom Academy Charter School went from 100 students during presentations to the planning commission to 300 during the city council meeting, and Trumble felt Hefeida was trying to pressure the commission through council.

Trumble also cited actions taken by the commission during the January meeting, when instead of rejecting the proposal, they asked for additional information. A rejection would send AST Morgantown Properties to a circuit court to overturn the ruling or impose a six-month pause before the application could be resubmitted.

“To say that we’re being biased against them, I don’t know if they’re accusing us of some sort of racism or some sort of bias against a charter school or what exactly that insinuation is,” Trumble said. ” But it is false, and I don’t appreciate someone coming into a city council meeting and trying to bypass.”

The projected 300 students would be staggered by one with Morgantown High School students, so the charter school will open an hour later and dismiss an hour later as well. Hefeida, the intersection is historically safe, and adding another 300 students Monday through Friday in a staggered fashion would not make it less safe.

“Looking at my records and doing my research in the past ten years, at least there has not been a single safety concern, at least publicly, from the Morgantown Planning Commission on that very intersection of Prairie and High Streets,” Hefeida said.

The concerns of the planning commission have been centered around traffic backing up on High Street and pedestrian safety in the area. The initial plan with 100 students had 60 to 80 vehicles coming into the area; at 300 students, the concerns increased for commission members.

“Morgantown High School has many different methods of ingress and egress, and this facility has one,” Trumble said. “They are significantly changing the use, and we are asking them to work with us.”

AST Morgantown Properties will present to the Morgantown Planning Commission on March 14.

“I’m tasked with the current site plan that has been submitted and how it will impact the neighborhood,” Trumble said.