Plenty Want to Pitch In on Renewed Vision for Future

More than 30 people answered the Wheeling Planning Commission’s call for those interested in helping city officials adopt a new vision for the future, according to Assistant Director of Economic and Community Development Tom Connelly.

Earlier this month, the city began accepting applications to join Planning Commissioners Howard Monroe, James Mauck Jr., former Councilman Barry Crow and current Councilman Don Atkinson on a steering committee tasked with guiding the process of updating Wheeling’s comprehensive plan – which is more than 15 years old – from beginning to end. Officials hope that by inviting three or four others to sit on the committee, they will gain a fresh perspective on what city leaders’ focus should be over the next decade.

During a Monday meeting, Connelly said he’s received a diverse array of responses, including some from residents of Belmont and Marshall counties, outlying areas of Ohio County – and even a couple local high school students.

“I think that’s great … but for the purposes of this committee, they should be of legal age,” said Monroe, noting he hopes all those who apply but are not selected to join the committee will remain interested in the process, which is likely to involve multiple public meetings.

The steering committee voted to restrict eligible applicants to those at least 18 years old who reside within city limits. Connelly said the city will continue accepting letters of interest and selecting new members over the next month or so. He noted of the 32 people who have applied thus far, about 20 are likely to receive serious consideration.

Later, the full Planning Commission approved seeking bids for a professional consultant to help craft the plan. Important criteria include mapping capabilities, a knowledge of the area and a plan to coordinate public involvement.

How much this will cost remains unclear, but commissioners expect to pay for the consultant using federal Community Development Block Grant funds. The city has not been notified of its entitlement amount for the upcoming fiscal year. It received about $1.14 million for the current year, but that figure has declined steadily in recent years from $1.6 million in 2010 and $1.34 million in 2011.

Wheeling’s current comprehensive plan, adopted in 1997, is based on Census data that is more than 20 years old and reflects a time when Wheeling had about 6,000 more residents than it does today.

Per state law, it must be updated by the close of 2014, 10 years after the state Legislature enacted a law that municipalities make their plans current once per decade.

In other business, the commission approved a request from Brandon Collins for a home occupation permit that will allow him to operate a wedding planning service out of his 120 Maple Ave. home in Woodsdale. Though located in an almost exclusively residential neighborhood, he does not expect the venture to disturb those who live in the area.

Deliveries would be limited to small packages, he said, as anything large likely would be shipped directly to the wedding venue. The home basically would serve as a meeting place to discuss arrangements, and would be open only during normal business hours, Collins said, adding he expects most visits to be by appointment.

“No sales at all,” he said. “It’ll all be service-based.”

Atkinson said he’s spoken with Councilman David Miller, who represents that neighborhood and did not report hearing any opposition from residents.