Plan Update Push Begins
Over the next decade, Wheeling must focus on retaining its talented young people, make sure there are jobs available to sustain them and continue to improve its riverfront as a driving force for development, according to residents discussing their visions for the city’s future Tuesday night.
A kickoff meeting in the auditorium at West Virginia Northern Community College’s B&O building marked the first of several opportunities for public participation as Wheeling seeks to update its comprehensive plan for the first time since 1997. The plan’s theme is “Envision Wheeling.”
According to Wendy Moeller of Compass Point Planning, the Cincinnati firm Wheeling is paying about $81,000 to help guide the process, up-to-date comprehensive plans are required by state law – but should mean much more. Such plans are intended to lay out a basic vision for land use, economic development, transportation, housing and more to which current and future leaders can look when making important decisions on zoning, annexation and other development issues, she said.
“We need to understand from you what you want from the community. … This is not about identifying a single pothole on a single street. This is (about) more broad level ideas and issues,” Moeller said.
The roughly 50 people in attendance were divided into small groups and asked to come up with about five ideas or challenges of importance to them. Each group’s submissions were compiled into a list on which participants were asked to vote.
The groups came up with a number of issues to address, including a lack of a vibrant downtown, adaptive reuse of historic buildings, embracing the benefits of the natural gas boom while protecting residents’ quality of life and attracting entertainment that appeals to younger generations. Participants also brought up a need for more housing, including modern apartment complexes for younger residents and smaller, easy-to-maintain single-story homes for seniors.
But the most popular suggestions were finding ways to reverse the trend of youth leaving the area for better opportunities elsewhere, generating sustainable jobs to replace those lost to the decline of manufacturing and expanding tourism and recreation opportunities at Wheeling’s riverfront.
For those interested in participating who were unable to attend Tuesday, a second meeting is set for 2:30-4:30 p.m. today, also in the B&O Building auditorium. Today’s meeting will cover much of the same ground.
The public also can participate online at www.envisionwheeling.com by submitting ideas they’d like to see incorporated in the city’s comprehensive plan. The site was launched at midnight Monday, and within the first 24 hours had collected several suggestions, including turning either Market Plaza or the vacant 1100 block space downtown into an open mall, building a removable roof over the Heritage Port amphitheater and seeking opportunities to bring a supermarket to South Wheeling to fill the void created by the closing of the Benwood Kroger earlier this year.
Users may contribute to the site by providing their email address or logging in via various social media sites, and leave a general idea or address one of several more specific issues: Wheeling’s biggest challenges, places they most value, priorities on which the comprehensive plan should focus and the reasons why existing residents and businesses chose Wheeling as their home.