First Draft Is In

After months of meetings and public brainstorming sessions, Wheeling officials are finally getting a sneak peek at what the city’s new comprehensive plan will look like, as its consultant has submitted its first draft chapters of the document.

The draft chapters submitted by the city’s consultant, Compass Point Planning of Blue Ash, Ohio, deal with population and housing, economic development, land use and the community’s vision. Tom Connelly, assistant director of Wheeling’s Economic and Community Development Department, said the city likely won’t make them public until the comprehensive plan steering committee has had a chance to look over them.

Connelly said the committee – which includes city Planning Commission members Howard Monroe, James Mauck Jr., Barry Crow and Councilman Don Atkinson as well as residents Terence Burke, Christopher Dean, Jeremy Morris and Elizabeth Paulhus – will meet as early as next week to discuss the draft chapters.

“There are definitely some goals and potential policies that might have seemed obvious, but it took this process to bring them to light,” Connelly said. “I’m not far through it, but it’s been eye-opening so far. I’m pleased with what I’m reading.”

Wheeling hasn’t updated its comprehensive plan since 1997, but it must do so by the end of this year in order to comply with a state law, passed in 2004, requiring municipalities to update their plans at least once per decade to remain eligible for certain state funding. The plans are intended to serve as guides for cities when making decisions such as zoning.

Once Compass Point has submitted a full draft of the plan, the city will make it available for inspection by residents – likely in the form of hard copies at the City-County Building and the library, and in digital form on the city’s website – in advance of a public hearing. The Planning Commission then must approve the document and refer it to City Council, which must hold another public hearing on the plan before finalizing it.

By law, the city has until Dec. 31 to do that, but Connelly doesn’t expect the process to drag on that long.

“We’re still shooting for summer adoption by council. … We’re still right on track,” he said.

Wheeling is paying Compass Point about $81,000, funded through federal Community Development Block Grant money, to craft the plan.