Comprehensive Plan to Get a Closer Look

After getting to see changes made to the draft for Wheeling’s updated comprehensive plan, members of the comprehensive plan steering committee decided on Thursday to do some editing of their own to help get the plan ready to give to the city’s Planning Commission.

After agreeing the plan was far from ready to present to the public during a meeting in May, the committee asked Tom Connelly, assistant director of Wheeling’s Economic and Community Development Department, to speak with Wendy Moeller, consultant with Compass Point Planning, who put together the plan. Among their concerns were wordy writing, lack of cohesion and a lack of visual aids such as maps. The city is paying Compass Point Planning $81,000 to help craft the plan.

By Thursday all members of the committee had a chance to review the changes made since.

“At least the format and appearance are better,” said committee chairman Howard Monroe. “In my opinion, it is still dramatically too wordy. And the content – it’s OK. I’m still not 100 percent pleased.”

One of the plan’s major features – a list of 36 initiatives recommended to improve the city – was the major focus of Thursday’s discussion. While all members of the committee agreed the ideas were good and the facts were solid, they also agreed its readability still needs work.

“Content-wise, almost every page could use some work,” Connelly said. “You’ve got to really hunt for some cherries.”

While reading over the latest draft, Monroe said as much as two-thirds of the information could be edited while still keeping the overall topic clear. Though not as drastic, other members of the committee agreed the plan could be easier to read and understand through simplification.

“The 36 (initiatives) there could probably be 20,” said city resident and committee member Terence Burke.

“At this point, we just need to rewrite it,” Howard said. “This is still a draft. This is still a working document. I think a few of us need to go through this and just strike (things off).”

Wheeling’s comprehensive plan, meant to serve as the guiding document for important municipal decisions, has not been updated since 1997. With June drawing to a close Wheeling has less than six months remaining to adopt the comprehensive plan in accordance with a state law passed in 2004 requiring cities to renew their plans every 10 years. Housing, historic preservation, urban renewal and economic development are only a few of the issues to be addressed.

Besides Monroe, Burke and Connelly, other committee members present Thursday included Planning Commission members Councilman Don Atkinson, James Mauck Jr. and resident Jeremy Morris. Committee members Elizabeth Paulhus and Christopher Dean were absent.

The committee plans to meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers to review the newly-added land use map from the plan together.

Once the committee finishes their final draft of the comprehensive plan, it will need to be reviewed by the city Planning Commission before coming to a vote before City Council. While members of the committee noted the importance of time in the process, they agreed to remain focused and carefully craft the new plan.

“I think we should send as complete a document as we can to the Planning Commission,” Monroe said.