Friendly City Plans to ‘Envision’ Future

Great ideas can come from anywhere at any time – and that’s why Wheeling officials are casting a wide net as they set to the task of updating the city’s comprehensive plan.

Although members of the city Planning Commission have been discussing the impending update for about a year, much of the effort thus far has focused on hiring a suitable consultant to guide the process. With that behind them, the real work begins – and the public soon will have their chance to contribute.

Two “kickoff” meetings are scheduled from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 29 and from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Oct. 30. Both will be held in the auditorium at West Virginia Northern Community College’s B&O building at 16th and Market streets downtown.

There are two sessions to allow as many attendees as possible and both meetings will cover the same basic ground, according to Assistant Economic and Community Development Director Tom Connelly.

“It’s a lot to cover in two hours, but it’s more of a broad presentation of what the process is all about,” Connelly said. “There are going to be general conversations and then there’s going to be some more narrowly defined meetings.”

The plan is being developed under the theme “Envision Wheeling.” Accordingly, Connelly said, a local artist has designed a logo depicting an open, empty box.

“We’re looking for people to fill that box with ideas on government, infrastructure, transportation, development and all those components. … This is a policy document that will be looked to for the next 10 years” when city leaders make decisions, Connelly said.

Councilman Don Atkinson, who sits on the city Planning Commission, encourages everyone in the community to consider attending one of the meetings.

“You’ve got all the people in town saying nothing ever changes,” Atkinson said. “This is a way for them to put their input in. … It’s a good time to step out.”

Over the course of about a week in December, Compass Point Planning – the Cincinnati-area company the city is paying about $81,000 to help update the comprehensive plan – will join city staffers to tour Wheeling neighborhood by neighborhood. Then they will participate in a variety of meetings with the public, including general sessions as well as more focused conversations with neighborhood groups and leaders in various sectors including education, health care, housing, finance, the arts and more.

The public also will be able to participate in the process through online surveys and social media, officials said.

A 2004 state law requires all West Virginia municipalities to update their comprehensive plans at least once every 10 years, meaning Wheeling must complete the process by the end of 2014.

Comprehensive plans must address a wide range of issues, from zoning, land use and historic preservation to housing, transportation and recreation.