Review Wheeling Plan Regularly

Several points in the proposed new comprehensive plan for Wheeling are sensible. If anything, attention to them is overdue.

That points up a major challenge involving use of such documents to guide public policy. It is flexibility – a commitment to rethink the plan regularly.

Comprehensive plans often are thought of as blueprints for progress in cities. But the last time Wheeling adopted a new comprehensive plan was 1997. In all likelihood, the new one will not be adopted formally until 2015 – nearly 20 years later.

Much has changed in our area since 1997. Much will change during the next 18 years – the time it will take to adopt a plan to replace the proposed document, if the current schedule of revisions is followed.

Consider one major point in the proposed new plan, regarding the availability of affordable, appealing housing in Wheeling. The presence of many gas and oil industry workers has sent rental prices soaring, with availability of units reduced. We know of no one who had a crystal ball capable of predicting that in 1997.

Adopting a housing strategy now that is based on the current number of gas and oil industry workers may serve the city well for a few years. But what if, say five years from now, there are far fewer or far more of those workers?

Developing a comprehensive plan is an enormous amount of work. All those involved deserve high praise. But they simply cannot be expected to devote comparable energy on a continuing basis.

Still, adopting a new comprehensive plan, then not looking back at it regularly, would be a mistake. Mayor Andy McKenzie and other local leaders should consider some means of reviewing the plan’s assumptions, successes and failures – perhaps every two or three years – to ensure the blueprint for public policy remains forward-looking and effective.