After months of discussion, Wheeling Planning Commission members have selected a Cincinnati-area company with ties to the Ohio Valley to help them craft a new comprehensive plan for the city.
Members of a steering committee this week conducted face-to-face interviews with six different consulting firms who submitted proposals. The sessions lasted between one and two hours each, followed by an "aggressive" debate among committee members, commission Chairman Howard Monroe said.
"Quite frankly, they all had some good and interesting ideas," Monroe said.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Wheeling Planning Commission members James Mauck Jr., left, and Howard Monroe listen to a report during the commission’s Thursday meeting.
In the end, the committee selected Compass Point Planning of Blue Ash, Ohio, as its preferred choice. With member Russell Jebbia absent, the full Planning Commission voted 8-0 to recommend City Council authorize negotiation of a final contract with the company.
Monroe said Compass Point owner Wendy Moeller is a Martins Ferry High School graduate with family living in Wheeling, something commission members felt was a plus. They also were impressed with the company's plan to engage the community throughout the process with a blend of public meetings and social media outreach, as well as include benchmarks for implementation in the final plan.
"We're looking for a usable document," Monroe said.
Commission members declined to disclose Compass Point's estimate of what it will charge for its services, noting the final cost is subject to negotiation. He said, however, it was within the city's budget and was toward the low end - though not the lowest - of the nine companies from as close as Pittsburgh and as far away as North Carolina that submitted proposals.
City Council has set aside $100,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money to complete the plan, which state law requires Wheeling to do by the end of 2014. The city's current plan was adopted in 1997, but a law passed in 2004 requires all West Virginia municipalities to update their plans every 10 years. The state requires plans to address a wide range of issues, from zoning, land use and historic preservation to housing, transportation and recreation.
The steering committee tasked with guiding the process includes Planning Commission members Monroe, James Mauck Jr., former Councilman Barry Crow and current Councilman Don Atkinson and residents Terence Burke, Christopher Dean, Jeremy Morris and Elizabeth Paulhus.
"This part of the process has been a very time-consuming process," Monroe said of the interviews. "They deserve a lot of credit."