Do you want to play a part in shaping Wheeling’s future? Then join the City of Wheeling for the first four public meetings that will inform its 10-year comprehensive plan. These meetings are open to everyone and will be a chance to share the City’s opportunities and challenges with the consultant team before they begin developing a strategy for improvements. Comprehensive plans are crucial to city government, as they serve as a roadmap that informs development and policy decisions.
The first meeting is slated for Monday, Feb. 12 from 7 – 9 p.m. at West Virginia Northern Community College (1704 Market Street). I spoke with BJ Delbert, Wheeling’s Building and Planning director, to learn more about the importance of receiving community input throughout the comprehensive planning process.
“The success of any plan is hinged upon the ability and willingness of the community to bring it into action,” Delbert explained. “It takes a community to bring it to life and create a common vision as well as the shared will and partnerships to make it a reality.” At the community meeting on Feb. 12, there will be a focus on revitalization and reinvestment in public spaces, business districts, and neighborhoods.
When looking back at the City’s previous comprehensive plan, the impact of such planning is clear. According to Delbert, there were six primary goals outlined in the City’s previous comprehensive plan, which were: to be modern and sustainable, build a diverse economy, foster strong community partnerships, invest in neighborhoods, invest in infrastructure, and improve quality of life.
“Many of the current projects are supported by the prior plan, most notably being the streetscape project and new police and fire headquarters,” said Delbert. “The plan ranked maintaining safety levels as high, along with modernizing the downtown streetscape with a focus on mobility.” Delbert also noted that the Historic Landmarks Commission’s demolition review ordinance was also supported by the 2014 plan, adding a layer of protection to buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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The current comprehensive planning process is being led by evolveEA, a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in helping communities take strategic actions through the lenses of people, process, and place. “We received nine proposals and interviewed three candidates, evolveEA was ultimately chosen for the vast urban planning knowledge and prior planning projects,” said Delbert. The team at evolveEA will be responsible for facilitating Monday’s meeting, using the feedback to inform a plan that is aligned around a set of shared vision and goals.
When asked about the importance of residents participating in these community planning meetings, Delbert emphasized that “activated and engaged citizens will increase the capacity to implement this plan. The comprehensive planning process needs accountability and transparency, and we are relying on our existing community networks to get involved and be a part of the process.”
The agenda for the community comprehensive planning workshop on Feb. 12 is as follows:
6:30 p.m., doors open
7-7:40 p.m., introduction to the project
7:40-9 p.m., discussion and exercises.
Those who can’t attend the meeting will have other opportunities to voice their opinions. An online survey will be released at a later date. For more information about the upcoming meeting or the project as a whole, contact Wheeling’s Building & Planning Director BJ Delbert at 304-234-3702 or via email at email@example.com.
• Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens.