It is impossible to know what Wheeling will look like a decade from now, but the next couple of weeks could have a lot to do with it.
Much of the work involved in creating the city's comprehensive plan - last updated in 1997 - will take place over that period. The push begins with a public meeting from 7-9 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of West Virginia Northern Community College's B&O Building at 16th and Market streets.
The city's consulting firm, Compass Point Planning of Blue Ash, Ohio, will use the input gathered during that workshop to develop a list of key recommendations and conceptual maps that will form the new plan's basic framework. These materials will be available for review during an open house from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 11, also at WVNCC's auditorium.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Wheeling residents will have another opportunity to weigh in on downtown revitalization and other matters during a Monday public meeting concerning Wheeling’s comprehensive plan.
Wheeling City Councilman Don Atkinson, who also serves on the city Planning Commission subcommittee tasked with guiding the comprehensive plan update, hopes the public will greet the opportunity to help craft a concrete plan for the city's future with enthusiasm.
While he was pleased with the attendance at two previous public meetings, which attracted about 40 people each, he would like to see an even better turnout this time around.
"You've got to be involved, instead of sitting back and questioning every move we make. ... Let your voices be heard," Atkinson said.
While those meetings sought to identify the challenges facing Wheeling in a broader sense, Monday's session is intended to focus on more specific issues such as land use in the city's various neighborhoods, types of development leaders should pursue and priorities for historic preservation.
Common themes expressed by residents who attended a pair of "kickoff" meetings in October included addressing a lack of affordable middle-class housing, reversing the trend of talented young people leaving the area and how best to "right-size" Wheeling to make a city that's steadily lost more than half its population during the last 80 years into a vibrant community.
In addition to the public meetings, residents can present their ideas online at www.envisionwheeling.com.
The consultants plan to present a draft proposition for adoption by the Planning Commission in February or March and by City Council in May, though the timeline could be adjusted if either body decides any last-minute changes are needed. By state law, the city has until the end of 2014 to have its plan in place.
In 2004, the Legislature passed a law requiring municipalities to update their comprehensive plans at least once every 10 years in order to maintain control over important issues such as zoning, and to be eligible for various types of grant funding.