WHEELING - The public got a chance Monday to take a closer look at city leaders' vision for the next decade during a pair of meetings on the recently released draft of the city's new comprehensive plan.
The meetings, one at lunchtime and another in the evening, were held at West Virginia Northern Community College's B&O Building. About 50 people attended the earlier session, while a slightly smaller group of about 30 turned out for the evening meeting.
Wendy Moeller of Compass Point Planning, the firm Wheeling is paying $81,000 to assist in the comprehensive plan update, began each session by providing an overview of the plan before taking questions from the audience.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Wendy Moeller of Compass Point Planning discusses a draft of Wheeling’s comprehensive plan during a public meeting Monday at West Virginia Northern Community College as Assistant Director of Economic and Community Development Tom Connelly, center, and Planning Commission Chairman Howard Monroe listen.
A lack of housing options, Moeller said, was a recurring theme of previous meetings with residents and stakeholder groups. Another common complaint was that Wheeling isn't very pedestrian friendly, she said.
"We heard that from older residents, younger residents and all those in between," Moeller said. "I think we're all getting tired of being in our cars all the time."
That drew a mixed reaction from the audience during the lunchtime meeting.
One woman said the plan doesn't do enough to address a lack of parking downtown, while another said the city should actively discourage additional parking. More parking encourages people to use their cars, she said, adding to traffic and detracting from the goal of a walkable downtown.
Another item that's listed as a high priority in the draft plan is establishing a special building code for historic structures that ensures the safety of those buildings while eliminating costly barriers to rehabilitating them.
"The city has a lot of old buildings that are in need of reinvestment, and there are people who want to reinvest in them," Moeller said. "But they often run into issues with the building code."
She acknowledged, however, that it likely would take action at the state level before Wheeling could take such a step.
Other suggestions brought up during the earlier meeting included doing more to develop the city's riverfront area, Heritage Port, and actively seeking to bring a large employer to Wheeling. Questions during the evening meeting, meanwhile, focused more on why the city's last plan - developed in 1997 - didn't work, and how to make sure this one is more successful.
Moeller said the 1997 plan was longer, struggled to define a vision for downtown and expressed more of a desire to return to the Wheeling of old. The new draft plan, she said, includes strategies for implementation, as well as a clear vision statement around which all of the plan's goals revolve.
Wheeling Planning Commission Chairman Howard Monroe, who also sits on the comprehensive plan steering committee, said the plan isn't intended to recommend that a particular type of business locate on a particular block or that the city patch potholes on a certain street, but to guide leaders in creating an environment in which those things can happen when the time is right.
"This is a directional plan," Monroe said. "It's a visionary plan, if you will. It's not the complete turn-by-turn road map."
Written comments on the plan will be accepted until Sept. 15, and should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by regular mail to 1500 Chapline St., Room 305, Wheeling, WV 26003.