Harrison Planning Panel Discusses Comprehensive Plan

Repost from Jim Davis, The Exponent Telegram –

CLARKSBURG — The Harrison County Planning Commission on Wednesday went over work to date on an overhaul of the county’s comprehensive plan.

Planning commissioners and staff met with a West Virginia University consultant to further develop the five goals for improving the quality of life in the county over the next decade.

The five goals are business retention and recruitment, increased transportation options, land use planning that protects rural areas while allowing for growth, infrastructure improvements and additional housing.

“These are the five issues we talked about at the last meeting,” said WVU land use planner Christy Demuth, who is drafting the comprehensive plan.

Jim Smith, the panel’s chairman, said he thinks those five goals give officials a blueprint for making the county a better place to live, work and play.

The panel then set to work elaborating on the goals.

Under economic development, County Administrator Willie Parker said the county’s tax-increment financing districts and the North Central West Virginia Airport are hubs for growth.

A revamped economic development agency still in its infancy also will be critical to drawing more business to the area, Parker and Smith added.

Under transportation, the planning commissioners included bus service provided by the Central West Virginia Transit Authority and expansion of the rail trail.

As for land use planning, Demuth said she will need to review the county’s ordinances to see if they need updated.

Demuth also brought up oil and gas drilling, noting that at one time workers were living in recreational vehicles parked randomly throughout the county.

That has subsided somewhat, Parker said.

Regarding infrastructure, Parker mentioned that several public service districts are looking to expand their customer base.

As for housing, Demuth said the 2010 Census showed that the county’s housing stock was older than other parts of the state and the value of the homes was lower.

Some communities are moving forward with addressing abandoned and dilapidated houses, while others are struggling, Parker added.

Work on revising the comprehensive plan began last fall. The county has held four open houses and conducted an online survey to gather input.

“We’re taking those results and starting to formulate the plan,” Demuth said.

The next step is to gather input from the county’s youth, Demuth said.

Demuth and planning Director Charlotte Shaffer plan to interview students at Lincoln, Liberty, Bridgeport and South Harrison high schools.

The plan will include chapters on the plan’s layout, the county’s planning regions, goals and objectives, a land use plan and action items, Demuth said.

“This gives me a start moving forward,” Demuth said of the planning commission’s input.

In other business:

— The planning commission voted to recommend that the Harrison County Commission adopt a demolition loan program.

Under the voluntary program, the county would provide low-interest loans to people who want to demolish dilapidated buildings but can’t afford to do so, Parker said.

The loan would be secured with a lien on the property, and the terms of loans would depend on the cost to raze the structures, Parker added.

— The county is working with Ryan Environmental on the construction of a new section of rail trail, Shaffer told the planning commission.

The section is from Hite Field to Veterans Memorial Park, Shaffer said.

Staff writer Jim Davis can be reached at (304) 626-1446 or jdavis@theet.com