By Wendy Holdren
Nearly 100 Beckley residents attended the public visioning meeting for the Comprehensive Plan Thursday to share their ideas for the city for the next 10 years.
The ideas gathered at Thursday’s meeting will be used by Poggemeyer Design Group, the city’s comprehensive plan consultant, for the next phase of planning, which will attempt to find solutions to challenges.
“We need more jobs,” said Brent Bragg, 58, who was born in Beckley. “We need to attract retirees. This is a wonderful place to live.”
Bragg said he lived a few years in Oak Hill, but he’s been back in Beckley since 1997.
“We also need to get our higher education back on track, whether that’s through more community colleges, two-year colleges or four-year universities.”
Ann Worley, chairwoman of the comprehensive plan steering committee, said she was very pleased with the turnout.
“It’s a very diversified group,” she said.
“We all live different lives, but all of us chose to settle in Beckley,” Worley said. “Beckley has changed and grown, but I think we’re headed in a great direction. This is a golden opportunity for us to shape the future.”
Beckley leaders, such as Delegate Linda Sumner, R-Raleigh, City of Beckley Director of Emergency Services Kevin Taylor, Beckley Renaissance Director Jill Moorefield, Chick-fil-A owner Richard Jarrell and Beckley Sanitary Board General Manager Jeremiah Johnson, attended the meeting, but the majority of attendees were everyday Beckley citizens.
Paula Mitchell, 30, a lifelong Beckley resident, said she feels Beckley is a little behind the times. “It’s just slow coming up to speed.”
Mitchell is a member of the Beckley Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, which is a community service organization.
“It’s very close to our hearts to enhance the community and help any way we can.”
Mitchell said she likes that Beckley is a small community that works together and really feels like a family unit.
She added that some improvements need to be made in high traffic areas, such as Harper Road.
Robby Moore, a 33-year-old artist and lifelong Beckley resident, said he feels Beckley lacks an emphasis on the arts.
“The arts really get lost in the shuffle of daily life,” Moore said. “I would love to see more public art, more galleries, one-of-a-kind shops and maybe a museum.”
He said he is glad to see how Beckley has grown and evolved over the years.
“I decided to make this my home here. I’m going to start a family soon and I want to be a part of a positive change I know can happen.”
Mayor Emmett Pugh was also at the meeting and he said the public input is an essential. “Without the public input, it’s not a comprehensive plan.”
He commended Worley on her job as steering committee chairperson and he said he looks forward to the next phase of the planning process in October.
This is the second comprehensive plan Pugh has seen during his tenure as mayor, and although he won’t see this one through its completion, he said he has a vested interest in the city. “I want to see the city grow and prosper.”
Scott Hill, with the American Red Cross in Beckley and Rocket Boys Festival director, also attended the meeting to share his ideas.
“I’m not a Beckley resident, I live in Ghent, but how Beckley goes is how Raleigh County goes, and how Raleigh County goes is how southern West Virginia goes. There is a huge concentration on Beckley.”
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