The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

June 4, 2014

City moving forward with comprehensive plan

RONCEVERTE — Although it is being put together in a compressed time frame, nothing about Ronceverte’s updated comprehensive plan will be shortchanged, according to the consultant who has been guiding city planners through the process.

Presenting a preliminary draft of the plan to city council Monday evening, consultant Terrell Ellis said that while the development of most comprehensive plans takes 12 to 18 months, “We started in January.”

She estimated that the process of preparing Ronceverte’s plan is now about 75 percent complete but emphasized that the details in the draft document are all subject to change, depending on the will of council.

After council members mull over the information Ellis presented to them during a working session that wrapped around their regular monthly meeting, the city’s planning commission will hold a public hearing to get community input on the plan. That hearing is tentatively slated for Aug. 18.

If the planners, as expected, recommend adoption of the comprehensive plan following the hearing, city council must then conduct its own public hearing on the plan before taking a vote to adopt it.

Ellis told council the state requires that comprehensive plans address certain areas, such as current and future land use, housing conditions and transportation and infrastructure issues. Community input must also be solicited, she said.

The team working to update Ronceverte’s plan fulfilled a part of that latter requirement by distributing a written survey in city water bills and conducting a public forum, as well as seeking input from various stakeholders throughout the community, Ellis said.

She said the written survey prompted an unusually large volume of responses — around 120. “They had a lot to say,” Ellis said.

Among the strengths described by residents who responded to the survey were:

- Small town charm and friendly people

- Local government responsiveness

- Police protection and safety of community

- Affordability and low cost of property

Among the concerns expressed by residents were:

- Dilapidated buildings and negligent landlords

- Poor condition of streets and sidewalks

- Poor condition of water and sewer systems

- General appearance of the town

- Need for better jobs and more businesses

- Drug activity.

Ellis incorporated the “strengths” cited in the survey in crafting a vision statement for Ronceverte, which reads, “Ronceverte is a thriving community that is known for its small town charm. It is a clean, safe and affordable place to live. Tourists visit because of the restored historic district and the unique small businesses located there, the extensive trail system and the abundant recreational resources located along the Greenbrier River. The pride in the community is evident by the active number of people engaged in civic activities and in promoting the community’s excellent quality of life.”

Likewise, the “concerns” figured largely in the goals section of the draft plan, which outlines specific “action steps” that need to be taken in order to achieve such objectives as developing a multi-year maintenance plan for city streets, recruiting and retaining jobs and revitalizing residential neighborhoods.

Under the heading of quality of life goals, the plan calls for several action steps that will foster the expansion of recreational facilities and opportunities for residents and visitors, much of which revolves around Island Park.

A second major objective under the quality of life umbrella is to “address safety concerns of residents,” with action steps such as developing a public safety plan for large community events like the annual River Festival, installing more closed-circuit cameras at Island Park to deter vandalism and securing additional equipment for the Police Department.

The final action step in the safety arena is “reduce the potential for flooding,” a goal that is much easier to identify than to achieve, all agreed.

Ellis gave each council member a copy of the 15-page outline of the draft comprehensive plan and told them, “Take this and think about it and get back to me (with comments).”

She said she will meet with the planning commission Monday for some final input before putting the finishing touches on the plan, with an eye toward having a draft plan ready for public review by July 19.

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