Residents give feedback on Elkins plan

ELKINS – Residents gave their opinions about what issues the city of Elkins’ Comprehensive Plan should focus on during a public meeting Monday.

Representatives from the city and the Elkins Planning Commission, along with a West Virginia University land use planner, were on hand to answer any questions during the open house event at the Old Brick Playhouse.

Feedback from Monday’s meeting will be used by Elkins City Council to develop the final version of the plan.

“A comprehensive plan is not a law, but more of a policy document that lays out a 10-year plan,” City Clerk Sutton Stokes said. Once implemented, the plan could influence issues like zoning and funding. Elkins City Council will have to approve the plan before it goes into effect.

Attendees of the open house Monday worked their way through five stations set up around the room. Each station represented a goal of the comprehensive plan. Various recommendations for completing each goal were presented and residents were asked to mark the one they considered the top priority.

At one station, the goal was “Strengthen public safety services to meet the needs of existing and future residents and businesses.” Among the options were to budget for new and additional staffing for the police and fire departments. Other options involved developing community oriented policing; partnering with the county to update the countywide emergency operations plan and identify a location for an emergency shelter in Elkins; and bring to Elkins High School the Reality Tour, a “Scared Straight”-style drug and crime prevention education program.

Another station’s goal was “Improve traffic and pedestrian circulation to provide a safer and more accessible transportation network for residents.” Options included prioritizing pedestrian improvements in downtown, developing a sidewalk program to prioritize sidewalk improvements, installing signage and bike amenities once the bike trail is completed, investigate the feasibility of removing the parking meters, install directional signage to all parking lots, improve and install lighting at the city parking lot, and collaborate with the state Department of Transportation to explore options to address traffic congestion on Randolph Avenue.

Under “provide opportunities for increased economic development,” the options included continuing the B&O tax credit, annex surrounding lands to increase the tax base and potential development areas, inventory and market existing vacant properties to developers, develop a marketing and branding campaign to raise awareness of all Elkins has to offer, encourage business owners to stay open late for residents and visitors, and develop downtown signage identifying where shops, dining and retail are located.

Under “enhance and protect the character of the city through land use planning,” options were to revise the zoning ordinance to be consistent with the comprehensive plan and to encourage new growth, develop historic preservation guidelines, develop gateways into the city to help establish an identity, complete a streetscape project to improve aesthetics of the downtown business district, and provide art throughout downtown.

The last station’s goal was to “establish policies to protect neighborhoods throughout Elkins.” The options were to identify all vacant and dilapidated homes, increase enforcement of building codes and property maintenance ordinance to improve the appearance of the city, hire an additional code enforcement officer to help enforce the rental registration and vacant structure ordinance, require an inspection fee for building permit inspections, and investigate the feasibility of developing a land bank.