Streets that are safer and easier to travel, commercial areas that bring new development and beautiful new neighborhoods may just be dreams for now, but Buckhannon city leaders hope to create a plan that could make those and other dreams a reality.
The Buckhannon City Council met in special session Monday morning to discuss creating a 10- or 15-year plan for the city's future and what studies would be needed to formulate such a plan. The comprehensive plan elements would include housing, traffic and land use studies. The studies would help officials come up with a realistic plan.
"The reason this is important is (because) the city should have some sort of vision to move it forward," West Virginia University Extension specialist Michael Daugherty said. "You can do that with a comprehensive plan."
Mayor Kenneth Davidson said, "If we don't develop some kind of controls along our corridor, we're going to be sorry that we didn't do that."
A strategic plan for the future of Buckhannon is required if officials want to amend the zoning ordinance for the city.
"What we really want to do as a community is have a housing study, traffic study (and) a land use study that's usable," Davidson said. "That's information that we can use to look into the future and develop a plan for it."
Daugherty, who specializes in community planning and development, said that the comprehensive plan provides a dream or goal for the city without locking Buckhannon into a contract. It also provides a means for ensuring that those goals are met. Input and ideas are welcome from residents, business owners, youth and even nonresidents, officials said. Involving local youth allows officials to discover what the younger generations would like to see in the future for the town.
"They are the future. The leaders of tomorrow are the school children of today." Davidson said. "If we don't do what's right by the next generation, we are failing. If we don't plan, we are failing. For us to just keep kicking the can down the road, I think is a big mistake. It's not going to affect us."
Children can provide input about what they think Buckhannon does or doesn't need. Officials said it could be a part of class projects and photo essays.
"A very important thing in public planning is to involve the public," Daugherty said.
Input does not have to be limited to those living directly within the city limits.
"We have a lot of people and businesses just outside the city limits," Davidson said. "We have to plan for our community."
Davidson said the three studies need to include all of Upshur County. College students outside of Upshur County will get to study what Buckhannon has to offer. Those students will be able to provide a perspective from an outside glance.
Daugherty will be instructing a spring semester class at West Virginia University that will involve his students in the studies that city council hopes to have completed by 2014. Daugherty said it would be a learning experience for the students, while saving the city money. Daugherty said that rough estimates of the project range between $2,000 to $2,500.
Not all council members were present at the meeting. Pam Cuppari, John Waltz and Scott Preston were unable to attend. The councilman present passed a motion to allow student involvement from WVU.
"I think it would be an excellent opportunity for groups at the (West Virginia Wesleyan College) as well," zoning officer Rich Clemens said.
Anyone with ideas or comments may direct those in writing to Clemens at firstname.lastname@example.org.