City comprehensive plan ready for review

STEUBENVILLE – The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, City Council members and administration officials will meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday to review the latest draft version of a new comprehensive plan.

A group of designated stakeholders and the public will get their chance to review the proposed plan for the city at a 4:30 p.m. session.

Both meetings will be held at the Historic Fort Steuben Visitors Center.

“The stakeholders include citizens, business people and the general public who want to review the city’s comprehensive plan and make suggestions or comments,” said Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi.

“The 4:30 p.m. meeting will include a general overview and will then have breakout sessions where people can look at maps and more specific details of the plan,” added Petrossi.

The city’s current comprehensive plan was written in 1964.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission laid the groundwork in January 2011 for the new plan when the panel was asked to review the preliminary steps that would lead to the new plan.

Petrossi said the comprehensive plan will include issues regarding “land use, housing, transportation, a central business district, community facilities, utilities, health and human services, economic development, recreation and open space, conservation and environmental resources and capital improvements.”

“We started with a series of meetings with 53 local stakeholders who represented health care, businesses, schools, social services, churches as well as other organizations in the city. It was the consensus of the stakeholders that the 1964 plan was in need of updating and now is a good time to start the work,” explained Petrossi.

Petrossi said the new comprehensive plan, “will also provide a foundation for zoning ordinances and a basis for a capital improvement plan and will also identify a community vision for the future of the city.

“We have a team of several consultants as well as urban design specialists. We work on small- to mid-sized cities and we will work in five major blocks. We have prepared a community vision for the future of Steubenville,” said Craig Gossman of consultants MKSK.

“The new plan has to be comprehensive, analytical and catalytic in order to jump start the economy and the community. We want to understand the community and we will take the temperature of the community,” Gossman noted.

“The downtown district in Steubenville has great opportunity for the future. There is huge potential there. But there are also some rough areas. It is time to reinvent the city and the downtown,” remarked Gossman.

“We look at how the city has evolved economically, the historical aspects of the community and the city’s infrastructure. Each issue will have a chapter in the final version of the plan. The final document will be like a business plan for the city that will allow community leaders to go back in future years to see how they are doing,” explained Gossman.

“Part of our planning also involves the oil and gas industry. That means looking at the future of the industry and how the city can take advantage of the economic opportunities. There is a chance to seize the moment to progress. That will involve public-private partnerships and involve current institutions,” said Gossman.

Representatives from MKSK Planning and LSL Planning Inc. have been gathering information from a variety of local people and sources to prepare the new plan.

“We have held meetings with city stakeholders, several classes at Steubenville High School as well as meetings with students at Franciscan University of Steubenville and Eastern Gateway Community College. We found the Franciscan students are from all over the world and they will typically drive to Robinson for shopping or food. They don’t feel the retailers have what they want here, and they said they would like more name plate restaurants here,” Gossman noted.

“We have been listening and writing a draft of the city’s new comprehensive plan that will involve strong leadership from the corporate, political, business and institutions to help create a strong downtown. The current downtown is not a neighborhood-serving destination. So we are considering how to change the downtown, which is probably too large for the city of the current population. We are looking at other land usage in the downtown that may be more appropriate. Historic Fort Steuben is an example of correct land usage. It has become an economic tool for the future of the downtown,” Gossman cited.

“We are also looking at changing the image visitors have when they enter the city, and will look at the best initial image if coming in from the west,” he commented.

Petrossi said the planners considered 11 major issues including:

Exploration of the economic economic development for job diversity such as preparedness for oil and gas drilling,

Removal of barriers to employment and business development,

Retaining the best and the brightest,

Restoring vibrancy to the downtown,

Restoring community pride and a sense of community,

Reversing declining residential property values and rental conversions,

Providing a greater housing mixture for all ages and price points,

Meeting the needs of an increasing number of seniors,

Adding more green space in the community and beautify the city,

Creating inviting gateways into the city and a better front door,

Improving community health including a system that encourages more walking and biking.

“We want a plan that won’t sit on a shelf but will be a guide for the city’s future and can be used as a guide for future development. The plan will also be used to develop and implement goals for the community. We are planning to move forward and be a successful community. This is a major step in that directions,” declared Petrossi.