Wellsburg pursues development plan

WELLSBURG – Wellsburg officials want to replace unused former industrial sites with new businesses and remove dilapidated structures that create a hazard or eyesore.

And their first step in doing that is to establish a comprehensive plan for development.

“We need a blueprint – what the citizens think the city should be – moving forward,” City Manager Mark Henne told members of the city’s planning commission Monday.

Jared Anderson, an attorney and professor with the West Virginia University Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, told the group a comprehensive plan not only helps cities and counties to prioritize improvements and measures needed to support various types of development.

Anderson noted cities and counties with zoning also are required under state law to adopt a comprehensive plan by June 2014.

Henne said the law clinic was recruited to assist the city in developing a plan because federal money enables it to offer free services as a consultant.

Anderson said the clinic is working with about 15 counties and cities to develop plans through the efforts of its staff and about a dozen second- and third-year law students at the university. He said two law students have been assigned to assist him in working with Wellsburg and will attend future meetings.

He said the plan shouldn’t be confused with zoning as it doesn’t limit use of land, including private development.

But it does identify potential areas for development while including elements supporting that, such as infrastructure, housing and financing, Anderson noted.

The clinic also will be working with the city to establish a redevelopment plan involving the acquisition and rehabilitation of property for new development.

Henne said the city hopes to build upon the success of the redevelopment of the former Banner Fiberboard site on state Route 2 for the expansion of Eagle Manufacturing and pursue new uses for the Brooke Glass site at Sixth and Yankee streets.

The city’s urban development authority was formed last year to identify potential uses and tenants for the Brooke Glass site. Ryan Weld, the group’s chairman, attended the meeting, and Henne anticipates the two boards will work together as the plans are developed.

Environmental assessments at both sites were funded by grants from the Benedum Foundation.

The city has applied for a $50,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission for further efforts, and Henne hopes to hear if it’s been approved later this month.

Anderson stressed the importance of seeking public input as the plan is developed. Members discussed having an informational booth at the Wellsburg Applefest as well as public hearings early in its development and before it is presented for Wellsburg Council’s approval.

Mayor Sue Simonetti noted residents also are welcome to attend meetings of the planning commission, which meets at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month; and the urban development authority, which meets at noon on the second Tuesday of each month. Both meetings are held at Wellsburg City Hall.