Planners endorse comprehensive plan

STEUBENVILLE – City Council is expected to approve legislation tonight adopting the city’s first new comprehensive plan in 49 years following a unanimous endorsement Monday night by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

The commission heard testimony during its hour-long meeting from three community representatives, including Mark Nelson who was representing the Steubenville Revitalization Group.

“The SRG want to say they support the new plan and look forward to the implementation of this new plan. I personally support the plan as well and have volunteered to help make the city a better place,” Nelson told the commission members.

“We are a city in crisis and I believe the new comprehensive plan is a major step in getting out of that crisis. Following and implementing the new plan is important. Successful implementation will only take place if everyone is on the same team. The plan indicates we need a drastic change from what the city has been. I also think the city code should be written to allow the city to move forward and not be held back,” stated Nelson.

“I am very encouraged by ideas in the new comprehensive plan. Our world has changed so much since the last plan was written in 1964. I am grateful to have experts who came in with a fresh perspective and creative ideas,” testified Donna Hrezo, a member of the Historic Landmarks Commission and the Grand Theater Restoration board of directors.

Scott Dressel, chairman of the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission, said the board has reviewed the plan extensively, “especially the preservation section of the plan, and we approve the new plan and we hope it all happens soon.”

Planning Commission Chairman Bill Hendricks said the older neighborhoods in the city, “are actually a plus.”

“It all depends how you look at it. It’s important to have the historic district in the North End This has been a good public hearing. Everyone here is in accord on the importance of the new comprehensive plan,” commented Hendricks.

Commission member Teresa DiCarlantonio said she got emotional while reading the draft of the plan.

“It is important that we communicate because we are all involved in making decisions to better Steubenville. I think we can turn our community into a very beautiful city. Hopefully, we can pull together and have hope,” said DiCarlantonio.

The proposed plan has been available for review at the Main Library and Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County as well as at the Urban Projects office and on the city’s Website.

The planning commission laid the groundwork for the new plan in January 2011.

Petrossi said the comprehensive plan includes 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 57 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 is in need of updating and now is a good time to start the work,” explained Petrossi.

“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,” Craig Gossman of MKSK said at a June public hearing.

“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. 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. 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,” Gossman said in June.

“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. gathered information from a variety of local people and sources to prepare the new comprehensive plan.

Petrossi said the planners considered several issues when writing the new comprehensive plan including:

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

Removing 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 beautifying 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.

Petrossi said the new comprehensive plan, ” establishes a common vision for policies on growth and development, historic preservation and revitalization. It provides a blueprint for land use and development decisions consistent with community goals and expectations concerning how the public wants the community to grow. Any plan must be realistic and sustainable. It must be revisited often to see where course changes may be needed then adjusted accordingly.”

In other business, Petrossi reviewed the current list of dilapidated structures in the city and reported the park safety and security lighting project is 90 percent complete.