Implementation of new comprehensive plan gets under way in Steubenville

STEUBENVILLE – Members of the city’s Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee received their first homework assignment Wednesday as Mayor Domenick Mucci encouraged the committee to seek more community residents to “embrace the comprehensive plan of the future.”

“Your assignment is to take a copy of the new comprehensive plan, review the plan, identify what you can assist with and identify other people who can help make the plan a reality,” Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi told committee members who attended the kickoff meeting Wednesday morning.

“Get the word out to people in the community. We need to achieve our goals with tangible results and celebrate our successes. Everyone needs to identify what your role can be in the implementation of the plan,” encouraged Petrossi.

Mucci said there are 15 community residents who have volunteered to help turn the 130-page document into a plan that is part of all future planning in the city.

“But anyone who wants to be part of the process should call my office or Chris Petrossi at the City Hall facility. Implementation of the new comprehensive plan won’t happen overnight. This is a blueprint for future economic development in the city. Our goal will be to keep our citizens involved as well as stakeholders in the future of Steubenville,” announced Mucci.

Mucci said the new plan actually started with discussions in 2011.

“The vision of the past three years is really a vision of our citizens. The plan is what our citizens indicated to us what they wanted to see in the document,” Mucci added.

City Manager Tim Boland said he is hopeful the community “will achieve a clear vision for the future of Steubenville.”

“One of the key reasons why I came to Steubenville was the new comprehensive plan. I was excited and impressed after reading the plan. This comprehensive plan really captures a great deal of potential dealing with the downtown business district, our roadways, the enhancement of our neighborhoods and brings everything together for a first class community. I was extremely impressed by this document,” noted Boland.

“The comprehensive plan needs to be embraced by the community. It has to be something all community groups embrace and are excited about. I can’t be more excited to be involved with the implementation of this new plan,” continued Boland.

According to Petrossi, a community comprehensive plan is an assessment of a city’s current and projected future problems, trends, resources and opportunities. Comprehensive plans include recommendations for policies and specific activities such as land use, streets and transportation, housing, utilities, public facilities, including parks and schools as well as historic preservation.

“The last comprehensive plan was adopted in 1964 and remained in effect until the new plan was adopted by City Council in September 2013. I always used the last comprehensive plan and I will use the new plan. Alan Hall, director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, told me this large document is a librarian’s nightmare because it is so big. I told him I didn’t want this document sitting on a shelf gathering dust,” said Petrossi.

Petrossi said the planners considered 11 major issues when writing the comprehensive plan including:

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

Remove barriers to employment and business development.

Retain the best and the brightest.

Restore vibrancy to the downtown.

Restore community pride and a sense of community.

Reverse declining residential property values and rental conversions.

Provide a greater housing mixture for all ages and price points.

Meet the needs of an increasing number of seniors.

Add more green space in the community and beautify the city.

Create inviting gateways into the city and a better front door.

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

“We want a plan that 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 direction,” said Petrossi.

Representatives from MKSK Planning and LSL Planning Inc. wrote the new comprehensive plan after gathering information from a variety of local people and sources.

“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 are taking the temperature of the community. We have prepared a community vision for the future of Steubenville,” Craig Gossman of MKSK said in June 2013.

“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,” explained Gossman during the 2013 interview.

“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.

According to Petrossi, “We have a lot of residential neighborhoods in the city and we need to celebrate those neighborhoods. We need to promote our neighborhoods. The comprehensive plan should be evolving as we evolve. The plan has to change as the community changes,” said Petrossi.

“This is a work in progress. It is a blueprint for our future and we need to make sure we are moving forward. Steubenville is the largest community in Jefferson County and we need to set an example. Doing the small things will make us a better community,” remarked Mucci.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs cited the creation of the beautification committee and plans to award quarterly recognition to a home in each of the city’s six wards.

“We are also going to look at our neighborhood Tot Lots. The Tot Lots have been overlooked in recent years and we want to make sure there is no graffiti in those small parks and everything is working properly. Eventually we hope to approach civic organizations about adopting a Tot Lot,” stated Suggs.

According to Hall, the library board of directors made a decision 16 years ago to start buying property around the main library on South Fourth Street to enhance the area.

“That decision has made a difference in our neighborhood with lawns and parking lots,” observed Hall.

“And now the Catholic Diocese of Steubenville has made the decision to invest $5 million in the Holy Name Cathedral that will see more enhancement. We are all Steubenville proud and love our community. We need to continue to move forward. It is time we quit beating ourselves up and look at our successes,” emphasized Mucci.

Petrossi said the new comprehensive plan is posted on the city’s website at www.cityofsteubenville.us.