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Guest column/Here’s why Steubenville needs a comprehensive plan

October 23, 2011
By CHRIS PETROSSI , The Herald-Star

Why does Steubenville need a comprehensive plan?

The City of Steubenville has begun the process of preparing a new comprehensive plan. But what is a comprehensive plan, and why does Steubenville need one?

A comprehensive plan is an assessment of a community's current and projected future problems, trends, resources and opportunities. Based upon a review of past and current planning initiatives, community characteristics, input from citizens, government and the business sector, a concept plan for physical, economic and community development is prepared. Comprehensive plans include recommendations for policies and specific activities such as land use, streets and transportation, housing, utilities, public facilities including parks and schools and historic preservation. They also include specific information concerning plan implementation. They provide a blue print for a community's future growth and development.

Steubenville's last comprehensive planning effort was completed in 1964. The plan was envisioned to be a 20-year plan and involved many citizens and public officials at the time. At that time, Steubenville's population was projected to steadily increase through 1985 and the business community was expected to continue to prosper. We all know now that circumstances have caused these expectations to fall short. In order for a comprehensive plan to be useful and not gather dust, it must provide a vision for the community that the citizens, business sector and public officials can embrace and must be sustainable. The current (1964) comprehensive plan has not been an effective guide for our community for a number of years, and now, with the challenges and opportunities we face, is a proper time to begin a new plan, a plan that is long overdue. Steubenville is a much different community than it was in 1964, and while we can't forget our history, we need to look forward - not back.

In 2010, Steubenville Council identified the need for a new comprehensive plan as a top priority and in 2011, authorized the Steubenville Planning and Zoning Commission to begin the planning process. The new plan is expected to establish a common vision for policies on growth and development, historic preservation and revitalization. It is expected to provide a blueprint for land use and development decisions consistent with community goals and expectations concerning how the public wants the community to grow. It is expected to act as a legal basis for short-term decisions and ensure they are consistent with long-term policies. Comprehensive plans also are valuable because more grant funding agencies are giving priority to projects identified in comprehensive plans. Some developers and investors also view communities with active comprehensive planning programs as more favorable because it indicates that such communities have a vision and are investing in their future. Any plan which results, however, must be realistic and sustainable. It must be revisited often to see where course changes may be needed, then adjusted accordingly.

Steubenville has begun the process by meeting with local stakeholders, people from neighborhood groups, businesses, area institutions and governmental agencies to listen to their thoughts concerning the city's problems and opportunities. Future opportunities for public involvement also are being planned. I urge everyone to become involved in the planning process. Watch the media for announcements of future opportunities and share your thoughts with community leaders. We all want our city to be successful and be a healthy, vibrant and prosperous community and working together we can all achieve these goals.

There is an old saying in municipal government circles, "communities that fail to plan are planning to fail." Steubenville will not be one of those communities that fail.

(Petrossi is Steubenville's urban projects director.)

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