ﾑPlanning to planﾒ idea stirs emotion
Arguments for and against comprehensive planning are nothing new in Pocahontas County and when the issue arose at Tuesdayﾒs county commission meeting, it brought forth not only arguments, but promises of ﾓvocal and organized opposition.ﾔ
County Coordinator Jay Miller briefed commissioners on guidelines to comprehensive planning as defined in West Virginia Code.
Miller said the code states that counties with comprehensive plans must update them by June, 2014; further, he said, the code implicitly states that counties without plans should have them by the same date. The coordinator said plans could be crucial in qualifying for state programs like Department of Health and Human Services, transportation, economic development and state grants.
ﾓI donﾒt think the discussion should be whether or not planning is a good idea,ﾔ he said, but that we are gong to have a plan and how we are going to do it.
ﾓWe should plan for planning,ﾔ Miller said. ﾓI think that would be a good place to start.ﾔ
He first drew fire from County Commissioner Reta Griffith, who disliked the idea that municipalities should be included in the plan. Griffith contended that Durbin, Marlinton and Hillsboro are separate political entities and should develop their own plans.
Miller said the towns should be asked to be included in a comprehensive plan, noting that Marlintonﾒs public safety issues might be one area where a county and municipal plan might overlap.
Further, he said, counties can be a part of a regional comprehensive plan with other counties.
He advised commissioners to look at planning commissions in other counties to determine success and failure rates.
ﾓGreenbrier (County) is another example of a meltdown in the planning process,ﾔ Miller said.
Pocahontasﾒ southern neighbor spent several months with a hired consultant who prepared a plan based on surveys, public meetings and other citizen input.
Greenbrier County commissioners pulled the planning rug out from under the dozens of their residents who had worked on the plan, voting 2-1 in February to reject the proposal.
Longtime planning opponent John Leyzorek told commissioners to forget planning.
ﾓI hear the sound of a freight train in here,ﾔ Leyzorek said. ﾓPlanning is a wonderful concept as an individual. As a government, itﾒs compulsion.ﾔ
Leyzorek said the county commission would be ﾓwell-advised to stay away from the whole idea,ﾔ bringing up the argument that planning will lead to the loss of property rights for individuals.
ﾓThe county commission will run into vocal and organized opposition to planning,ﾔ Leyzorek warned.
Miller said land use planning is but one of the components of a comprehensive plan, which should also include plans for housing, transportation, infrastructure, public services, recreation and economic development, among others. The plan may also address history, the environment, tourism, conservation, safety and natural resources.
Commission president Martin Saffer said another segment of the countyﾒs residents believe planning is valuable.
ﾓThe commission must be brave enough to include in the process all the various points of view,ﾔ Saffer said. ﾓIndustry, farming, business, natural resources and various other points of view and begin a mature, adult dialogue.
ﾓWe live in a group whether you like it or not,ﾔ Saffer told Leyzorek. ﾓWe live in society.ﾔ
Griffithﾒs other beef with comprehensive planning stemmed from Safferﾒs idea that he would invite representatives of local groups to be involved in the process.
ﾓYou cannot do this in a closed group,ﾔ she maintained. ﾓYou canﾒt say, ﾑyouﾒre invited, youﾒre not.ﾒﾔ
Griffith picked up on Leyzorekﾒs reference to a ﾓgroundswellﾔ of public opinion in favor of planning. She agreed that groundswell had to occur.
ﾓPeople only care when itﾒs in their backyard,ﾔ she said.
She did, however, offer an alternative to comprehensive planning.
ﾓIﾒd rather do strategic plans with a listing of goals, rather than passing ordinances that we have to come back and enforce,ﾔ she said. ﾓWe need to try to do goals that people can get behind.ﾔ
She suggested the CreateWV model, which defines assets and goals in technology and communication, arts and education and ﾓthird places,ﾔ where people gather to socialize.
Saffer asked for respect for all views, including those against planning and those in favor of it.
In other business, the commission:
ﾕheard from Elaine Diller, who updated them on the survey concerning post-secondary education in the county. Diller said the survey results show enthusiasm for the concept. Griffith also took exception to the survey results, calling it premature to be gathering information about a facility when New River Community and Technical College already has Pocahontas County students who commute to Lewisburg. Miller said he and Diller are just in the ﾓdata gathering stageﾔ of the project.
ﾕapproved for Farmland Protection easements the properties of Doneen Nottingham, of Bartow, and Lynn Randolph, of Hillsboro.
ﾕheard from Beth Little and LynnMarie Knight about the Water Task Forceﾒs progress, including a successful public meeting at Hillsboro and plans for others in Green Bank and Slaty Fork.
ﾕapproved a resolution and sponsorship agreement for the preservation of the Camp Bartow Civil War site.
ﾕapproved the extension of the Appalachian Waters Byway Visitor Center Transportation Enhancement Project extension agreement.
ﾕapproved an in-house budget revision for the circuit clerk for $78.
ﾕrefined and prioritized the list of courthouse improvements to be the existing annex roof, boiler at the old jail and the HVAC system.
The commission meets again in regular session May 18.