A LOOK BACK -- City planning commission president Curtis Wilkerson outlines a timeline for completion of the Buckhannon 2025 plan at a town hall meeting in January 2019.

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council unanimously passed the city’s comprehensive Buckhannon 2025 plan Thursday night at its bimonthly meeting.

Every ten years, West Virginia municipalities are directed to develop a plan for the city’s future “to provide direction to municipal leaders on the recommendations of stakeholders in the community,” according to the introduction of the plan.

Through monthly public meetings and work sessions, city residents were given the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns regarding Buckhannon’s economy, healthcare, school system and so on. In January, a town hall meeting was held and a survey that over 700 people responded was collected through the effort of a multitude of local stakeholders — both online and hardcopy.

“The Buckhannon Planning Commission expanded upon the work of the 2015 with an analysis of what had been completed to date, what could be considered no longer needed what was still left to be done,” said Curtis Wilkerson, president of the Buckhannon Planning Commission. “The 2025 plan took all of this data and compiled a draft for consideration for the Buckhannon City Council.”

As mayor David McCauley explained, the Buckhannon 2025 Plan is an advisory document prepared for city council members to consider – not a binding law.

The less than 20-page plan details standards and goals for the community, the city’s economic development, education, government services, healthcare, housing, infrastructure and recreation.

“Two of the most interesting findings of the planning process were that residents of the greater Buckhannon community feel good about the positive things happening in the area and that they see the value of more collaborative efforts between local government entities – much of which is already under way,” said Wilkerson.

Objectives for each section are listed with explanations and reasonings for the recommended goals. The 2025 Comprehensive Plan is available here for residents to view.

Specific goals under the ‘community’ section include offering suitable and affordable housing, continuing to maintain public spaces and a non-punitive parking plan, become more intentional about inclusion by making it a point to include everyone who wants to participate in city decision making and activities and initiate collaboration between the retirement community and the college community along with several other listed goals.

Regarding the city’s economic development, the plan suggests that the Buckhannon area should focus on innovation and partnerships. Currently in West Virginia, 87 percent of employers (in all industries) have fewer than 20 employees and 89 percent, overall, in the United States. These trends are expected to accelerate and continue, particularly in the Appalachian region.

With that in mind, the comprehensive plan’s recommended goals are to proactively encourage and provide support for innovation by attracting young professionals and other knowledgeable workers, nurture current partnerships and seek potential partners. Expanding existing assets by building new opportunities for outdoor recreation through maintaining and developing local sites and attracting, maintaining and encouraging downtown businesses are also included in the recommended goals.

Though public education is primarily controlled on a state level, the plan recommends several goals to enhance education in Buckhannon. The plan proposes to establish a functional relationship the City of Buckhannon, Upshur County School system and the Fred Eberle Technical Center by creating a committee to discuss initiatives, projects and/or activities. The plan also suggests that Buckhannon continue to support the local school levy and any school bonds that may be put before the public.

McCauley said Friday inclusivity was one of the running themes throughout the plan.

“I think the Planning Commission did an outstanding job on this and should be commended,” he said. “You’ll notice in multiple sections where it references inclusivity and making everyone in this town feel welcome and that’s something we’ve been working on and something we’ll continue to strive for.”