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City of Buckhannon Planning Commission President Dr. Susan Aloi / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Planning commission discusses the need to establish a timeline for comprehensive plan goals

BUCKHANNON – The Buckhannon Planning Commission decided the most efficient way to compile planning priorities is to sit down with city council members.  

At their Jan. 17 meeting, Planning Commission members discussed an idea brought forth by city council member Dave Thomas to organize a meeting between council and the Planning Commission.

“It has been suggested to me by Councilman Thomas, and I don’t dislike the idea, that in the past we have collectively come into this room, put up the whiteboard and the white pieces of paper and determined what our goals were for the community,” Mayor Robbie Skinner said. “He is suggesting some individual planning and what we think as council members – and this could be for the planning commission members as well – to think about what we would like to see in the community and then come together in a meeting to share.”

Planning Commission president Susan Aloi said the planning commission is required to compile a 10-year comprehensive plan, but a shorter-term plan should also be done. The Buckhannon 2025 Plan was finalized in July 2019.

“We’re required to do that long-term 10-year plan, I know it’s required by [West Virginia State] code, but it’s too long of a timeframe,” Aloi said. “For good planning three to five years is preferable.”

The last time the planning commission made a plan, they were intentionally vague, with no timeframe, she added.

“We can’t tell city council they need to do this first and then they need to do that next or we can’t tell them they need to do anything, so we just bullet-pointed things and then we’ve been looking at a section at a time — that’s how the Parks and Rec board came up,” Aloi said. “Elkins is doing their plan now and they did hire a facilitator, but they developed a plan with goals, priorities, deadlines and timelines, so that’s how you get things done.”

The Planning Commission is an advisory board to city council, which means they can advise council about what actions to prioritize, but it is not a decision-making body. Aloi said she knows the Planning Commission acts in an advisory capacity and can’t make any final decisions, but she wants to develop a strategy moving forward.

“I think we could put together a more intentional planning process; I know you don’t like real detailed timelines that we have to stick to, but I think what was done last time was perfect up to a point. It’s just that the ideas were aggregated and then there was no prioritization of them or further discussion of them. I finalized the document, shared it and then since then, individual council people would come up with an idea and it would get done.”

Skinner said he would look into scheduling a joint Buckhannon City Council and Planning Commission meeting to establish a timeline for the city’s priorities.

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