Ideas sought to update plan for Marietta

For the last eight months Marietta’s newly-reconstituted Development Advisory Board has been meeting regularly to review a document titled, “Pioneering the Future. Marietta’s City Comprehensive Plan.”

The plan includes a list of 44 recommendations originally established by the DAB a decade ago to help guide future development of the Pioneer City. Some of those recommendations-like the construction of a new Marietta Municipal Court-have come to fruition. Others, including the renovation of the National Guard Armory and an accompanying business plan for that facility, are still being developed.

The seven-member board is now preparing to update the document, but first wants the community to know where the plan currently stands.

“It’s been a long while since we’ve discussed the plan with the community, so we want to bring the public up to speed on where we are and get people excited about continuing the comprehensive plan,” said Bill McElfresh, president of the DAB.

The board has scheduled a public informational session from 6:30 to 8 p.m. May 15 in the Graham Auditorium at Washington State Community College.

“We’ll probably go over some of the top 10 recommendations that were made back in 2003 and present a ‘report card’ on where those recommendations now stand, then show some of our strategy for moving forward,” McElfresh said.

He noted that public participation played a key role in developing the 2003 comprehensive plan, and community input will be essential as the board seeks to develop new recommendations in the future.

Originally called the Development Advisory Committee, the board, appointed by the mayor, was established by city ordinance in 1974 and has served off and on for the last 38 years. Members are appointed for five-year terms.

Current board members include McElfresh, Mallory Greenham, Alan Norris, Nancy Ann Cervantes, Melissa Schafer, Joe Bucy and Karen Weaver.

Prior to resurrecting the board with new members last August, the previous DAB had been appointed in January 2002 by Mayor Joe Matthews during his previous term of office.

“The board was originally established because there were several city projects being proposed at one time and it was too much for the council and administration to handle,” Matthews said Tuesday. “So an initiative was put on the ballot and passed that allowed the mayor to appoint a board to help guide the city’s development.”

McElfresh, who was also a member of the 2002 board, said after the comprehensive plan was finalized in 2003 the DAB continued to meet for a couple of years, but had essentially become inactive until Matthews was elected back into office and revived the group in 2012.

“When Joe came back into office he wanted to know where we were with the comprehensive plan,” McElfresh said. “So he asked if I would chair the group, and I agreed.

Matthews said he tried to appoint board members that would represent each of the city’s four wards and who were conscientious about the city’s future.

“I think we have a good group-these people are all volunteers and have put in a lot of time reviewing the original comprehensive plan and coming up with new ideas for the city, and I’m hoping people will listen to their recommendations and participate in the process,” he said.

Council president Walt Brothers agreed.

“It doesn’t matter how fast you go if you don’t know where you’re headed,” he said. “I’ve had a career that involved long-term planning, and I’ve seen the DAB’s original report. It was very good. But things can change over time, so you need both foresight and consistency in the planning process.”

Brothers added that input from the community is also vital to keeping the city’s comprehensive plan viable going into the future.