Update on city’s development plan

The turnout was a bit light for Wednesday’s report card to the community by the Marietta Development Advisory Board as more than 20 people heard a status report on the Marietta City Comprehensive Plan originally adopted in 2003.

“Although it was developed in 2003, this is currently still the active plan for Marietta’s development, and the mayor wanted us to do an assessment to see where we stand with the current plan,” said Bill McElfresh who chairs the DAB.

The board was initially created in 2002, during current Mayor Joe Matthews’ first administration, to prepare the city comprehensive plan in response to a moratorium on construction of a proposed new municipal building.

The 2003 plan, titled “Pioneering the Future” originally included 44 recommendations on how the city’s future development should take place, McElfresh explained.

“Out of those 44 we developed a top 10 list, then prioritized those recommendations,” he said.

On Wednesday he ran through those initial top 10 recommendations and said over the last several months the board had determined whether each recommendation had been accomplished, and to what extent. The community report card was the result of those efforts.

Among the recommendations completed was development of a new justice center (the new Marietta Municipal Court, opened last year); and combining the Harmar Merchants Association Marietta Merchants Association and the Friends of Front Street downtown development groups under one umbrella, known now as ReStore Marietta.

Several other recommendations were either acted on partially or not at all, according to the report card.

Those include extending the River Trail across the Harmar Railroad Bridge (15 percent done); determine a best use and business plan for the National Guard Armory building (5 percent completed); developing an indoor recreation center for the community (15 percent done); establishing an historic preservation ordinance (10 percent done); and establishing a comprehensive land use development plan (0 percent completed).

The report card presented Wednesday night is available on the city web site at www.mariettaoh.net, along with the original comprehensive plan.

McElfresh said the next step after the report card assessment will be a public comment period that will begin in September and October of this year, along with public hearings to obtain new recommendations and compile new data for an updated comprehensive plan.

He said the DAB would write the new plan between November of this year and February, 2014, and will present a final draft of the new 2014-2024 comprehensive plan by March, 2014.

Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, and chairman of the city’s planning, zoning, annexation and housing committee, thanked McElfresh and the other seven board members for their work on the plan assessment.

“It’s important that we all take a good long look at this,” he said. “Long-term planning is vital to the city’s development.”

Matthews said he had talked to city council president Walt Brothers about the plan and recommended that each of the seven council members be assigned to work one of the plan’s recommendations.

Brothers agreed, but noted there are issues that have to be overcome before some of the plan’s recommendations can be completed.

“Quite frankly, one of the biggest problems is money. That’s a big stumbling block to our progress on some of these issues,” he said. “That’s something large cities can overcome because they have the resources, but the smaller your city, the less resources you have. In the long-term, people will have to work together to make these things come about.”

McElfresh said the DAB attempted to develop the comprehensive plan so that it works beyond the politics that may crop up as new mayors and new councils are elected.

“It doesn’t really matter who’s in office, these recommendations are designed to be assets for our community,” he said.