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Editorial: Long-range plan for city big step forward

Nov. 04, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

What do we hope Huntington will look like in 10 years?

The city has seen many positive developments in recent years — revitalization efforts in downtown and the Fairfield neighborhood, lower crime rates, new construction at Marshall University, a vibrant health care industry, an expanding trail system, a growing arts and tourism scene and new vitality at KineticPark.

But Huntington also faces big challenges — declining public infrastructure, limited housing opportunities, an aging population, down-scale demographics and our region’s slow-growth economy.

The city also has areas of untapped potential from possible riverfront development to economic growth related to the emerging Heartland Corridor.

Like any progressive city, it is time to be planning and looking ahead. But as readers know, that has not always been a priority for Huntington city government. Officials spent too much of the past decade just trying to get from week to week.

So, it is very encouraging to see Mayor Steve Williams and his staff unveiling “Plan 2025: The Future of Huntington,” the city’s first effort at a comprehensive plan since 1996.

Work on the plan began in 2011 and already has involved significant input from the community through forums,  neighborhood organizations and conversations with other organizations and institutions such as Marshall. It divides the city into 10 sections, generally along the line of neighborhood associations, and considers what stakeholders are hoping for in each area.

Although comprehensive plans are typically thought of as land use plans, Plan 2025 is broader, considering for each area:

  •  The look: Land use, housing, community design and historic preservation.
  •  Growth: Economic development, redevelopment and financing.
  •  Connections: Public services, infrastructure, flooding and stormwater, transportation, green space and recreation.

    City Planner Breanna Shell also noted that Plan 2025 will explore quality-of-life topics and should be an evolving document that can be adjusted and updated as change occurs. It is clear that a great deal of work and consideration has gone into the plan already, and we commend the city staff and planning commission members for that effort.

    “If anybody is concerned about the city’s decline during the past 40 years,” Williams said this week, “They will view the comprehensive plan as a critical component of our growth for the next 40 years.”

    It will be a big step forward to have that framework for making important future decisions.
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