HUNTINGTON - Breanna Shell is a planner working in the City of Huntington's Department of Development and Planning. She has been working at the job since 2012, but sometimes people ask, "What does a city planner do?"
"The job entails running the gamut from everything to someone wanting to build a fence to construction of a new business in Huntington," Shell explained.
Shell says she believes the city is doing a better job of educating its residents on the types of projects that require building permits and those that do not need regulated.
"Lots of people call and we are fine with that and encourage it," she said. "Something like painting your house doesn't require a permit, unless you are working with a contractor and then the contractor does need to be licensed in the city."
The goal, Shell said, is to work with property owners, businesses and startup companies if they are not in compliance with building codes and laws. Shell manages the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Commission.
"They go through our process to see if their plans align with the city's zoning ordinance," she said. "We identify issues, if there are any, and work together to find resolutions to keep builders in compliance with the city's building ordinance."
Shell is also involved in community planning in helping neighborhood groups to advance their goals.
"I love all of the neighborhoods in Huntington," she said. "They all have unique attributes and assets, which is one of my favorite parts about the city."
Shell says she has done a lot of work with Huntington's west end with groups and committees that are focused on neighbors working together to make the West End better. She is an active participant in the River to Rail Project, a multi-pronged initiative to improve the West End through law enforcement, code enforcement, economic development and community outreach.
"Some of the things going on in Old Central City, 14th Street West, The Wild Ramp, the Central City's Farmers Market and the other commercial endeavors, as well as helping the residential component surrounding that," she said. "Planning involves long-term vision for the community, including fixing sidewalks, making the Gazebo more usable and helping navigate fund-raising projects. We also do some market studies and strategic thinking that will help us develop economic plans to attract more business to that area of Huntington."
Shell is also involved with the Fairfield neighborhood through the America's Best Communities Project.
"There are lots of high hopes for the revitalization plan for that neighborhood and it is a very exciting time for that community," she said.
Shell said downtown Huntington is also seeing several new businesses as well as many renovation projects underway or in the planning stages.
"There is so many good things going on in Huntington when it comes to economic development and revitalization," Shell said.
Shell began as an intern with the City of Huntington under the former planner, James Baldwin.
"It was after I graduated from master's program in planning at the University of Michigan," she said. "I worked for about a summer mostly part-time. Once the position came open in 2012, I applied."
Shell received her undergraduate degree from Denison University, located just outside of Columbus, Ohio.
Shell, 33, grew up in Waynesville, Ohio, located between Dayton and Cincinnati. She is the daughter of Jerry and Donna Shell and has two brothers, Mike and Scott.
"I graduated from Springboro High School in 2002," she said.
She ended up in Huntington after her husband began attending Marshall University. Today, her husband, Dr. Matthew Christiansen, is a board certified family physician in Huntington.
"We met in college and lived out west for a couple years," Shell said. "We traveled around for a short period and then he wanted to go back to school. He attended Marshall biomedical program for a year, then got into Marshall's med school. After that he did his residency and is now a physician in Huntington."
Shell is also proud of her involvement in "People Powered Huntington."
"It's an endeavor outside of work with a group of people advocating for needs of the bicycle and walking and running communities in Huntington," she explained. "Our vision is for Huntington to be a city of health and prosperity that has a safe and welcoming walking, running, cycling and exercise options for all ages and needs by advancing bicycle and pedestrian education."
For more information about the group, visit the website at www.peoplepoweredwv.com.
"I am also working with the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health (PATH) in Huntington," Shell said. "I believe Huntington is a very walkable and bike-friendly community with lots of cycling options, so we want to just keep building and expanding on this progress."
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