The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

June 5, 2013

Public meeting Thursday on Mount Hope comprehensive plan

By C.V. Moore
The Register-Herald

MOUNT HOPE — The product of nearly a year and a half of work and a community visioning process, Mount Hope’s comprehensive plan is officially on the table for revision and comment starting Thursday.

At 6 p.m. that evening, the town will host a public meeting to discuss the plan at the Mount Hope Housing Authority building.

A copy is available at Town Hall or for download at cityofmounthope.org.

A comprehensive plan solidifies a community’s collective vision for its future and provides a legal basis for any land use ordinances. The ordinances must be in line with the plan’s vision.

The comprehensive planning process in Mount Hope was prompted in part by the anticipated request by the Boy Scouts of America for annexation of its 10,600-acre development, the Summit Bechtel Reserve, into town limits. Mount Hope would then have become the state’s fourth largest city by area.

At the last minute, the town put brakes on the action, deciding instead to develop a comprehensive plan so that it could pass and enforce land use ordinances if needed.

“Whether the Summit annexes or stays in the county, Mount Hope has to get ready for some growth,” the city’s attorney, Anna Ziegler, said at the time.

At the same council meeting in January 2012, the president of Trinity Works, Isaac Manning, who is heading up the Summit’s development, said the BSA was committed to going through the process with the town, but that a request for annexation in the future would come down to a “business decision.”

The BSA paid for the majority of the comprehensive plan’s development. A citizen committee was responsible for its contents.

The first paragraph of the 119-page document states, “The City is in the process of annexing the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, at the request of the Boy Scouts of America. After annexation, New River Gorge National River will form both the eastern boundary of the City of Mount Hope and a portion of the northern boundary.”

But it goes on to say that “if” annexation occurs, a small portion of the city will extend into Raleigh County.

“If the BSA wants to pick that back up and approach the city and say, ‘Yes, we are still of a mind that this is what we’d like to see happen,’ we’d consider doing that,” said Mount Hope Mayor Michael Martin.

But he suspects there won’t be any such moves until after the dust settles following this summer’s National Scout Jamboree, the first ever to be held at Mount Hope’s doorstep.

The plan also includes data and maps that reveal much about the city’s history, demographics and layout. A map entitled “Residential Development of Mount Hope, By Decade,” for instance, shows how white and African-American community members developed separate “cores,” as did coal company and non-coal company businesses.

The Mount Hope area has the highest percentage of African-American residents in Fayette County and is also home to one of the highest concentrations in the state.

Since area coal mines declined as a source of jobs in the 1950s, Mount Hope has also struggled with poverty. A full 30.3 percent of the city’s residents live at or below the poverty line, which is the highest rate in the county.

From that regrettable basis, the comprehensive plan’s authors hope to create “a vibrant, prosperous community that maintains a strong connection to the past, while working to create a green, healthy and sustainable future.”

They hope to encourage entrepreneurship and work to provide economic and social opportunities.

In the future, they want their community to be “known for its quality of life,” “(embrace) diversity,” and “(honor) the community’s history and qualities that make Mount Hope a great place to live, work and play.”

For instance, they hope for a lighted greenway connecting the city center to the W.Va. 16 corridor through a park built along Dunloup Creek, which was recently part of a federal floodplain buyout.

That’s just the one of many aspirations included in the plan. Others include an abundance of family-owned businesses, a commercial center on the U.S. 19 corridor, a pedestrian-friendly downtown and a variety of affordable housing options.

The document is chock-full of aspirations and realities and city planners hope it finds its way into as many hands of residents as possible on Thursday night.

After Thursday’s meeting, the plan will likely go before city council for a first reading next Tuesday and could be adopted the following month.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com