WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Planning Commission has finished updating a plan outlining goals ranging from bringing new businesses to the county to extending water and sewer lines to unserved areas.
Approval of the updated Brooke County Comprehensive Plan will be considered by the Brooke County Commission at its next meeting at 10:30 a.m. March 7.
The meeting, to be held at the courthouse, was moved from the commission's usual Tuesday meeting time because the commissioners will be meeting with state legislators then to discuss various issues.
Mike Bachinski, planning commission chairman, said state law requires counties to update their comprehensive plans every five years.
Matt Reven, planning commission member, noted the first plan was developed in 2008 by the board itself because the county lacked funds to hire a consultant. He noted the board was assisted by Michael Daugherty, a community planning specialist with the West Virginia University Extension Service.
He said the biggest difference in the update are changes to population and age demographics.
According to the 2010 Census, the median age of Brooke County residents is about 46, with about 19 percent of the county age 65 and older.
The plan states the West Virginia University Regional Research Institute estimates more than 22 percent will be 65 or older by 2025, dropping to about 20 percent by 2050.
According to the institute, the county's current population is 24,839 and it's projected to drop to 24,766 next year, rising gradually to 26,860 - its population in 1990 - by 2050.
Bachinski noted the plan also acknowledges the arrival in recent years of the natural gas industry.
The plan noted hotels, restaurants and other local businesses have received a boost through patronage by workers in the natural gas industry.
Bachinski, who is employed in the industry, said materials also have been purchased from local businesses by gas-related companies as well.
The plan states Brooke County benefits from being in a wet gas zone, with higher levels of natural gas liquids such as ethane, butane, propane and pentane.
Companies involved in natural gas extraction and related industries have been added to the types of businesses the plan suggests county officials target. Others include those specializing in the production of polymers for automobiles, plumbing and other industries; steel framing, automotive stamping and other steel products; electronic equipment and parts; and services related to computers, health, retirement and tourism.
The plan notes a growing interest nationally in alternative energy sources, including the liquefaction of coal, and suggests county officials explore the county's potential role in their development.
It doesn't establish zones for specific development but suggests an effort be made to bring industries to areas that will create less impact on residential ones. It does suggest potential areas for large or small businesses, such as land at Follansbee's north end and Beech Bottom's south end and Wellsburg's central business district.
"If people are looking to invest or move into Brooke County, this gives them an idea where to go. It's like a business plan really," he said.
Bachinski said among the many who assisted with the plan's development were County Assessor Tom Oughton; County Emergency Management Director Bob Fowler, who changed the homeland security section to reflect current state policy; and Brooke Hills Park Manager Janice McFadden, who added future goals for the park.
He also thanked Reven, who will post the plan on the board's website at www.brookewv.org after the Brooke County Commission has adopted it.
When the original plan was developed in 2008, county officials noted it required them to adopt an ordinance for all-terrain vehicles.
The planning commission had proposed an ordinance in 2009 requiring ATV owners to obtain insurance, register with the county's tax department and display an identifying decal. It was in response to residents who complained of reckless ATV riders damaging their property, creating a hazard or disturbing the peace.
But the commission tabled the ordinance after hearing from ATV riders who questioned how it would be enforced against ATV owners who violate it. County officials noted it's impossible to say how many ATVs are in the county.
Last year the planning commission revisited the issue, saying registration would help to ensure the county receives thousands of dollars in property taxes for the vehicles.
Bachinski noted that proposal died after Steven Dale, commissioner of the state Division of Motor Vehicles, advised the commission it doesn't have the authority to register ATVs.
Bachinski said as a resident who pays taxes on his ATV, he hopes to educate other ATV owners about the county services provided through taxes on ATVs and other personal property.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)