Martinsburg plan packed with capital improvements

July 26, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - About $37 million will be needed in the next five years to carry out anticipated public and private improvements identified in a 2004 study to rehabilitate downtown Martinsburg, according to a draft of the city's comprehensive plan.

The estimated cost is identified in the proposed update of the city's comprehensive plan, which will be presented to the public today at 7 p.m. in a workshop format.

The workshop is being held to give city officials and residents an opportunity to review a draft of the city's plan for guiding residential and commercial development through 2026, replacing an older version in place since 1994.

A public hearing to consider suggestions for modifying the draft is expected to be scheduled at the Martinsburg Planning Commission's next regular meeting, Planning Director Michael Covell said this week.


The workshop presentation "should give the public enough of a scope of what we're trying to address," Covell said.

Depending on the outcome of the hearing, the commission could then recommend City Council approve the plan, which now is more than 175 pages in length and includes maps and illustrations, detailing land use and capital expenditure projections, among other facts.

Roger Lewis, City Council's representative on the Planning Commission, agreed the workshop would be a good opportunity for new residents to learn about what is envisioned for their newfound community.

Though the plan is not "written in stone," Lewis said it does establish a standard for the city's operation. City leaders want to make sure, and are required by law, to invite public input, he said.

Among key economic issues identified in the draft plan produced by GAI Consultants and Alpha Associates focus on the downtown area, which was the subject of a separate study completed in March 2004.

"Probably the most significant action for the City to revitalize the businesses downtown is to attract people to live there," the plan's authors state.

"This 'in-house' supply of customers is vital to local business conditions. While attracting people downtown will add to the profit margins on businesses along Queen Street, a core of regular customers must be handy if businesses are to succeed.

"These must come from either residents living nearby or workers in downtown offices and businesses. Adapting the upper floors of many of the vacant buildings in the Core area to residential use will provide living quarters for people who normally enjoy or are attracted to the convenience of a city-center existence: young singles, retired older citizens and single parents. The attractions, including recreational facilities and hiking/biking trails, have to be in place to make this effort a success."

Concerning development west of Interstate 81, the plan's authors recommended that "major attractors" such as large box retailers, be at the ends of a frontage road parallel to Interstate 81 for easy access.

"More moderate attractors should be located in the middle of the village and might include a grocery store, cinema or hotel/motel. Sufficient land should remain adjacent to I-81 to accommodate stormwater facilities, pocket parks, sidewalks and (a) hiking/biking trail."

Copies of the plan in Acrobat Adobe software format are available on compact disc for $1 at the city's planning office.

If you go

What: Workshop presentation of Martinsburg's comprehensive plan draft

Where: City Hall Council Chambers, 232 N. Queen St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

When: Today, 7 p.m.

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