NRGRDA

As 2022 arrives, the process of completing an update of the 10-year comprehensive plan for Fayette County marches on.

The plan is being developed by the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA), and community input is guiding future growth and development opportunities, according to a press release from the NRGRDA via the Asher Agency.

Jenna Grayson, NRGRDA's manager of strategic partnerships, has been spearheading the six-stage process with local elected leaders and other stakeholders.

"We have just completed the existing conditions memo of the planning process, and that has been eye-opening and will be pivotal to the final 10-year strategic plan for the county," said Grayson. "The community should be commended for its invaluable contributions in meetings, written comments and surveys."

"The planning portion of the process should be complete by late spring/early summer," said Grayson. "Once the planning document is complete, the Fayette County Planning Commission will have the opportunity to make comments and vote. From there, the county commission will comment on the final document, and after any revisions, will vote to adopt the plan."

Grayson added that the Fayette County Commission is already using the existing conditions memo to support decisions around broadband, infrastructure and federal ARPA funding. She said local leaders have also shared the document with state legislators to use during the upcoming legislative session.

Grayson said designation of the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, an ongoing emphasis on outdoor recreation and tourism, and growth in small business development is expected to add a new flavor to past strategic plans for Fayette County moving forward.

The existing conditions memo is an interim report summarizing the initial steps of the planning process for the comprehensive plan. It strives to answer the question "Where is Fayette County today?" The report contains information and documentation collected and analyzed during the initial steps of the planning process and identifies positive aspects of the community as well as subjects of concern to residents and other Fayette County stakeholders.

According to Grayson, the report doesn't offer recommendations or policies, which will come later in the planning process.

Three steps remain in completing the comprehensive plan — visioning, preliminary plan elements and policies, and crafting the final plan document and adoption.

Elements of the plan include: Land use, housing, transportation, infrastructure, public services, rural, recreation, economic development, community design, preferred development areas, renewal and/or redevelopment, financing and historic preservation.

Professionals at Houseal Lavigne Associates of Chicago are engaged by the county and NRGRDA to gather data and community input and compile progress reports.

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A link to the Fayette County comprehensive plan process can be found at https://www.hlplanning.com/portals/fayettecountycompplan/. To view the ECM, visit https://www.hlplanning.com/portals/fayettecountycompplan/2021/11/22/existing-conditions-memo/ and click on the applicable tab.

The ECM offers a deep dive into Fayette County demographics, possibilities and plans.

Among the sections of the memo is a refresher course on the county's 2001 comprehensive plan, as well as a 2011 update of that plan. In 2001, among the key goals was to achieve growth and development through desired land use and development patterns. At the time, critical components included development service districts, activity centers in areas such as Mount Hope, Oak Hill, Fayetteville, Montgomery and Gauley Bridge "in which clustered and mixed-use development should be encouraged," rural/agricultural conservation districts, community centers and highway corridor districts.

The 2011 update revised goals by stressing that the New Haven District's natural beauty and scenic qualities be maintained, that home-based, internet-related employment opportunities should be supported, and that efforts to sustain tourism should be expended. In the 2011 plan, an update was provided on several projects, including the Fayette Plateau Regional Water Project, which brought new public water service to numerous county households.

Public meetings at that time also highlighted several new issues including the need for high-speed internet within the New Haven Planning District, coordinated aesthetics between municipalities in the Plateau Planning District, and protection of environmental and viewshed qualities.

Also included in the memo are references to a 2014 urban transit system study, a 2018 study on broadband in the county, a 2045 regional transportation plan update from 2019, and the West Virginia State Broadband Plan 2020-25.

Municipal comprehensive plans, which are "key considerations" in the overall planning process, were also briefly outlined. Among the areas of focus in those plans were downtown revitalization, residential growth, short-term rentals, tourism and arts economy, and addressing housing conditions.

As the county peers ahead to the future, the memo details a steady population decline in Fayette County over the years. With that as a backdrop, it additionally looks at local job strengths and weaknesses, largest employers (which includes some employers that are no longer applicable), parks and recreation, infrastructure, public services, the Fayette County Unified Development Code (UDC), land use development factors, transportation and mobility, a real estate market assessment, poverty index, schools and many other areas of interest.

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The NRGRDA's mission is to initiate, facilitate and support the economic and community development efforts within Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh and Summers counties. NRGRDA stimulates the regional economy through business expansion and retention efforts, including an extensive portfolio of financial services; the management of sites for new companies locating to the region; and serving as a point of access for local service providers which offer a variety of technical assistance for business owners.

The West Virginia Hive is the entrepreneurship program of the NRGRDA and the administrator of the Country Roads Angel Network (CRAN). CRAN serves all 55 counties of the Mountain State, offering emerging businesses early stage, seed funding to bring their creations to market.

The Hive has served 331 businesses and helped launch 44 businesses in its 12-county service area. It is currently assisting 74 clients with business advising and technical assistance support on business modeling, financing, human resources, marketing and other services.

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