The City holds a public consultation session as part of an overall planning process

March 4—MORGANTOWN — Katie See knows the importance of a good plan.

Well she should.

The West Virginia native spent 14 years working as an urban planner in Charles Town, Clearwater, Florida and the Charlotte area.

On Thursday, she was on the other side of the process – one of about 50 residents of a Morgantown event center making her voice heard as part of the city’s overall planning process.

State code requires cities to update their comprehensive plans every 10 years. Thursday was the first opportunity for the public to participate as the city charts the roadmap it will use to navigate the next decade.

The city hired consultancy firm Rhodeside & Harwell to help with the months-long process. Ron Sessoms is the project manager.

“It defines community goals and guides decision-making — goals that are developed by understanding what the community’s vision is,” Sessoms explained. “That’s why meetings like tonight are so important, because we have the opportunity to get your perspective and use what we hear to influence plan recommendations.”

Sessoms and his team opened the session by laying out where Morgantown is today, both the benefits and the challenges.

The city offers quality educational opportunities at all levels. It has proud, historic, and largely walkable neighborhoods, miles of green space, and a strong sense of community.

It is also dominated by a university which owns 29% of its land and some 23% of the properties of the community.

And it faces an aging building stock and an explosion of growth in its periphery. Between 2002 and 2019, the number of people working within a mile of the city limits jumped 43%.

After the opening presentation, attendees toured various stations, discussing topics such as parks/open spaces, housing and equity, economic development, land use, and transportation.

Like See, Paige Wantlin engaged in the process on many levels.

As a graduate student seeking a master’s degree in public administration with a focus on community development, Wantlin said she was thrilled to see the entire planning process in action firsthand.

But as a resident of Morgantown, she had a few issues she would like to see resolved, mainly walking and housing.

“As a student, one of the biggest issues for me is the lack of affordable housing. Finding affordable, quality housing can be difficult,” Wantlin said. “Since I moved into my apartment three years ago, my rent has gone up twice. It continues to go up every year.”

A second public contribution session, this one virtual, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

To register for this meeting, learn more about the planning process, or take an online survey, visit As for Thursday, Morgantown Director of Developmental Services Rickie Yeager said said he was delighted with the turnout.

“People are engaged, and that’s what’s exciting,” Yeager said, noting there will be opportunities beyond Saturday for audience engagement.

“Our consultants will go back and summarize everything we’ve heard so far, and with that, they’ll start putting together a draft plan. Once that draft is available, we’ll come back and present the components of that plan. .to get more community feedback and develop it further.

Louisa R. Loomis