MARIETTA - Planning for the city's future and keeping the community involved in the process is the basic mission of Marietta's Development Advisory Board, reassembled Monday after a hiatus of several years.
"The first thing we want to do is develop some kind of report card format on where we are with the comprehensive plan the DAB put together nearly 10 years ago," said Bill McElfresh, president of the seven-member board.
The plan, entitled "Pioneering the Future," contains 44 recommendations for city development over 30 years.
"By statute we had to have this plan developed back in 2003," McElfresh said. "But times change and priorities have changed, and the plan has to change also. Some things we had in the plan have been done, others have not been accomplished or have been partly done."
He noted the development of a new justice center was among the top 10 recommendations in the comprehensive plan, and that project was completed this year with construction of the new Marietta Municipal Court facilities.
Another top 10 recommendation was development of a business plan and renovation of the National Guard Armory. That project is still ongoing, with some work done, including the parking lot, landscaping, and most recently installation of new windows and doors.
"But they went after grant money first, then developed a business plan-just the opposite of what the comprehensive plan recommended," McElfresh noted. "The (municipal court project) was done according to the plan's recommendations."
He said the DAB will begin its review of the plan with a look at the business and economic development recommendations.
"There are eight or nine of those," McElfresh said. "And we'll eventually look at all of the recommendations to see what has and has not been done."
Originally called the Development Advisory Committee, the board, appointed by the mayor, was established by city ordinance in 1974 and has served off and on for the last 38 years. Members are appointed for five-year terms.
The last DAB was appointed in January 2002 by Mayor Joe Matthews during his previous term of office.
"The board was created to develop a comprehensive plan for the city as part of a moratorium placed on building a new city hall and justice center," Matthews explained Tuesday.
City voters approved the two-year moratorium during the 2001 general election. The ballot issue also directed the city administration to create a forward-looking comprehensive plan for future city development.
In October 2003, after months of work that included several public meetings to gain citizen input, the DAB completed its comprehensive plan.
The DAB remained fairly active through 2005 and into 2006, but was not used a lot during the second term of Mayor Michael Mullen's administration, which ended in December 2011.
"The board came up with a very comprehensive development plan, but the former mayor didn't use it much, so when I came back into office this year one of my priorities was to get the DAB back up and running," Matthews said. "And I think we have a good cross-section of individuals that are looking at long-term planning for the city."
Mullen was out of town and not available for comment Tuesday.
The new board members include McElfresh, Mallory Greenham, Alan Norris, Nancy Ann Cervantes, Melissa Schafer, Joe Bucy and Karen Weaver.
Matthews, city safety-service director Jonathan Hupp, development specialist Cheyenne Oaks and city council president Walt Brothers will also be in attendance at the DAB's monthly meetings.
"Joe and I had talked about this board long before the election," Brothers said. "Part of my background has been as a planner, and it just makes sense to have a plan to follow for city development."
He pointed to the city of Pittsburgh as an example after the steel mills began shutting down in the late 1970s.
"That city was dying, but they got people involved with planning who were active in civic offices, as well as business people and the public in general," Brothers said. "They turned the city around. Now Pittsburgh is listed as one of the country's most desirable places to live."
He said the comprehensive plan can do the same for Marietta.
"It asks what kind of city do we want to see in the future," Brothers said. "And 95 percent of the input on the plan will come from the public."