County starts planning for future

Friday, February 20, 2009

Members of the Marshall County Planning Commission attended a workshop this week to get them started on developing a land use and transportation plan for the county.

The state planner for Marshall County, Kristin Costanzo, gave a power point presentation to the group of planning commissioners and others.

County Zoning and Codes office leader Don Nelson said the next day that he and Costanzo would be planning a series of community workshops, starting in the next few weeks, to get input from residents on how they would like to see the county develop in the next 20 years.

"It's good because it gets the county and the cities to work together," said Nelson. "This is like a more complete and detailed version of the growth plan. We need to get people motivated, interested, and involved."

At each public meeting, Nelson said, he and Costanzo would be trying to refine the land use plan, get consensus, and move forward.

Costanzo suggested that each person in the room start the planning process by compiling three lists: five things that make Marshall County unique, five things that they expect to see happen in the county in the next 20 years, and five things that they would like to see happen in the next 20 years. She called this process, "visioning."

"I'd like to see tourism be more of a major player," Costanzo said. She mentioned a trail she had enjoyed hiking: the "Virginia Creeper Trail," which runs for 35 miles from Abingdon Va. to the North Carolina state line. The trail, a former rail bed, is open to hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. It passes through the backcountry of southwest Virginia, an area rich in beauty and regional history. The trail was greeted with skepticism and resistance at first, but is now a major asset for the area.

"I wish we could get a trail to encircle the whole county," Costanza exclaimed.

The Duck River, said to be the most bio-diverse river in the world, is a great asset for Marshall County.

"You have good assets here," said Costanzo. "You just need to put it all together and get the public on board."

Nelson pointed out that now, when the poor economy had slowed down building and development, was the perfect time to work on plans for the future. He reminded the planning committee that they could create what they want to see in the county through the regulations they enact.