By Lon Anderson
Special to the Examiner
Hardy County’s position as a leader in land use planning in West Virginia received a major boost last week when County Planner Melissa Scott was honored at a statewide planning conference.
The two-day conference, held May 3 and 4, was officially titled “The First Annual Statewide Mountain State Land Use Academy” and drew approximately 100 attendees, according to Scott. It was held at The Resort in Glade Spring in Daniels, WV.
Most recently, as Hardy County’s planner, Scott has been leading the county Planning Commission’s efforts to update the County’s comprehensive land use plan. The updated plan is now before the County Commission for final approval, an action that is expected soon.
Scott said she was surprised and gratified to have received the award and praised the conference for having “really helped me put things in perspective.” She noted how much better Hardy County has it than so many other West Virginia Counties. “ I wish we could all realize how lucky we are and work together to make (the county) better in ways we all agree are ‘better’.”
At the conference, she served as a discussion facilitator and as a panelist discussing planning success stories in WV. On that panel, she “bragged about how many Hardy County citizens have made sacrifices of time and resources because as early as the 1960’s they realized that they might lose the things they loved most about the community if they didn’t formulate a formal plan to preserve them.”
She noted it’s because Hardy County has been doing land use planning for 50 years that we can now focus on balancing “different philosophies of how we want to manage our growth and prosperity while other communities are literally fighting for their lives.”
Many WV communities, she said, never had planning and are now fighting to recuperate from the effects of unmanaged growth and extractive industry with no planning, no standards, and no proactive innovation. Much of the focus on the conference, she said, was focused on dealing with dilapidated buildings and abandoned properties.
“When I compared this to our struggles to gain support as we try to find ways to innovate, diversify and manage growth while keeping our culture and beauty, I realize how lucky we are to have our problems,” said Scott, who has been the county planner here since November of 2012. Prior to coming here, Scott spent six years as the Planning Administrator for Greenbrier County.
She noted that she was honored for the success story that we have had in Hardy County in our land use planning efforts. Much of our success and leadership, she said, has been because Hardy County enacted and has been able to maintain a viable zoning program.
That, she said, combined with building codes, is the number one way to prevent the
dilapidated buildings issue that so much of the rest of the state is grappling with.
One of the conference attendees, Scott said, told her “he had recently travelled through Hardy County for the first time and thought it was some of the ‘most unspoiled’ country in the state.” That, she said, is at least partly “the result of having some regulation and land use planning in place here” for so long.
One other Hardy County resident, Tom Widder from the Moorefield Planning Commission, was nominated for an award as “Outstanding Citizen Planner” at the conference, according to Scott.