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Westmoreland residents get first glimpse at comprehensive plan

November 24, 2018

Nichole Smalley sat huddled at a small, round table at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg on Thursday as she highlighted the parts of Westmoreland County’s new comprehensive plan that she was ready to embrace.

“I’ve lived here most of my life and I am really excited about positive change and the inclusion of everybody,” Smalley said.

Smalley was one of dozens of people who came to the open house sponsored by the county’s planning department to discuss the new plan. The 110-page document, “Reimagining Our Westmoreland” is a blueprint for future growth over the next decade.

A second two-hour session was held Thursday night.

Planners spent the last two years meeting with citizens and local leaders to craft a plan officials hope will increase population, jobs and improve the quality of life in Westmoreland County.

For Smalley, a marketing assistant with the YWCA in Greensburg, the plan offers options for younger residents to take a lead in future growth.

“We have so many colleges and so many students with education and knowledge, they can bring a lot of growth to our community,” Smalley said.

Planners identified seven objectives and 38 different strategies designed to reverse a trend of dwindling population and stagnant job growth. It identifies more than 100 potential projects to reinvigorate the county.

Courtney DeCarlucci of Greensburg said she was excited about the proposal to promote a flourishing food-service industry to reconfigure the county as a restaurant hub.

“That’s a great idea. I know some people are resistant to change but we have to have a vibrant community,” DeCarlucci said.

Michael Storms, an executive with the Elliott Company in Jeannette and the president of the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, said he favors the section of the plan that calls for a more integrated use of the county’s parks and natural resources.

“I think this is an awesome challenge about how we can progress. I hope the municipalities embrace it,” Storms said.

Sister Edie Strong, a nun with the Sisters of Charity at Seton Hill, said the plan does not adequately address housing issues, specifically for senior citizens.

“It seems to be not central enough for me as a priority,” Strong said.

Rudy Fjellanger of Hempfield said he was disappointed by the overall plan.

“We’ve seen this done before and what’s changed since? Honestly, we’re just a fading and declining area in general,” Fjellanger said.

County planners will collect public comment on the plan for the next 45 days. A public hearing will be held to take formal comments on Dec. 17. County commissioners are scheduled to approve the final version of the plan on Dec. 20.

At that point, officials will begin in earnest to put the plan into motion.

The creation of seven regional planning districts will be formed where neighboring communities will work together to craft and implement specific projects identified in the plan.

The district comprised of the Alle-Kiski region of the county is expected to be convened first, within the next year. All seven districts are scheduled to complete local plans within the next four years.

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