Barrackville Planning Commission focuses short term with comprehensive plan

Jan. 18—BARRACKVILLE — Change, especially in government, does not come slowly.

That was the sentiment Tuesday from Barrackville Planning Commission President Bob Pirner when he used an old saying to kick off a town hall about comprehensive planning.

"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time," he said.

In December, he and his fellow commissioners presented their 75-page comprehensive plan to the town's council for approval. Tuesday night, the commissioners fielded questions and concerns from the community about the possible impacts of the plan.

Within the pages are big-picture changes to the town. Things such as annexation of neighboring land and a new rail-trail making use of a section of abandoned railroad stretching through the town.

However, Tuesday night Pirner asked the community members in attendance to turn their attention to the few action items that are happening right now, laying the groundwork for the big changes.

"Land use, recreation, quality of life and public safety. We believe those are the pillars of a strong community," Pirner said. "That's what Barrackville should continue to focus on moving forward."

The plan lists action items that will bring short-term progress. Several of the proposed items have already been implemented by council.

Listed are simple fixes, such as updating town ordinances and rethinking road maintenance and holding more community events, but there are also bigger projects such as extending the Pike Street sidewalk, enforcing the town's business and occupation tax and creating additional recreation options.

As far as recreation options are concerned, the town has already begun to explore the possibility of renovating and refurbishing Lewis Hall Field, which has fallen into disrepair.

"[The ballpark] could be such a little jewel," Pirner said. "I've gone down there and walked the little trail and there's a lot of potential there."

The hope is to secure funding and fix up the two little league fields, add pickle ball courts and maybe even a bocce ball court. Lewis Hall Field is the only park owned by the town. The only other recreation amenities are owned by the school.

The town council has also begun to update ordinances and reconsider the town's zoning laws. Currently, all the zoning laws in Barrackville are unenforceable, but updates are ready to be proposed. The town has also hired a code enforcement officer and plans to crack down on blighted and abandoned buildings.

Each of these pieces play a part in "eating the elephant," as Pirner put it. These small moves will make it that much easier to move toward the major projects the comprehensive plan also lays out.

A rail trail

Leaning on the success of rail trails in communities close to Barrackville, the town has started investigating the possibility of creating its own segment of rail trail in a partnership with nearby municipalities.

Leading that investigation is Andy Tennant, a town councilmember who also serves on the planning commission. Tuesday, Tennant was asked about the rail trail idea and said it's probably 10 years away at least.

"We're in the preliminary phases of assessing what this might look like," Tennant said. "We looked at possibly breaking the project into phases, but bottom line is we're 10 years out before any of that happens. We want to just do the research and lay the groundwork."

To have a feasibility study conducted, it could cost $50- to $100,000, according to Tennant.

But that doesn't kill the hope for the idea. With a partnership between the municipalities along that rail line, that $100,000 price tag starts to look smaller.

"We're still digging into the 'how,'" Tennant said. "It'll take a collaborative effort between all the small communities around here."


The comprehensive plan lays out three areas near Barrackville that the town could possibly look toward annexing in the future.

One is a small spot of land near the covered bridge that contains two houses and a section of the railroad that would be needed to begin any rail trail projects.

The other two are much larger tracks of land. The first of which includes the Marion County Soccer Complex, the second includes portions of US 250 North up to the Fairmont city limits.

Similar to the rail trail project, annexation is a lengthy process. The idea allows Barrackville to expand and clean up the surrounding area while also adding to the amenities within the town limits.

"Some of these areas are kind of out in no man's land out in the county and the county doesn't have the resources to enforce property codes and what not," Planning Commission Vice President Alex Neville said. "Had Barrackville annexed these areas before, there wouldn't be the blight we see in those areas now."

What's next

The comprehensive plan is out of the planning commission's hands for the time being. In December, the commission presented it to town council and the council plans to hold a public comment period at its next meeting on Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. at Barrackville Town Hall. After the comments, the council will vote to accept the comprehensive plan, giving the town an official road map for the future.

"Change like this will come off the back of us who want to make the community better and that will feed right into this comprehensive plan," Tennant said. "We're trying to make Barrackville a place where people want to call home."

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at