MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University's Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic held the third annual Mountain State Land Use Academy, where topics such as the opioid epidemic and broadband were discussed.
Katherine Garvey, director of the LUSD Law Clinic said the academy was created by the WVU College of Law to educate and empower community leaders in West Virginia on land use issues.
"The academy teaches the principles of land use planning and land use law, along with the process of community involvement," Garvey said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "Graduates of the Mountain State Land Use Academy are positioned to mentor other community leaders and to provide land use leadership in their communities and across the state."
Garvey said the academy targets community leaders, citizen planners, planning commissioners, board of zoning appeals members, local government officials, members of environmental groups and developers and others in the private sector.
"The program this year included an array of core planning principles along with innovative ideas to address challenges such as the opioid epidemic and broadband," Garvey said.
Garvey said they were honored to have Anne Hazlett, assistant to the secretary for rural development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as their keynote speaker, who discussed stemming the opioid epidemic.
"Although not always discussed in land use plans, the issue has surfaced as one of critical importance for long-term planning," Garvey said.
Garvey noted the land use plans can include strategies for local governments to address the opioid epidemic including, leading in a crisis, focusing on prevention and education, expanding treatment, and reassessing public safety and law enforcement approaches.
"Our final plenary was a participatory session on the Open Governmental Meetings Act, another important topic for anyone working in or for a government body," Garvey said. "We also recognized the work of our peers by announcing awards that celebrate citizen planners, professional planners and community achievements in planning."
Garvey said in an effort to encourage in-depth dialogue, the afternoon sessions were dedicated to small discussion groups.
"For new citizen planners, we recommended the sessions on the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning 101," Garvey said. "New topics this year included sessions on tiny homes, zoning for addiction treatment, rural tourism and planning for broadband."
The academy was held at Adventures of the Gorge in Fayette County. Each year, the academy meets to discuss issues that are critical to developing West Virginia communities.
The academy was founded in 2016 by the law clinic and is co-sponsored by the West Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association.