Students from the Ohio State University City and Regional Planning department presented Canal Winchester City Council with their initial findings regarding a project to develop a strategic community plan for the city.
Nearly 20 students crowded into Town Hall during the Oct. 7 council meeting to present data collected from August through September through on-site studies, study of city documents and resident feedback.
Development Director Lucas Haire and Planning and Zoning Administrator Chad Flowers worked with the students on the project.
"What we're presenting tonight is the existing conditions we've found, but we want this to be a two-way street so we need to know what you think and want," professor Jeff Siegler told council.
The students focused on five primary topics: image and branding, land use, economic development, utilities and services, and transportation.
According to the findings, there appears to be a disconnect between the new, primarily chain store-type businesses along Gender Road that serves as a primary entry point into the city and the historic downtown area, made up of mostly local businesses.
Those local businesses are often mentioned as part of the small-town feel residents are attracted to.
The students said, as newcomers to the community, they didn't feel as if the current branding, transportation options and land use work to bridge that disconnect.
In particular, they noted a lack of signs leading visitors to the historic district; no northbound entrance to High Street in Canal Winchester off U.S. Route 33; and limited transportation options other than driving.
They also pointed out that the increasing number of larger homes with 50-foot setbacks is in opposition to the historic district, which is more pedestrian-focused and has a greater building density.
Regarding utilities and services, the students found the city is well positioned, except for the lack of a public library. Economic development was also well-rated, although the students expressed concern about Canal Winchester becoming more reliant on its top 10 employers, which are primarily industrial manufacturing businesses.
Council President Steve Donahue thanked the students for their efforts so far.
"What we're looking for is things you come up with where, well, we see something every day and don't think anything about it, but you show us something new and we have that 'aha!' moment," Donahue said. "We appreciate you coming out here and giving a fresh look at us from the outside."
The students are scheduled to make a final presentation of their findings and recommendations in class in December, and invited council members and city staff members to attend.
"We'll definitely take all of this into consideration," Mayor Michael Ebert said.