Rocky Fork Enterprise

Gahanna leaders mull comprehensive plan to guide city's future

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Gahanna officials are considering development of a comprehensive plan to guide the future.

During a May 27 committee meeting, council members heard a presentation from Tony Slanec, director of planning and urban design at OHM Advisors, an integrated engineering, architecture and planning firm.

Slanec said his company probably has done a plan in every central Ohio city, with the Hilliard comprehensive plan being the most aggressive planning exercise he has ever done.

What he prescribes for the Gahanna is what he calls a comprehensive plan on a diet.

After the city would establish a comprehensive plan, he said, objectives would be applied.

"Focus your limited resources to make sure it has the largest return on investment you can have," Slanec said.

He said a comprehensive plan could be expensive because it's all encompassing.

"There are other strategic plans you can do without it being adopted," he said. "Comprehensive plans are always adopted. It's a plan for the future. It's prioritizing what the heck we're doing, giving guidance to land owners and developers."

Mayor Becky Stinchcomb said Gahanna is built out.

"We've spent money on lots of plans," she said. "We have area plans; some are outdated. When you talk about a comprehensive plan, how does it look for a mature city?"

Slanec said the focus has to be on the whole.

"We need to look at it through an economic lens," he said. "Where do we prioritize? One of the things will be density. You need to reach out to residents/voters. Where do they tap out? There's some old guard that doesn't want to see development. Growth is coming.

"Each community has some neat things you could leverage from. When you look at Gahanna, it has a lot to offer."

Council member Ryan Jolley asked about a time line for a comprehensive plan that would include residents' involvement.

Slanec said a comprehensive plan on a diet wouldn't need to include brutal details.

"Hilliard has area to grow," he said. "They needed a different document than you do. I would guess that it's a 12-month process for the entire plan."

Council member Tom Kneeland asked if other existing plans could be integrated into a comprehensive plan.

Slanec said the West Gahanna Plan is over 20 years old.

"Any consulting firm can work with council to vet these things," he said. "We need to have facts related to where we're going and justify where we're going."

Slanec said he recently was talking with a man who had done a lot of work in Gahanna for the private sector.

"One thing he told me for Gahanna is that it's unique in the market place with startup businesses," he said. "There are more startup businesses than others in central Ohio. That's a niche. You're an incubator. Once they grow, then, where do they go? You have to have a product to get them to stay. There has to be a strategy around all these different scenarios."

City development director Anthony Jones recommended that council hear from other firms regarding a possible comprehensive plan.

Finance director Jennifer Teal suggested an inventory of existing plans as a resource.

"I think it's important to do a plan," Stinchcomb said. "I think we need to figure out where we're going. We have certain plans. Some need updated. We've spent the last year talking about sustainability. We have to be pragmatic on what we can afford. We have to be specific on what we want."

Jones said a lot of work already has been done to this point.

"We can come up with examples of what other communities have done," he said.

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