Hilliard residents are invited to a meeting with Ohio State University students to develop a sustainability plan for the city.

Hilliard residents are invited to a meeting with Ohio State University students to develop a sustainability plan for the city.

The meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 8 at City Hall, 3800 Municipal Way.

The sustainability plan will cover three areas: land use and urban ecology, energy and waste reduction, and economic development and social equity.

"We just want to gather feedback from the public and see what their conceptions are of these categories, and what they envision Hilliard's future looking like," said Nick Benson, a graduate student from Columbus. "We want to blend the things that we've learned in our training with what the public is interested in and try to put that into a workable plan for the city."

Hilliard's Environmental Sustainability Commission (ESC) proposed using an Ohio State master's level class in city and regional planning that would volunteer its expertise to help the city craft a sustainability plan, which was not covered in its new comprehensive plan.

"That's going to be the foundation of our work," Benson said of the comprehensive plan. "This will branch off of that and deal with sustainability."

On Jan. 11, the 20 students in the class took a tour of Hilliard with Mayor Don Schonhardt, who is a member of the ESC.

"The tour was great," Benson said. "It really was an enriching experience."

The students have split into three groups to cover each focus area, but will work together to craft the sustainability plan. The results are expected to be unveiled in March as the class draws to a close.

"The mayor has left this fairly open-ended for us," Benson said. "I think he wants to engage our class, let us be creative and see what we're able to come up with and recommend."

"It's always nice to get a fresh perspective," Schonhardt said. "This is a great chance for us to see what the students can bring in the way of a new perspective to ways we may be able to improve our energy usage and consumption, and our solid waste disposal efforts. I'm excited about it."

Schonhardt said the city regularly uses interns in various city departments, to mentor or provide real-world experience. However, he thought this was the first time the city has had an entire university class work on a project like the sustainability plan.

"We saw it as a win-win, great for the students to get some practical hands-on experience, and an opportunity for us to get a little more detail out of our comp plan," Schonhardt said. "It just made sense."