Planners from MKSK, a central Ohio planning and design firm, told residents Jan. 29 that New Albany should expand by adding more homes and businesses in the village center and then marketing those additions to the surrounding population.
Road extensions and leisure path connections also were among the topics the consultants discussed with about 30 community members at an open house on the progress of the city's strategic plan update.
The strategic plan was adopted in 1998 and last updated in 2006, with an addendum in 2008 to add the research and information district in the Central College business campus. The city has budgeted $150,000 for the current update, which is being completed by city officials, planners from MKSK, engineers from E.P. Ferris and Associates and a group of community "stakeholders."
The draft of the update will be reviewed later this year by the 30-member group of stakeholders and such government bodies as the New Albany Planning Commission and New Albany City Council. City Council has the final say on the plan.
Chris Hermann of MKSK said in studying ways New Albany could expand, planners learned that current zoning allows the city's population to increase to 18,530.
The 2010 census said the city's population was 7,724.
Hermann said people like the size and feel of New Albany and don't want it to grow too large but many residents want more restaurants and retail businesses.
Planners have suggested several ways to keep the small-town feel while maintaining a healthy market for retail businesses.
One way is to market New Albany's attractions to neighborhoods in Columbus and Licking County.
Another is to market retail amenities to the more than 10,500 people who work in the New Albany business parks.
"Retail follows people," Hermann said. "We have to have a density to attract (retail businesses) or make it a destination for people to come to."
Hermann said the city has maintained the rural character of its roads and provided many road connections. That must continue, he said, to avoid the need for large thoroughfares.
Part of the strategic plan's thoroughfare update includes widening state Route 161 to three lanes -- which must be approved by the state -- and providing more connections to Route 161 in the city's business parks in Licking County.
Planners have proposed connecting Smith's Mill Road north to Jug Street and both Smith's Mill and Jug roads to Beech Road.
Another road could be built north of Dublin-Granville Road between Kitzmiller and Reynoldsburg-New Albany roads, just south of Route 161. Other road connections would link Market Street to potential residential land east of U.S. Route 62.
Hermann said the city must work with neighboring jurisdictions on bicycle and leisure trail connections, specifically noting the Ohio to Erie Trail, which runs just west of the city, and the Licking County bicycle trails, which are east of the city.
He said the Rocky Fork Metro Park being built in northern Plain Township also must be better connected to city residents and business park employees through road extensions and leisure path connections.
The MKSK planners also said they have heard that sustainability and providing more environmentally friendly options for residents is important, as is more diversity in architectural design in the city.