New Albany News

Controversial road removed from strategic plan draft


New Albany officials will not include a public road connecting Swickard Woods Boulevard and High Street in the city's updated strategic plan, a blueprint for development and zoning last modified in 2008.

Last month, city officials changed the designation of the road in the plan after New Albany-Plain Local teachers sent letters opposing the road.

Bill Resch, the school district's environmental consultant, and Mayor Nancy Ferguson spoke against the road connection at a Feb. 6 meeting.

As proposed during the Feb. 6 Rocky Fork-Blacklick Accord Implementation Panel's review of the strategic plan update, the road would have been south of state Route 161 and close to Swickard Woods.

Resch and Ferguson both said it could jeopardize the Swickard Woods natural area, which is owned by the city and contains a deed restriction preventing streets or development, Ferguson said.

After the meeting, two New Albany Middle School teachers sent emails to city officials saying the road would interfere with classroom activities in Swickard Woods.

"This area located adjacent to our campus is a critical part of my classroom," eighth-grade teacher Mandy McNamara wrote. "Every school year, my students and I start the year by adopting different areas located in the woods. Each student has his or her own adopted spot.

"Once a month, when weather permits, we visit the area and collect data on the natural environment (animal, plant, weather, water, soil). We collect data and make comparisons to previous data collected in previous years. We also spend the time to teach about our own connection as humans to nature. Students spend time in this natural location learning to self-reflect just as much as learning to collect and analyze scientific data."

City officials then removed the road from the strategic plan draft in time for the accord panel's Feb. 20 review for a potential recommendation. The panel makes nonbinding recommendations according to the Rocky Fork-Blacklick Accord's guidelines.

Adrienne Joly, New Albany's deputy community-development director, said the city changed the plan to show a better alignment closer to state Route 161, north of Swickard Woods.

She also wrote in an email to school district officials and New Albany Planning Commission members: "If this road were ever to become a reality, city staff envisions its size and scale to be more like a service road or a park-access road. The intent would be to stay within or as close to the state Route 161 right of way as possible. Any requirements of the grant the city used to purchase the Swickard Woods property would still be in effect."

Accord panel members voted 5-2 on Feb. 20 to recommend approval of the strategic plan update.

Don Ballard, Richard Kight, Kasey Kist, Ron Lachey and Gary Schmidt were in favor and Meera Parthasarathy and Mike Chappelear voted against it.

Chappelear said he had issues with another piece of the strategic plan, which recommends business development on Babbitt Road south of Route 161.

Joly said the New Albany Planning Commission also reviewed the strategic plan update Feb. 19. That presentation included the changes presented to the accord panel.

She said it will return to the planning commission for a recommendation before it goes to New Albany City Council for a vote.