Participants in a public workshop aimed at moving along the process of updating the Northland plan will be getting quite a workout.
No less than three "exercise stations" will be part of the meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in Room 132 at the headquarters of Franklin County Job and Family Services, 1721 Northland Park Ave., off Morse Road.
Those wishing to attend should enter through the south doors of what was once a portion of Northland Mall's J.C. Penney store.
Christine Palmer is the lead project manager on the oft-delayed effort to update the existing 2001 plan to guide development within what is often called "traditional Northland," a 17.7-square mile area generally bound by Interstate 270 on the north and east; Cooke, Ferris and Morse roads on the south; and the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks and Huntley Road on the west.
"It's geared to be a very interactive meeting for people to give as much input as they want," Palmer said last week.
Northland Community Council development committee chairman Dave Paul, who was NCC president the first time city officials attempted to update the existing document, said he was pleased to see the meeting scheduled.
"I think it's good, and I'm grateful that it's moving," he said.
Originally, city planners had hoped to assemble a committee of local residents to help them with the update, but Palmer said last week that approach has been abandoned in favor of a series of public workshops and opportunities for people to provide their thoughts online.
"Folks are really busy in the Northland community," she said. "They were being pulled in many directions."
Workshops also offer those interested plenty of opportunities for making their feelings known, Palmer said.
"We want people to understand what the plan will do for them, what the plan won't do for them," she said.
A website for the Northland plan has been established by city personnel at tinyurl.com/northlandplan.
The Nov. 15 workshop will begin with an overall presentation on the plan process, followed by those "exercise stations," one each on development opportunities, favorite and least favorite places in the neighborhood and draft plan use recommendations.
Development opportunities will include citizens offering suggestions on underused or vacant properties.
"Folks are aware of the challenges in Northland, as well as the opportunities," Palmer said.
Neighborhood plans such as the one being updated for traditional Northland are intended to be long-range tools, not something to address immediate problems or concerns.
Working off the existing document, Palmer said planning staff members have drafted some recommendations, based on existing identified best practices in urban planning and comments already received from residents, or "stakeholders." A proposal will be ready for residents to consider at the workshop.
"The plan itself is largely passive," she said. "There is no amount of dollars attached to the plan to create development, but it's the opportunity to take advantage when things come about."
The document will provide potential developers with an idea of what is being encouraged and what is being discouraged in terms of redevelopment.
"The plan is a tool when they need a variance from code, a variance from what they have there, that's when the plan comes into play," Palmer said. "It's based on a consensus of the community: Do we support this or do we not support this?"
When completed, Palmer said the updated plan is intended to "contribute to the urban fabric of the area."