Eight residents turned out last week to help shape the future of the Northland area.
Those on hand for the first public workshop on the update to the Northland Area One Plan were thanked for being there by Dave Paul, chairman of the Northland Community Council's development committee.
The land-use policies that will eventually be outlined in the document will help committee members make recommendations on requests for variances from would-be developers, according to Christine Palmer, the lead project manager for the Columbus Department of Development.
"This is a process of reassessment of a plan that was developed and approved in 2001," Paul said.
"You're the subject-matter experts on the community," she added.
She and the other planners know the city's rules and policies. The purpose of last week's workshop and others to be held in the future, Palmer said, is to blend the two to come up with a plan that will last for the next five to 10 years and form the basis for zoning changes.
The plan does not come into play when proposed development is in line with the existing uses permitted for a given piece of property within what is often called "traditional Northland," a 17.7-square mile area 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.
The plan also does not deal with immediate issues, such as safety concerns or violations of the city's code, Palmer said.
By and large, she added, the document will "build on existing land uses" while highlighting opportunities for developing vacant or underused areas of the overall neighborhood.
In general, she said, no major changes are envisioned for the single-family areas within the plan's acreage. The existing housing has "good bones," in Palmer's words, and the people who live in the area appreciate the affordability of their homes.
The key goals of the updated plan, which should be ready for approval by Columbus City Council in about a year, will include:
* Preserving open space, particularly along the Alum Creek corridor.
* Maintaining a mix of uses to keep the area vibrant.
* Increasing the range of housing options.
* Assisting people in getting around by walking, bicycling, driving or taking public transit.
* Ensuring that new development "respects the character of the community and its historic features."
Palmer said a survey by the planning division showed that in spite of some worries about crime, residents like the Northland area and they enjoy being able to live close to shopping and employment. However, the study also indicated residents are concerned about vacant office and retail space in the area.
Although but a handful of people attended the workshop, all is not lost in terms of public input on the planning process. Residents may participate in the exercises conducted last week to help further shape the planning document online at a website or on a Facebook page set up for that purpose.
The website is at tinyurl.com/northlandplan while the Facebook page can be accessed at facebook.com/NorthlandIAreaPlan.
Palmer said the second workshop, not yet scheduled, will focus on urban design, how new buildings ought to look and density for residential projects, in order to be in keeping with existing structures.