City seeks comment on Northland Plan update
The update to the plan that will guide development and aesthetics in the Northland area inside the Outerbelt for the next decade or so inched along last week.
The second in a series of public workshops was held at the Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center. About a dozen residents were on hand to hear a brief presentation from Christine Palmer of the Columbus Department of Development's Planning Division.
Palmer is leading the project to update the Northland Plan I, which dates to 2001. Such guiding documents require refinement every 10 years or so, Palmer said at last week's workshop.
The 17.7-square-mile area included within the existing plan is bounded 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.
Work began on revisions to the plan last July. When completed and approved by Columbus City Council, the document will serve to guide land use, including whether parcels are zoned residential, commercial, industrial, etc., according to Palmer. This aspect of the plan, she said, may help identify possible development opportunities in an area of the city that's almost entirely built out.
The plan also will guide urban design, which addresses things such as the appearance of new structures and helps make sure developers seeking variances from city regulations will do so in accordance with the desires expressed by residents, Palmer said.
The updated plan also will set limits on residential density, although again, that's not as vital in an area that's primarily single-family homes, she indicated.
Nevertheless, she said, as a result of comments from the initial workshop in February and a meeting with the members of the Northland Community Council's development committee, some density proposals from city staff members have been scaled back.
Initially, city planners recommended more areas of what's now called mixed-use development, which can include residential and commercial such as offices, along both East Dublin-Granville and Morse roads, Palmer said. Workshop participants and committee members said both areas of the neighborhood already have enough multi-family dwellings, so the size of mixed-use recommendations was pared, as were potential densities, the latter from a possible 16 to 45 units an acre back to 16 to 22 units an acre.
In addition, an area near the intersection of Morse and Sinclair roads that had been marked for light industrial designation will instead by termed an "employment center," which would be a better classification for attracting potential high-tech development, according to Palmer.
The comments and suggestions received at last week's workshop will once again be reviewed with development committee members, she said. Because people sometimes have difficulties attending things such as public workshops, city officials have set up a Facebook page, as well as an online survey at www.tinyurl.com/np2surv.
"We certainly want to engage the community in many ways," Palmer said, adding that planning department personnel are willing to make presentations to individual civic associations.
During a brief discussion before the workshop in which participants began to review proposed development maps, Dave Paul, chairman of the NCC's development panel, spoke about a failed attempt to secure what's called a special improvement district along East Dublin-Granville Road. Under an SID, property owners basically agree to tax themselves to pay for things such as infrastructure improvement, appearance enhancements and even increased security.
In light of the hodgepodge of local and out-of-state property owners along one of Northland's main commercial corridors, the stretch of road has no homogeneity, Paul said.
"There's almost no standardization along 161 at this point," he said.
Palmer agreed and said that a commercial overlay, which creates specific rules on what can and cannot happen in terms of development for businesses, is proposed for state Route 161, along the lines of one in place for Morse Road.