Northwest News

Northwest Plan update

Commercial overlay in works for Route 161


As a prelude to next year's planned update of the six-year-old Northwest Plan, city officials are updating the commercial overlays already in place and looking to add new ones.

Northwest Civic Association board members earlier this month heard from Devayani Puranik, senior planner for the Department of Development, on a proposed overlay for the state Route 161 commercial corridor west of Linworth Road.

"I think we have the attention of the city as to the needs of that area of 161," Northwest Civic Association President John Ehlers said last week.

That particular stretch of state highway has gotten considerable attention of late, the result of a large apartment project on the west side gaining City Council approval in late June and ongoing controversy of the location of a multi-use path.

"When it comes to the commercial overlays, we consider, as does the Department of Development, these as working documents, so our intent is to review these periodically to add new commercial corridors to the overlay and then to make sure that the work we do with the Department of Development next year in terms of revising the Northwest Area Plan includes the updated information," Ehlers said.

"The goals of the overlays are to create a safe, aesthetically pleasing, economically viable, and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere in Northwest area," according to the Department of Development website.

The overlay designation works in conjunction with underlying zoning districts to provide additional standards for such things as building setback, screening, lighting and graphics.

In addition to hearing about the state Route 161 from Puranik at their August session, Ehlers said NWCA board members discussed perhaps adding more such plans to the region in advance of updating the overall plan.

"The board also asked the Department of Development to consider including some other commercial areas that are either undergoing current development or are viewed as likely areas of future development," Ehlers said.

He specifically mentioned Reed Road between Henderson and Sawmill roads and a stretch of Olentangy River Road north of Henderson road.

While most of those areas are currently primarily residential, Ehlers said it might be the case 10 or 20 years down the road that sections could be reused for commercial development.

The Northwest Side currently has commercial overlays on Bethel and Sawmill roads, the city website indicates.

"For the most part the developers have been very cooperative with the intent of the Northwest Area Plan," Ehlers said of the master document that is to be revised in this year.

However, the civic association president added he feels city officials and the citizens organization "need to put a little more teeth" into the document during the update.

"The success of the plan really depends upon public input," Ehlers said.