Olentangy Valley News

City leaders talk bike paths, annexation tactics

Powell officials also mull economic development, comprehensive plan during recent goal-setting session

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While plotting the path the city would take during the next two years, Powell City Council members talked a lot about physical paths.

Improvements to the city's bike-path system were one of the major topics of discussion at a goal-setting session held Monday, Feb. 3.

Council members agreed they wanted to have more connections in place by November 2014. Those connections would be one of the first results of a permanent-improvement levy passed in 2012 that took effect in January.

"I think we have the beginning of a good bike-path system," Councilman Mike Crites said. "That needs to be worked on. I think people expect that."

Councilman Tom Counts said the improvements were important enough that the city needed to bring in an outside consultant if staff did not have time to focus on the project this year.

"It's been two years ago ... that the residents voted for this bond levy, and they haven't seen anything tangible yet," Counts said.

Another physical change that came up in the session was the proposed installation of a queue-cutter traffic signal at the intersection of the CSX railroad tracks and state Route 750. The signal is designed to prevent cars from stopping on the tracks during rush hour.

City officials currently are in the process of discussing the project, which could require additional traffic changes in the area, with residents and business owners. Council's development committee was set to discuss the project Tuesday, Feb. 4, but the meeting was canceled ahead of a winter storm.

Most of the goals discussed during the meeting involved planning as opposed to physical improvements. Council members agreed they wanted to revisit and possibly overhaul the city's comprehensive economic development and annexation plans during the next two years.

Counts said council members need to set clear goals for the city and its administration in terms of economic development.

"Staff currently has inconsistent direction from council, and by virtue of that and the lack of a policy, there's a slow influx of new businesses," he said.

Vice Mayor Brian Lorenz said council should consider hiring an economic development professional to assist the administration, which he said already has enough responsibilities.

Crites added that the city's comprehensive plan has not had a review since 1995. He said the document needs a top-to-bottom examination, and city officials need to decide whether new categories -- including an annexation policy -- should be added.

Crites said he hoped the review could be completed with 18 months. He added that with the Murphy Parkway extension in the works, the city also needs to take another look at its downtown plan and discuss further improvements to relieve congestion at the Four Corners intersection.

Councilman Frank Bertone said without an annexation strategy in place, Powell's neighbors to the north and south could exert an outsized influence over the city's future. He said the city needs to create a plan that weighs the costs and benefits of annexing nearby "strategic parcels."

"We would want to identify strategic parcels and defend them, and then acquire those," he said.

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