Olentangy Valley News

Comprehensive plan

Rural no more, city to 'tweak' outdated guide

Residents will be able to help bring vision statement up to date at public hearings

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"The village of Powell is a small, rural, Greenbelt town, located off the beaten path."

That's the first line of the vision statement of the comprehensive plan still in use by the city of Powell today, nearly 20 years after it was written.

City officials said that line alone should tell residents it's time for another look at the document.

The city held the first meeting of a group tasked with guiding the revision of the comprehensive plan June 24.

Councilmen Richard Cline and Mike Crites and Planning and Zoning Commission members Donald Emerick, Richard Fusch and Bill Little sit on the executive committee. Thirteen representatives from various age groups and neighborhoods in the city make up the steering committee.

Crites said the city also will employ economic development, planning and traffic consultants while updating the document.

"With a little bit of luck, we feel we could be done by the end of 2015," he said.

The comprehensive plan came under fire from the public recently during discussions of a proposed apartment complex just west of the CSX railroad tracks on Olentangy Street. Multiple council members pointed to the comprehensive plan as supporting the development of multifamily housing at the site.

Residents complained the outdated document did not predict the municipality's growth -- or the increase in traffic in the area -- since 1995. The comprehensive plan informs the city's zoning code, which allows for different land uses.

Ultimately, council voted 4-3 to approve the final development of the apartment and retail complex, known as the Center at Powell Crossing.

Crites encouraged the public to give feedback during the planning process for the document's revision.

"There's also going to be a great number of public hearings so that the public has an opportunity to shape the vision for the next 20 years," he said.

City officials said they're also working on ways to gather and catalog feedback online as part of the process.

When asked if development projects could be held up until the new comprehensive plan is completed, Development Director David Betz said projects have the right to go through the process at it currently exists at a normal pace.

Rocky Kambo, a planner in the city's development department, said the goal is not to throw out the old plan, but to build on it. He said the city hopes to address a number of issues, including the complaint city officials hear most often.

"The big question is: How do we handle traffic issues?" he said.

Kambo said a traffic engineer will help the city examine possible ways to alleviate traffic congestion within city limits. He said the new plan also will help the city establish updated policies regarding annexation and residential and economic development.

The new plan will be based on facts, rather than opinion, whenever possible, Kambo said. For instance, he said it will help the city determine the potential costs compared to the potential revenue benefits of annexation of residential and commercial properties.

Emerick, who was involved in the preparation of the 1995 plan, said a lot of the original document still holds up.

"While it's still a good plan, we need to just tweak it a little bit -- update it," he said.

The date and time of the next steering committee meeting has not yet been announced.

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