Westerville News & Public Opinion

Comprehensive Community Plan

City hopes document will guide decisions

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Westerville is changing.

New developments, demographics and directions have found their way into a city that was once deemed a "bedroom community." To deal with these changes, the city's staff is preparing a Comprehensive Community Plan in hopes of achieving some consistency.

The plan aims to prepare for the city's growth, guide decision-makers and document the views of the residents for the future. It is defined as "the broadest public policy document" Westerville can create, and will deal with development, housing, environment, transportation and other topics.

Deputy Director of Planning and Development Kimberly Sharp is heading up the project from the city side.

Sharp said the plan became a necessity as development in Westerville grew more complex.

"Council was dealing with some very difficult decisions faced by the development community, who wanted to build what they felt the market was asking for and what they could get financing for," Sharp said. "It was for some much larger projects than council had dealt with before. We need a bigger picture; we needed a more holistic picture of why these things are happening."

Sharp said the plan will focus development efforts, identifying how and why the city will move forward.

"We want to look holistically at resources and trends," she said. "Where do you want to be in five, 10, 20 years, and how do we make smart decisions that help us reach those goals?"

Mike Heyeck, who has been a member of City Council since 1993, is the council representative to the city's planning commission. Heyeck said it's important to take a step back for a big-picture view.

"I think every once in a while we have to look at the broader picture to make sure that we're doing the right thing for Westerville," he said. "The Comprehensive Community Plan is not saying, 'we need to change everything.'

"The point is, we have land use designated, we have some arguments. What ought that development be? It should not be limited to multifamily, for example; it should not be limited to just offices."

The plan's primary concern, Heyeck said, should be preserving the city's essence, which has been a focal point for some time.

"I do not want to lose the identity of Westerville," he said. "I would like not to be another Dublin or New Albany or Grandview. I would like the benefits and strength of Westerville to continue. The plan should augment what Westerville should be."

Sharp isn't daunted by the idea of compiling such a document in an environment where there will be plenty of argument and differing opinions.

"It's exciting. It's the democratic process alive and well," she said. "It's everybody saying, 'this is what we foresee for the future.' Never will you have 100 percent of people happy. What you're going for is the 80-20 ratio. You're trying to get people to compromise because there will have to be compromise."

Organizers are hosting a two-part public workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 26 and 28, where residents can learn about the project and provide input.

Aug. 27 will serve as a "community drop-in" day, where residents can meet with the planning team and share ideas between 9 a.m. and noon and again from 2 to 5 p.m.

A preliminary spring 2015 target date has been set for council's adoption of the plan.

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