Westerville News & Public Opinion

Imagine Westerville

Residents get look at evolving community plan

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Westerville residents got their first look at the far-reaching community plan that city staff is developing at the first Imagine Westerville meetings last week.

Imagine Westerville is the city's push to include residents' opinions and thoughts in the development of their community plan, which will determine the city's long-term goals for development, housing, environment and several other areas.

Three workshops were held Aug. 26-28 to kick off the project, and each focused on a different part of the process.

The workshops were meant to introduce the goals of the plan and educate citizens while gaining input from the community.

Deputy Director of Planning and Development Kimberly Sharp said city staff was pleased with the turnout.

"I think quite a few people came out just to say, 'What is this about?' " Sharp said.

"Then, people said, 'We're trying to kind of do a business plan for the community? I'm interested in that.' "

An important aspect of the plan's development is the city's Citizen Advisory Team, which is working to provide input from the residents' point of view.

"We want everyone who cares about Westerville to feel that this is their opportunity to share their input," Co-chairwoman Henrietta Nwomeh said at the workshop.

The potential plan is vague for now, but it's meant to be broad, and city staff will attempt to include as much community direction as possible.

It's early in the process, but Sharp said there have already been some trends that can be easily identified among the community input. And while safety was one common thread, so was financial certainty.

"Everyone wants this community to be fiscally sustainable; that's a prime goal for everybody, city administration and the public in general," Sharp said.

"I think after the huge global economic upheaval that we all went through, more communities are being cognizant that the public checkbook is a benefit for everybody, and not everybody can have everything they want."

The next step of the process comes Sept. 9, when the city hosts a joint meeting between the City Planning Commission and City Council to discuss values and principles identified by residents and how they resonate with the commission and council.

There will be another workshop in December, when a draft of the plan will begin to take shape. In February, there will be an open house about the potential plan, and hearings to adopt the plan are tentatively scheduled for May.

Sharp made it clear that the process has a long way to go.

"We got a pretty good turnout and had some amazing volunteers in the community making sure that everyone knew that it was a choice to come out," she said, "but this is just a kickoff of the public process."

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