Worthington News

2014: Looking ahead

New year to bring new leaders

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CANDY BROOKS/THISWEEKNEWS
Worthington City Manager Matt Greeson says 2014 "will be an evolution in the leadership of this community."
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The new year is expected to kick off with something seldom seen in Worthington -- a change in leadership at the very top.

A new president and president pro tem of Worthington City Council are expected to be elected during the Jan. 6 council meeting. It will be the first time in 18 years that council has faced that challenge, brought about by the retirement of former president Lou Goorey.

Then, as one of the newly organized council's first acts, a new mayor will be appointed.

After serving for 14 years, Mayor Harvey Minton will pass on his Mayor's Court gavel. Minton is ill, and the courtroom has been presided over by either Vice Mayor James Lorimer or a magistrate for the past several months.

Council already has interviewed several candidates but is not the new mayor until its reorganizational meeting.

"There will be an evolution in the leadership of this community, and everyone will be focused on managing that well," City Manager Matt Greeson said.

The new leaders will not have much time to bask in glory, as much work must be done in 2014.

Construction will continue on the U.S. Route 23/Interstate 270 interchange reconstruction, with traffic continuing to slow drivers through the area. And the Worthington Place apartment/office complex will start to take shape, with residents seeing the largest construction project in decades.

Most of the other projects facing the city in 2014 will be less visible immediately but could change the way the city looks and operates in coming years, Greeson said.

Planning for the redevelopment of the United Methodist Children's Home property will continue through the first half of the year and will result in an amendment to the comprehensive plan, which guides potential developers who want to build on the 41 acres of prime Worthington real estate.

UMCH closed its doors as a residential treatment center for youth about two years ago and is for sale.

Consultants have been working with the city, property owners and residents to come up with a plan for what should be built on the land.

"I am hopeful we can build a consensus and attract a quality developer," Greeson said.

With the real estate market seeming to make a comeback, he feels confident that will occur, he said.

Greeson said he doesn't expect to see that much change on the grounds of the former Harding Hospital, which recently was purchased from Ohio State University by Step by Step, which provides services to people with autism. It is expected to expand its services and could make some changes to the buildings on the campus.

Greeson said he doesn't see wholesale redevelopment in the near future, though.

The exchange of ownership is more important to the history of Worthington, he said. Harding Hospital, and later Ohio State, have been important parts of the Worthington community for many years, he said.

Progress also is expected in 2014 on planning for the Wilson Bridge corridor. While new buildings and roads are being completed, the city will lay the groundwork for further development by creating a zoning district and by improving the looks of the roadway with new streetscape accents, including new signs that eventually will be visible throughout the city.

The recreation path along West Wilson Bridge Road, from the Olentangy Parklands to High Street, is set for construction in the spring. Eventually, that path for cyclists and pedestrians will connect to East Wilson Bridge Road, perhaps with a bridge over High Street.

A pedestrian/bicycle planning committee is expected to make some recommendations for other improvements in 2014, Greeson said.

"We have a good 'bikeable' environment, but there are areas where we could improve," he said.

Other projects expected to move ahead this year include the study of a change in the way the city delivers fire and police dispatching services. Following an evaluation of the possibility of consolidating with other communities, Hilliard and Norwich Township have moved their dispatching to Dublin, and Upper Arlington and Worthington still are completing their own evaluations.

The study of traffic issues on West Dublin-Granville Road through Linworth to Sawmill Road also will continue this year.

Though Worthington City Council is on record opposing any widening of the road east of Flora Villa Drive, it is cooperating in an analysis of existing and projected traffic movements.

Results of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission study will lay the groundwork for any future changes, and it could be the point where different goals of Worthington and other jurisdictions become evident.

The next conversation will be "more complex, harder," Greeson said.

Other projects expected to move ahead in 2014 are possible reconstruction of the Huntley/Wilson Bridge/Worthington-Galena intersection, the construction of the new roof at the Community Center and the replacement of sanitary sewers in various parts of the city.

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