Orange Township has enlisted the help of Ohio State University students to update an aging comprehensive land-use plan.
Michele Boni, planning and zoning director for the township, said the township's current plan dates back to near the end of the Great Recession in 2010. She said a lot has changed in the township since then, necessitating an update to the document.
"The land-use plan is supposed to be a guide for us," she said. "When we receive rezoning applications (and) permit applications, we want to have something to look at to see what the township wants in the future."
Boni, who has a master's degree from Ohio State in city and regional planning, said the township is lucky to have the chance to partner with university students who are studying city and regional planning.
"I just thought it was a really great opportunity for the township," she said. "They're graduate-level students. They have experience."
Chad Gibson, an associate faculty member at OSU and Upper Arlington's senior planning officer, said he expects both the students and the community to "benefit immensely" from the partnership. He said paying consultants for an updated comprehensive plan can cost "at least" $50,000.
"This is a fiscally prudent move by Orange Township to bring these students in who are exceptional," he said.
Gibson said the students are in such high demand that Boni had to approach OSU nine months ago in order to get the township on the program's waiting list.
"There are lots of communities wanting these services," he said. "They've seen the successes."
Orange Township on Sept. 12 hosted its first public meeting to collect feedback for the plan. The students led residents through a SWOT analysis to identify the community's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
The students will conduct two additional public meetings to collect feedback at 7 p.m. Nov. 2 and Dec. 5 at Orange Township Hall. They also plan to attend high school football games and other community events to get a feel for what residents want the future of the township to look like.
Boni said she wants the final product to reflect residents' future vision for the township.
"I'm not sure quite what to expect from this," she said. "This is the first time in a while we've really opened it up to the community and (invited) everyone to share their ideas."
Gibson said the students already have learned from gathering feedback that many residents think the township lacks a clear identity.
"We want to try to distill from the comments ways we can brand the community and make it more prominent so that people can be proud of where they live and work," he said.
Gibson said the students' work on the plan will wrap up before the end of the year.