A class of Ohio State University students recently presented Hilliard City Council with a new sustainability plan.

A class of Ohio State University students recently presented Hilliard City Council with a new sustainability plan.

The plan, which is meant to complement the city's comprehensive plan, focuses on three areas: energy and waste reduction, land use and urban ecology, and economic development and social equity.

The 137-page document was released on March 15, after students in OSU's City and Regional Planning class presented their findings at the March 12 city council meeting. In putting together the plan, the students toured Hilliard with Mayor Don Schonhardt on Jan. 11, conducted an online survey and held a community forum at city hall on Feb. 8 that 17 people attended.

The plan states that "a sustainable Hilliard is committed to responsible land use, equitable social and economic development, and the mitigation of negative environmental impacts." The plan offers many short-term (1-3 years), medium-term (3-5 years), and long-term (5-10 years) goals.

In terms of energy efficiency, the class recommended implementing "policies to increase the energy efficiency in Hilliard's municipal operations and throughout the community." Those policies would include energy audits of all city buildings and phasing out all vehicles in the city fleet that are not hybrid-powered.

Citing that Hilliard already achieves a 38.1 percent recycling rate that exceeds state and federal Environmental Protection Agency targets, the plan recommends working towards becoming a "zero waste" community. The plan also discusses increasing commercial and public space recycling; reducing indoor water usage; reducing the amount of water from Hilliard that enters the Columbus public sewer system and streams; and increasing public awareness of sustainable behaviors.

For land use and urban ecology, the plan recommended zoning changes "to encourage neighborhood-centered development in appropriate locations throughout the city" and "implement dense, mixed-use development in the focus areas as dictated by the comprehensive plan." The plan also called for increasing the amount of parkland and adding amenities to public parks. There were recommendations to "strengthen conservation efforts in the Big Darby Watershed with environmentally-conscious development standards" and improve Hilliard's tree canopy.

With regard to transportation, the sustainability plan recommends developing an interconnected bike and pedestrian network, increasing transit options with COTA and providing greater access to transit.

For economic development and social equity, the plan said Hilliard will realize this vision by promoting greater opportunity for all residents; enhancing the quality of life and fostering "economic development on the foundation of a diverse economic portfolio."

The plan states, "If Hilliard wants to be a vibrant city, it will have to offer a wider range of jobs and housing opportunities that make the city attractive to different groups of people."

To those ends, the class suggested adopting an inclusionary zoning ordinance; promoting quality childcare for Hilliard families; providing affordable housing and services for seniors; increasing the number of community events; offering reduced-interest loans to start-ups and small businesses; and offer economic incentives to businesses providing entertainment options for young adults, particularly in Old Hilliard.

"We hope it is a starting point," instructor Maria Manta Conroy said to council with the class in attendance.

"We receive a lot of presentations, and rarely are they as thoughtful and useful as the one you just gave us," council President Brett Sciotto said to the class. "We very much appreciate your investment in our community."