Where does Northland begin and where does it end? How do people know if they're in Northland or not?

Where does Northland begin and where does it end? How do people know if they're in Northland or not?

"There is a lot of confusion about is Northland the area around the mall, the area inside I-270, the area outside I-270?" Northland Community Council president Dave Paul said last week.

The answer to these and other pressing questions may not be in the immediate offing, but the issue of boundaries and identity is once again in the air as the result of work being done on behalf of the community council by a group of Ohio State University students.

The members of the City and Regional Planning Serving Learning Studio of Knowlton School of Architecture Professor Jack L. Nasar were originally recruited to study the proliferation of signs placed illegally in the public right of way throughout the Northland area, particularly along the major traffic corridors.

As the students have conducted their work and met with NCC representatives, Paul said that one "fairly remarkable" issue that has come up is the need for doing a better job of having physical landmarks that define what the Northland area is.

The students, as well as council members who turned out for the most recent get-together, a special meeting on Sunday, Nov. 14, all felt that if there were more clearly defined boundaries for the vast array of neighborhoods and subdivisions on the city's North Side "then we might also find it was easier to communicate that there are certain community preferences, such as the advertising signs," Paul said.

He cited New Albany as a place that, while hardly historical, gives the aura of being historic through architectural consistency.

"Visually, consistency is not something you see in the Northland area," Paul said. "It was built over time and in a relatively hodgepodge way, at least compared with New Albany."

Nevertheless, the NCC president said that the group on hand for the special Sunday gathering agreed better ways of delineating Northland from neighboring areas, whether with gateway entrance signs or some other means, would be worth pursuing.

"That might event include defining Northland as smaller than certainly what NCC claims is its service area," Paul said.

For his part, NCC graphics task force coordinator Bill Logan hopes that the students will keep their eyes on the original prize.

"I do want them to summarize for us their findings specifically on the topic of predatory signs, which I assume they will do and which they've assured us they will do," Logan said.

While the study has evolved into other areas relating to reducing crime and the fear of crime as well as enhancing the community feel of Northland neighborhoods, the sign issue was what got the ball rolling, he pointed out.

On that front, Logan said that Nasar's students have been asked to branch out getting public opinion on what a lot of illegal signs does to perceptions of safety regarding an area to include best practices in other communities relating to enforcement issues.

"We've turned them loose on that topic," Logan said. "That's a matter of accessing similar and other communities both here in Ohio and beyond to gain an idea of the code language that other cities have used that could be helpful to us.

"The ultimate goal here is to improve the city of Columbus graphics code, to strengthen and provide better language and therefore better enforcement to sue the problem sign backers ..., those who benefit from the signs and ultimately pay for the signs and to distribute them."