Columbus City Councilwoman Michelle Mills announced last week she is working on a pilot program to better inform residents when property near them is the subject of rezoning or variance requests.

Columbus City Councilwoman Michelle Mills announced last week she is working on a pilot program to better inform residents when property near them is the subject of rezoning or variance requests.

Speaking at the April 7 meeting of the Northland Community Council, the chairwoman of council's development and environment committee asked for a volunteer from the group to help in developing the trial project.

Mills, president pro-tem of council and a candidate on the May 5 primary election ballot, held out the possibility that Columbus might one day emulate the practice of some suburbs, notably Worthington and Westerville, where large signs are posted on properties up for rezoning or variances.

The signs describe what is being proposed and provide the date, times and locations of hearings where people may voice their views.

Too often, Mills said, residents arrive at a council session where some major rezoning proposal is up for a final decision and say they only just heard about it.

"That's disturbing for me," Mills said.

This happens, she added, even though the request most likely already has been before an area commission, civic association or, in the case of the Northland area, the community council's development committee, followed by hearings before either the Board of Zoning Adjustment or Columbus Development Commission.

Members of the Clintonville Area Commission have had discussions in recent months about creating a similar notification method of their own.

"I think it's a great idea, and would serve as a very valuable tool," Dana Bagwell, chairwoman of the CAC's zoning and variance committee, wrote in an email.

"Engaging the community has always been a priority of mine, and the signs would draw more attention, spark more interest and bring more voices to our meetings, all good things, in my opinion," Bagwell wrote

In addition to someone from the Northland area, Mills said she wants to find representatives from the East, West and South sides to serve on the stakeholders committee for the test effort.

Dave Paul, chairman of the NCC's development committee, asked that a member of his panel be the Northland area's representative.

Mills indicated she approached the NCC because of the number of often-controversial rezoning and variance matters in that sector of the city.

In introducing Mills at the April 7 meeting, NCC President Emmanuel V. Remy noted she now lives in the Northland area.

"That was going to be my opening line," she jokingly protested.

Mills said she hopes to attend future community council meetings -- not as an elected official or someone running for office, but as a citizen.

She also encouraged those in attendance to consider coming to a City Council session.

"We really like to see people in the audience," she added.