After more than two years of work, Westerville may be weeks away from approving its new comprehensive plan.

After more than two years of work, Westerville may be weeks away from approving its new comprehensive plan.

The process, labeled "Imagine Westerville," began in April 2014. Organizers planned to gather community information and workshop ideas, hold open houses and have the concepts approved by the city's planning commission and city council by the following year.

Even now, a timeline on Imagine Westerville's website indicates the project "will last through 2015."

But the organizers of Imagine Westerville have finally finished the document -- at more than 250 pages -- that is meant to guide the future of the city.

Despite the long process, Kim Sharp, deputy director of planning and development for the city, said the document was worth the wait.

"There are always challenges when you're talking about change in the future," she said. "Change is hard for everybody, and the plan focuses on the fact that the majority of the community is to be preserved and loved as it is, and the change is focused on strategic locations."

The plan is broken up into five main sections: Community, development, mobility, economic vitality and implementation.

It may be difficult for some to see the worth of such a time-consuming process, but Sharp said it's crucial for the future.

"The document is a universal view of the whole city," she said. "It's a tool to prepare us for change. It's a guidebook for both developers and decision makers."

To reach the final wording on each portion, the Imagine Westerville leaders, known as the Citizen Advisory Team, sought input from everyone they could find.

"There were a lot of different voices, which was nice," said Dennis Blair, co-chairman. "Professors, business people, dreamers, retired people -- there were a lot of varied backgrounds and interests. It was well-done and we really worked together pretty well."

Council and planning commission members have discussed the plan's language at meetings for months, and Blair said he understood that the groups "have varying opinions," but "have a lot more experience."

What he said he appreciated most was that leaders always referred back to community input as a reason for their thoughts or concerns.

"That meant a lot to me," Blair said. "It was not being bypassed for their own opinions."

One of the areas in which Blair said he was most pleased with the group's outcomes was in thinking ahead for what the population will look like in the future in a fairly mature community.

"We're all getting toward retirement age and moving toward that path," he said. "If you didn't consider where that income will come from in the future as people retire, then it's going to fail. So by thinking about jobs, you're also thinking about what happens in the future when we all retire and no one wants to live here."

The plan has been discussed at each of the last two city council meetings, and will have its first public hearing at the council's June 21 meeting. It could be approved as early as July 5.

But approval wouldn't end the process.

Sharp said if the plan is approved, the city will have to review its entire zoning code "to implement this vision." That process could take another two years.

For more information and the full document, visit imaginewesterville.com.