Worthington needs to keep its charming center of town, farmers market, quality schools and safe neighborhoods.

Worthington needs to keep its charming center of town, farmers market, quality schools and safe neighborhoods.

It needs to drop its image of "snobbishness," its restriction on building height, zoning that limits redevelopment and the dog-park idea.

It needs to create a dog park, a stronger downtown, more senior housing and adult continuing education.

For more than 12 hours over two days, 60 Worthington leaders came up with those -- and hundreds more -- ideas about how to plan the future of the city of Worthington, the Worthington schools and the Worthington Libraries.

Some, like the dog park idea, were contradictory.

The event was a "visioning conference," one of the culminating events of the $75,000 consultant-directed planning project called Worthington Area 360.

The three entities shared the cost of hiring a consulting firm to direct the multi-phased assessment of community perceptions. Focus groups were held last fall, followed by a telephone survey that included 600 community residents.

Last Friday and Saturday, the 60 invited guests gathered at the Worthington Education Center and at Slate Hill Elementary School to discuss what they see as community strengths and weaknesses and what the schools, city, and library should address to keep their futures strong.

The answers left little unturned, as groups formed to discuss individual issues, then shared their general themes and a few specific ideas with the larger group.

Issues addressed included city services, housing, parks and recreation, technology, life-long learning, economic development, sustainability, arts, community identity and downtown.

Redevelopment was one of often-repeated repeated themes, with some participants saying that Worthington is not "built out," as is commonly believed, but has places that can be redeveloped and other areas, such as downtown, where infill development is a possibility.

Housing is another area that must be addressed, since much of Worthington's housing stock is older and needs to be updated to meet the expectations of home buyers.

"People are moving to southern Delaware County where they can buy new homes they don't have to maintain yet," said Becky Princehorn.

The community is also in need of housing to suit its aging population, several pointed out. There is a lack of downsizing opportunities, said Jeff Appel.

Others pointed out that the district needs to "sell" its schools, not just rest on its reputation.

Dan Girard, principal of Slate Hill, pointed out that more families are sending their children to private, charter and online schools.

New learning styles must be implemented to keep up with the competition, he said.

Lisa Staggenborg of Sustainable Worthington said that life-long learning is important. She would like to see self-supporting adult classes in the Worthington schools.

"We need to find a way to make the school buildings community hubs," she said.

One new idea was to form a Worthington-area commission with representatives from neighborhoods throughout the school district. That might help solve an often-mentioned division between the city and the rest of the community, participants said

Among action steps recommended by a small group discussing economic development were to develop key corridor plans for Huntley Road, High Street, and Wilson Bridge Road; to identify and remove impediments for private investment; and to pool public and private resources to create a well-funded comprehensive economic development plan.

Worthington Libraries director Meribah Mansfield said she was gratified by all of the ideas generated by the group.

"This community has always been forward-thinking," she said.