Gahanna has a new land-use plan in draft form after 14 months of work by OHM Advisors, a 12-member steering committee and the public.
Michael Blackford, Gahanna's deputy development director, said this plan would replace nine different plans the city has been using.
The city hired OHM Advisors to help create the plan at a cost of $90,000, which came from Gahanna's general fund, he said.
Aaron Domini, principal for OHM Advisors, said work began in 2017 on what was supposed to be a nine-month project, but efforts slowed down to provide more public engagement.
"A lot has gone into creating this plan," he said. "At the heart of the whole effort has been an exorbitant amount of public outreach we've done through this project."
Domini said a lot of listening and reaching out to the community took place, to understand what residents feel is important.
That outreach included a telephone survey involving 300 residents; an online survey with 1,000 participants; a public meeting held Feb. 27, 2018, involving about 22 attendees; and an area commission meeting held March 1, 2018, with about 25 attendees.
Domini said the total engagement involved 1,300 to 1,400 residents, or about 4 percent of Gahanna's 36,000 residents.
He said, on average, 5 to 10 percent is good for public engagement.
"We did a lot of research to look at where Gahanna was, where Gahanna is now and where they're going to project moving forward," Domini said.
"Finally, one of the other key things we looked at is what's happening regionally. The region is changing and Gahanna is a big part of the region, and how Gahanna fits into that region and the way the region is growing was really important to understand.
"Having a technical understanding and the intuitive understanding of the people are two key inputs that went into making this plan," he said.
As zoning occurs, Domini said, it should be guided by the land-use plan.
"One of the key things that drove this is that it's important the zoning code is in alignment with this document. The last plan left a lot open to interpretation," he said.
In a letter at the beginning of the draft plan, Mayor Tom Kneeland wrote, "This document will provide clarity and guidance to those residents and businesses who want to better understand and participate in the land-development process.
"As the city faces increasing pressures for development, this plan will help frame public discourse and regulatory policies that will ultimately determine the city's future development."
Although much of the city has been developed and likely will remain in its current land use, Domini said, six focus areas were looked at, including the downtown, central corridors, north gateway, west gateway, south gateway and Jefferson Township.
As outlined in the plan, the following are the areas and the desired visions for them:
* The downtown, bisected by Granville Street to the north and south, serves as the city's culture and entertainment hub and functions as a true mixed-use district, according to the plan.
The desired vision for this area is that is should continue to grow and expand as a traditional mixed-use district where the community can live, work and play. Key features should include medium- to high-density mixed-use and residential developments and carefully planned public spaces for gathering.
* The central corridors, along North Hamilton and Havens Corners roads, are mostly a mix of low-density residential and community retail. Several schools and public offices are in this area, including City Hall and Gahanna Lincoln High School.
The desired vision is that the area should be planned as a medium-density, mixed-use district. Both commercial and housing should be integrated vertically and horizontally to create a vibrant, mixed-use and walkable center, according to the plan.
* The north gateway, bounded by Morse Road to the north, acts as an entryway into Gahanna for those traveling east, west and south from surrounding communities. It encompasses a large portion of the city's multifamily development and large-format commercial development.
The vision is a well-connected commercial and multifamily area with nodes of more-intense development with an urban form to allow increased density and walkability. The area should allow a variety of multifamily options to attract young professionals working at nearby job centers in Easton and New Albany, as well as provide an option for Gahanna's seniors to age in place, according to the plan.
* The south gateway, in the southeastern portion of the city, is the southernmost entryway into the city from Interstate 270 North. The focus area is bordered by the rail line and city boundary on the south and just north of Taylor Road on the north.
The desired vision for the south gateway, a combination of three corporate areas, is to focus on innovation and synergy among businesses to create an innovation district. The buildings and the built environment should utilize high-quality materials, and the public realm should attract employees and businesses. Light industrial and manufacturing-focused business should be interconnected through green spaces and recreational paths, creating a campuswide feel.
* The west gateway is the most prominent entryway into the city from the west and is bisected by U.S. Route 62, which is the main route into Gahanna for those traveling to and from downtown Columbus and the airport. It's bordered by Johnstown Road to the south and by the city boundary and downtown to the west and east and encompasses parts of the neighborhood north of Agler Road.
The desired vision is that future development should promote the community's identity and create a sense of arrival. Future land uses may include both neighborhood commercial and residential. The uses should be planned carefully to create a neighborhood character and feel south of Route 62, according to the plan.
* Jefferson Township is the only focus area outside the city limits. The area is predominately low-density residential housing but retains rural charm and natural features throughout.
The desired vision is to retain its features using sustainable development practices. Conservation-development techniques that allow for some strategic growth -- while protecting farmland, open space, natural features and vistas -- should be utilized.
The plan also provides guidelines for parking, mobility and open space, landscaping, lighting, architecture, signs and downtown design.
Steering committee members who helped create the plan include Michael Schnetzer, council's representative; Bobbi Burba, Joe Keehner and Michael Suriano, planning commission members; Robert Donahue, Don Jensen, Merisa Bowers, Lee Bailey and Chris Irvin, area commission members; Rob Priestas, director of public service and engineering; Anthony Jones, development director; and Blackford.
After the March 20 meeting, Blackford said, feedback would be reviewed to see if modifications are needed.
Residents can find the 200-page final draft plan posted at gahannalanduseplan.com.
Domini said additional comments are welcomed.
He said he anticipates the plan will go before the planning commission and council in May or June.