New Albany residents soon will have the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in the city's initiative to update its strategic plan.

An Engage New Albany Strategic Plan Update meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 16 in meeting room No. 1 at the New Albany branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 200 Market St.

During the workshop, city leaders will share feedback collected from previous outreach efforts and present a series of draft recommendations for input, said Adrienne Joly, director of administrative services.

The feedback on draft recommendations will be used during development of the plan, which is expected to be completed in the spring, she said.

The plan is the key policy guide for New Albany City Council, boards, commissions and staff members in evaluating land use, development and infrastructure decisions, as well as public investment and private development, Joly said.

Because the city's first master plan was adopted in 1998, it has been updated every five years, she said.

Planning, urban-design and landscape-architecture firm MKSK is leading the process under the direction of the community-development department, Joly said. A steering committee comprising representatives of neighborhoods, businesses, government agencies, community groups and local institutions will guide the plan's development, she said.

"We were really pleasantly surprised that the outreach did result in more input," Joly said.

During the outreach efforts, the city asked a number of questions in different formats to learn from residents what they think the city is doing well and what it needs to improve on, she said.

One of the questions asked was how important different components of the plan were to people, Joly said, and the top three results were land use, community character and transportation.

"I don't think we were surprised," she said.

Land use and transportation are important for a growing community such as New Albany, and community character validates the policies the city implemented over time and reinforces that the way things are designed and appear are important and contribute to residents' overall well-being, Joly said.

According to a Nov. 7 summary report, more than 1,000 people engaged in the first phase of the strategic-planning process via online surveys, roundtable discussions, mobile meetings, neighborhood gatherings and a community-update luncheon.

According to the report, based on the engagement, the project team developed nine community priorities:

* Maintaining high quality of life for residents.

* Continuing to fill the Village Center and attract new dining and retail options.

* Embracing wellness through connected parks and leisure trails.

* Balancing growth by preserving community character.

* Fostering an inclusive and welcoming sense of community.

* Emphasizing sustainability and resiliency.

* Connecting people through a multimodal transportation system.

* Developing diverse housing options.

* Maintaining fiscal health through a diversified economy.

According to the report, results from a community workshop and online survey showed that quality of schools was the top strength identified by residents, and traffic was the top weakness. Improving traffic and congestion was a top priority for the city.

Council member Marlene Brisk said she attended a number of outreach sessions.

She said she thinks most residents believe the city is growing responsibly. They want the city to continue doing more of what staff members already are doing, she said.

People like the social and retail amenities New Albany has been able to bring to the community, and they want more of those things, Brisk said.

"But they also recognize the need to balance that growth with disciplined spending and careful planning regarding traffic and other issues that come with more activities in our community," she said.

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