Livingston Avenue, strategic plan among Bexley’s priorities for rest of year
Continuing to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, increasing safety along the East Livingston Avenue corridor, continuing diversity initiatives, expanding environmental programs and updating Bexley’s strategic plan are among the city’s priorities for the remainder of 2021, city officials said during a Feb. 26 annual retreat.
City Council members, Mayor Ben Kessler, City Attorney Marc Fishel and City Auditor Bill Harvey discussed issues they plan to address throughout the year at council’s annual retreat, held virtually on the city’s website, bexley.org.
Kessler outlined a Joint Livingston Avenue Plan that Bexley and the city of Columbus are working on. Kessler said the plan is designed to improve public safety, infrastructure and land-use policies and to identify development opportunities.
Bexley and Columbus have assembled a working group consisting of staff from both cities to gather data, draft a plan, hold a public workshop and revise the plan based on residents’ feedback.
Kessler said the group also will hold a public workshop and further refine the plan before presenting a final draft to the city councils and planning boards of both cities by this fall.
A major focus of the Joint Livingston Avenue Plan will be identifying strategies to increase public safety, from traffic-calming to crime reduction, Kessler said.
“There's been additional Columbus resources given to traffic enforcement on Livingston Avenue,” he said. “It cannot be divorced from the idea that regionally, we’re seeing an uptick in criminal activity. So that criminal activity isn't just violent crime or property theft, it also involves traffic and driving behavior.”
A key component of the Livingston Avenue corridor is to continue efforts to revitalize the Ferndale Place/Mayfield Place neighborhood in southwest Bexley, including opening the recently developed Schneider Park athletics fields, council President Lori Ann Feibel said.
“That’s important on all kinds of levels, and getting that connectivity and making sure that the individuals that live in the Ferndale/Mayfield area feel like they’re part of Bexley is really important,” she said.
Kessler said the strategic plan also addresses public safety and community quality of life, residential and commercial development and infrastructure needs.
Kessler said the process for updating and adopting the strategic plan will be similar to the Joint Livingston Avenue Plan, with opportunities for residents to provide input, revising the draft based on residents’ input and presenting the plan to council for final approval.
“Council is welcome to have feedback at any point in time into preparation of the final plan and in adoption, hopefully by the end of this year,” he said.
Council member Jen Robinson said the city also should focus on implementing the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategic plan that council adopted last summer. Its goals include enhancing police/community relations, welcoming new residents and inviting residents in neighboring communities to participate in local events.
“I just don't want too much time to go by without us making sure that we are doing what we said we were going to do and really following the guidelines that we set out in the strategic plan – and particularly the DEI ordinance,” Robinson said. “I think it’s really important, and I think our community really is anxious to see how we're doing.”
The city also should continue to build on the environmental initiatives it launched in recent years, including expanding recycling to apartment complexes and other multifamily units, council member Troy Markham said.
“When I moved last time, I stayed in an apartment complex for six months while I was waiting for my house to be ready,” he said. “One thing that I heard a lot about from the people that lived there is they didn't have any recycling options. They were literally throwing away in these giant bins, glass and paper and things like that.”
While the virus vaccine rollout continues nationwide, council members and city administrators said they plan to continue to hold meetings virtually for the foreseeable future while consulting with the city’s COVID-19 Task Force to monitor caseloads throughout the city, county and state. Council member Monique Lampke, who organized the retreat, said holding meetings via Zoom has made the city’s meetings more accessible to the public.
“Since our meetings have been virtual, public participation and public comments are up, and that has been a nice silver lining through all of this,” she said. “So whether or not we come back in some hybrid form, I would still encourage us to keep up the public participation.”