Delaware Together: City's comprehensive plan, three years in making, nears completion

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

A wide-ranging planning project launched in April 2018 is nearing completion, Delaware City Council was told Jan. 25.

City planning director David Efland described the approaching final stages of a revision to the city's comprehensive plan, which last was updated in 2004.

Delaware City Hall

Called Delaware Together, "It's an expression of the values and aspirations of who and what we want to become as a community. The plan will move the city into the next 15 years of its development, help focus activities and key identified locations within our existing utility boundary and align fiscal resources with the plan," Efland said. "The draft plan contains six goals, almost 60 objectives and over 230 separate actions, expressing our city's rich history, its complexity, its diversity and its dynamic environment."

The draft evolved from more than 2,000 ideas and comments, mostly generated by a committee of more than 30 citizen volunteers "who have been ... with us for several years in development of this plan." Efland said.

"They have been the best steering committee I've ever worked with. They're really incredible. They roll their sleeves up and get to work," he added.

City Manager Tom Homan has said the plan's goals are used to frame and influence decisions on recurring issues the city will face many times over a period of years.

It will be "a tool for the community as we continue to grow and develop, and it's got a lot of pieces," Homan said.

The next step is to seek public input on the plan, Efland told council Jan. 25.

Through Feb. 12, the public may comment on the plan using a link at delawaretogether.net, he said.

The website includes two other pdf links. One summarizes the plan's goals, objectives and actions over 124 pages. The other is a complete draft of the plan covering 237 pages.

The plan's six goals are: managing growth and change; advancing economic prosperity; building social cohesion and equity; promoting housing quality and variety; leveraging resources, infrastructure and amenities; and supporting fiscal sustainability. The website also includes a video describing the plan. 

"Once the commenting period closes, the planning team will compile the comments and prepare a final draft plan for review by the planning commission, and then City Council for review and adoption," said Efland, who also said a number of city employees and departments were instrumental in developing the plan.

Channing Street housing plan approved

Also at the meeting, council approved three ordinances allowing 52 new residential units at 50 Channing St., now home to the Delaware County Engineer's Office.

That plan was submitted by the nonprofit Homeport of Columbus, whose website says it has "established itself as the largest locally focused nonprofit producer of affordable housing and related services in the region."

According to a city planning-staff report, Homeport proposes 24 apartment units, 20 attached townhouses and eight single-family homes on the 5.38-acre site. The single-family homes would be about 1,500 square feet each, with an attached garage.

The planning staff said Homeport would seek tax credits through the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, which would provide for a mix of incomes and on-site management for the apartments if approved.

Homeport's planned mixed-use development text identifies monthly net rent ranges for the apartments as: one bedroom, $350-$725; two bedroom, $420-$1,000; and three bedroom, $495-$1,135.

Homan told council approval of the ordinances is a first step.

Approval for OHFA tax credits is competitive, with no guarantee Homeport's application would be approved, Efland said at an earlier meeting.

"I think it's a project that really speaks to the need for housing prices that we're not seeing right now," Homan said Jan. 25. "These types of projects through entities like Homeport provide something for the marketplace and for our community. ... It's the first investment we've had on the near east side in terms of housing that I can remember. Right now workforce housing, attainable housing ... there's a need for that, and this helps to meet that need. And I think it's a good project for the community and for our region." 

"I'm very excited about this project,” Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said. “I wish Homeport the best of luck."

 Two emails from the public were read at the meeting. One said the site's neighbors oppose the plan and want the site turned into a public park. The other lauded the effort to create affordable housing.

Laura Comek, an attorney representing Homeport, on Jan. 11 told council OHFA tax credits are not the same as Section 8 low-income housing, a federal program that provides rental-housing assistance.

What Homeport proposes is "not the old concept of affordable housing or housing projects,” she said. These are equity-funded tax credits, not a traditional Section 8 voucher program, she said.

The ordinances authorizing the Homeport plan add a planned mixed-use overlay allowing residential use, grant a conditional-use permit and approve a preliminary development plan.

On Jan. 25, Comek told council, "The plan before you meets your code. Other than the fact we are trying to make these workforce priced, there's no real difference between these units and anything else you are seeing other than super high-end stuff. ... We build neighborhoods. We believe that everyone has the right to clean, safe housing and to live in a neighborhood with other people and kids. ... And that's what we do. ... Other than the users, there's no difference in this project."

The full draft of the city's comprehensive plan is at tinyurl.com/yxk2oye7.

The draft of the goals, objectives and actions is at tinyurl.com/y34sbtz7.

editorial@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNews