'Delaware Together': City officials working on comprehensive, thoroughfare plans through 2040

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek

Development of an update to Delaware city's comprehensive plan – a wide-ranging planning project launched in April 2018 – was presented to City Council on April 26.

Council held a public hearing and gave a second reading to ordinances adopting the "Delaware Together" comprehensive plan and a 2020-2040 thoroughfare plan. If approved, both will be amendments to the city’s zoning code.

Delaware City Hall

Work on the comprehensive plan began in 2018 when the city started to solicit residents as volunteers to serve on a comprehensive-plan steering committee. At the time, it was estimated the project would take a year to complete. Such factors as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic delayed completion.

The current plan was adopted in 2004. When work began on the new plan, city officials said it would be used to frame and influence decisions on recurring issues, rather than setting a specific timetable to complete objectives.

Growth is a motivating factor behind the latest plan, city planning director Dave Efland told council April 26.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission predicts significant growth in central Ohio through 2050, he said.

"This is generally a good thing for our region and for our city and community. We have done an outstanding job, I think, as a community of managing growth through several decades at this point – and now planning for continuing to be a well-managed community while accepting growth and development where we want it and how we would like it within our community," he said. "The plan really expresses the values and aspirations of our community. It's a long-term guide for our community ... over the next 10 to 15 years of growth and development in our community.

“Our comprehensive plan is the broadest public-policy document our community can create for its future,” he said. “As such, it is complex and complicated and diverse. It also helps us manage the growth and development that will be coming our way."

More simple plans might work in other communities "because they're not as complex and dynamic and diverse as us," he said.

"The plan represents six goals, almost 60 objectives and over 230 separate individual actions. ... It is a lot,” he said. “But that reflects us. We're not simple."

 City engineering director Bill Ferrigno outlined the proposed thoroughfare plan, which focuses on roads, streets and traffic.

He said the city's first such plan – developed in 2001 in cooperation with the county – included such goals as a Pennsylvania Avenue-U.S. Route 23 interchange, extending Houk Road and developing the Glenn and Sawmill parkways, plus other goals now achieved or partly achieved.

The new thoroughfare plan "includes information about improving what we have already, the street network that's in place, as well as it discusses planning for the future.”

“With the kind of growth we've experienced over the past three decades ... having a thoroughfare plan in place is critical," Ferrigno said.

 Efland said the comprehensive-plan steering committee held more than a dozen sessions and reviewed thousands of public comments. 

The plan's goals, he said, include managing growth and change, advancing economic prosperity, building social cohesion and equity, promoting housing quality and variety, leveraging resources and infrastructure and ensuring fiscal sustainability.

Key themes, he said, include targeting areas for new development, promoting housing options, using economic incentives and updating zoning, among others.

Advancing economic prosperity, he said, would include a focus on marketing, supporting small businesses, encouraging a mix of uses and strengthening workforce development, among others themes.

Building social cohesion, Efland said, would include recognizing diversity, fostering a sense of citywide togetherness and addressing public health concerns, among others themes.

Promoting housing quality and variety, he said, would include encouraging a variety of housing types, including affordable housing, "starter homes" and homes for older couples no longer living with their children. Other themes include encouraging a mix of housing types and mixed use in identified areas, he said.

Yet another theme is enhancing riverfront access along the east bank of the Olentangy River, Efland said. In the city, Route 23 closely abuts much of the west bank. 

Among steps to ensure fiscal stability are developing long-term funding sources for roadway infrastructure, which Efland characterized as a pressing need. 

Ferrigno said the thoroughfare plan looks at completed and proposed roadway and intersection improvements.

In the past 20 years, he said, 64 roadway and intersection projects were completed. Many were done by private developers, he said, because they were in the existing transportation plan.

Also at the meeting, council approved a resolution indicating what services the city could provide to 55.7 acres petitioned for annexation.

The city's agenda packet said the land is south of Berlin Station Road and mostly east of Glenn Parkway and would be an expansion of the Glenn Road North subdivision.

Efland said the resolution is the first in a number of steps prescribed by state law for annexation of land by a city.

City Manager Tom Homan said bringing the annexation to a final vote will be a much longer process.

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