Area plan looks for additional approval
Two years ago, the Southwest Area Commission asked the city of Columbus Department of Development and the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department to undertake the task of writing an area plan for the four jurisdictions within their boundary limits: Columbus, Franklin County, Franklin Township and Jackson Township.
One year ago, the city and county approved their request and have since been working hard to complete the comprehensive plan by holding numerous private meetings and public community forums seeking opinions on how to help shape the future of the Southwest area.
“I think the guidelines set up in the plan will really help enhance the overall appearance and make for better neighborhoods,” said chairman Ralph Horn at the Dec. 17 SWAC meeting. “I feel that this is the most exciting thing to happen to the southwest side of town in quite some time.”
That is part of the reason the commission unanimously passed a motion to adopt the Southwest Area Plan.
“Seeing a plan for our area has been a passion of mine and the commissions for several years now,” said Horn. “I think the reason why this was so important to me is because it’s for the kids. To have your children and grandchildren growing up in the area and hopefully stay in the area is something special.”
Even though the commission adopted the plan as it is written, it still has to meet the approval of the townships, as well as the Columbus Development Commission, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and Columbus City Council.
City of Columbus planner Adrienne Joly does not believe either Franklin Township or Jackson Township will turn down the plan’s adoption.
During the comprehensive plan’s initial process, one of the first steps was implementing a working committee with members from the commission, the two townships, and several other people invested in the community (such as a representative with the Columbus Housing Network, Greenlawn Cemetery and South-Western City Schools).
“Everyone has worked well together and hopefully we have done all the homework up front, so I don’t think we’ll run into any issues,” she said.
The key recommendations from the Southwest Area Plan include:
•Economic development: The land use plan protects prime industrial land for targeted business development.
•Land use: The concentration of commercial at key locations along the area’s main corridors and the preservation of existing residential areas are the main focus of the plan’s land use recommendations. For example, guidelines for the Brown Road corridor state that it should maintain its predominately residential and limited commercial character; Frank Road should maintain its existing industrial land, but require landscaped buffers and better design standards upon redevelopment of industrial properties.
•Parks and open spaces: The plan offers a concept for the redevelopment of the former Franklin County Children’s Services site. According to data collected during public forums, the preferred use of the site is a community facility, a passive park and a mix of offices.
•Regional coordination: Key projects and issues are identified where regional coordination is necessary to implement recommendations.
•Transportation: Construct sidewalks, trails, and crosswalks to increase safety for pedestrians. Columbus’ Safewalks program has recommended that sidewalks be constructed on Brown Road, Dyer Road, Gantz Road, Harmon Avenue, Harrisburg Pike, Hart Road, and Stimmel Road.
•Urban design: The plan sets guidelines for new residential and commercial development to ensure that new development contributes to the overall attractiveness of the area. It also helps to increase design compatibility between residential abutting commercial and industrial land uses. Residents say this is a good thing, but do not believe it does anything to clean up the aesthetic problems the area currently has.
Joly said the plan cannot get rid of existing compatibility (of close-set residential and heavier commercial uses) issues, but its guidelines will help shape the future development in the area.
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