By Rick Palsgrove
You may have seen the signs in yards that read, “CW For Smart Growth – No More Warehouses” and wondered about the group behind the effort.
About CW For Smart Growth
CW For Smart Growth was formed by Canal Winchester resident Angie Halstead.
“I created the group when warehouses began to spring up in places in CW and four were heading my way,” said Halstead. “I noticed residents and citizens airing their grievances on community Facebook groups, but there was no action being taken – only chatter. I couldn’t stand by and let this community we all love, our hard work and earned equity as well as our quality of life be destroyed without standing up and trying to change the trajectory.”
According to Halstead, the group’s mission is to ensure the community remains a desirable place “by shifting development control to the community/residents” and away from developers. It seeks “smart” growth, responsible planning that considers infrastructure, school capacity/educational opportunities, pollution, safety, the environment, and transparency of the city’s decision making process.
Halstead said the group holds occasional meetings with a core group of residents/citizens, but it mostly communicates using chat, Facebook, emails, and by attending government meetings.
“I am thankful for all the wonderful people who stood up with me and helped spread the word, educate, and fight back against haphazard development happening in our community,” said Halstead. “We need more residents to help, because it takes a village and a few can only do so much.”
Thus far CW For Smart Growth has 779 members on Facebook and others who assist who are not on the Facebook page, as well as alliances with related groups in neighboring communities, according to Halstead.
“Together, we want a better future for our entire region,” said Halstead. “Canal Winchester is not an island and we want the planning of our town and our adjacent communities to be cohesive.”
The group’s vision of development
Halstead, and fellow group member Trish Preston, who Halstead said has a farm on the outskirts of Canal Winchester, said the group wants elected officials toconsider a pause on development until a development study and plan are created.
“It is unimaginable that our community does not have a development plan that outlines our growth outside of the downtown / U.S. 33 area,” Halstead and Preston said.
They envision creative innovative development where tax abatements and TIF’s are only used to attract development that can be reconfigured and reimagined as industry and society evolve.
“Long term peer reviewed studies have given us evidence that warehouses become a detritus on communities and contribute to their rapid decline,” they said. “The short term financial gains create a long term burden on future generations and we believe we should be planning for economic and social success for multiple generations.”
The group seeks: conservation of greenspace and public health, incentives for agriculture to be a priority, measured slow growth of residential that allows schools to keep up, infrastructure to come before commercial development that creates a risk to the safety, health of residents, and a plan for increased capacity to meet the needs of residents “today, in 25 years, and beyond.”
“Haphazard warehousing development leaves zero capacity to meet those needs and, as good stewards, we owe it to future generations to do the best we can to leave them in good hands, as good as it was given to us from previous generations,” they said.
Halstead and Preston said the idea that residential development is the only alternative to warehousing is incorrect.
“Our community has evolved from a village rooted in agriculture to a rural / suburban community,” they said. “We are not an industrial town. Overall, we oppose warehouses because the short term financial gains will quickly be offset by the burden they create.”
Regarding potential job growth from warehouses, the group believes “warehouses are one of many jobs that are being fast tracked to become automated and robots do not pay income tax” and that most of the jobs locally are under 30 hours per week and average $16-18 per hour with no benefits.
“The promise of upfront dollars to the schools are fools gold,” Halstead and Preston said. “In comparison, we sold our soul for money up front when the reality is we could have long term sustainable economic, social and physical development and wealth in the form of other types of industry.”
Halstead and Preston said warehousing has a place and “set haphazardly in the midst of residential development is not that place.” The group believes the presence of warehouses in the wrong areas: cause property values drop, create traffic issues, rising air and noise pollution, infrastructure that potentially cannot support truck traffic, wildlife is adversely impacted, greenspace and farming disappear, and citizens’ way of life is hampered.
The group cites that the Columbus’ South East Land Use Plan does not indicate potential warehouses in areas where Canal Winchester is considering such developments. The group characterizes it as a “scare tactic” that if one municipality does not develop a site another one will.
City working on comprehensive plan
At an Aug. 30 public hearing, Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire, said the city is working to develop a comprehensive plan to guide it into the future. The long-range plan is intended to direct the growth and physical development for 10 to 20 years and can incorporate individual studies such as city parks, downtown, and thoroughfare plans into a single document.
According to Haire, the plan would help build a consensus and commitment from elected and appointed officials, residents, staff, and stakeholders.
A comprehensive plan can include: outlining existing conditions and demographics; a future land use plan, which, unlike a zoning map, is only a guide; a thoroughfare plan for vehicles, pedestrians and transit; parks and open spaces; a utility master plan; economic development plan; and implementation and strategies.