The future was the theme at London City Council’s Dec. 18 meeting, where the newly revised comprehensive plan was approved and the future of the Armory Youth Center was discussed.
Every five to seven years, the city reviews its comprehensive plan for future development. The latest revision was hammered out over the course of more than a year through committees and public input. The revision went to the London Planning Commission, which made several changes before forwarding the plan to city council for approval.
Elmer Olsen, chairman of the Planning Commission, has worked on three comprehensive plans and said this one had the most input.
“I think we have a pretty good feeling that this is a good plan,” Olsen said.
Although some are unhappy with the outcome, he said, he thinks it’s a workable document, better than the two previous plans. He said he hopes it is used rather than stuck on a shelf until the next review, although he understands that some of the plan’s recommended projects won’t get funding due to the tough economic times.
Eric Imerman, with the Madison County Ohio State Extension Office, headed up the plan’s review and is among those who are not happy with the Planning Commission’s changes. He said he didn’t want it to be him versus council, but he did have some concerns.
The OSU Extension Office, Imerman said, doesn’t want its name on the plan because the Planning Commission removed from the plan many things the people of London repeatedly said they wanted. He also said that since the city has not followed previous plans well, his committee included language like “shall” and “policy” in an effort to get city officials to follow the new plan more closely. The Planning Commission deleted that language.
Olsen said the commission didn’t come up with all the changes themselves; some of the modifications were made after public input at an August hearing. He said they took out the mandatory language to make the plan into more of a flexible guideline.
As for the removal of various projects, Councilman Rodney Lauer said that if projects were included that weren’t financially feasible, “You’re filling the plan with a lot of stuff that you can’t achieve. If you do that, it’s going to look like you’re just failures.
“Set the bar high, but don’t set it to the point where you can’t achieve anything.”
He said he would rather leave the plan as a guide and let council work on projects as they are able, rather than mandate a lot of things they can’t afford. He also noted that the document isn’t meant to be set in stone.
Imerman said the problem with leaving things out of the plan is that, should the city come up with more money in the future, the plan won’t contain the guidelines on how to proceed.
Armory Youth Center
A more concrete decision on the future will come in the next few months as council considers bids for a lease on the Armory building on East Second Street.
Currently, Madison Area Youth Center Inc., which runs the Armory Youth Center, leases the building from the city for $1 per year. Lauer said the city cannot find the original lease and so need to get a new one. In doing so, they must put it up for re-bid, so there’s a chance Madison Area Youth Center could lose their lease.
Debra Hay, the Armory’s executive director, said the group would like to stay in the building. She said the youth of London are the future, and she feels strongly about having a place they can go. She also outlined a broad plan for making the center into an organization like the YMCA, with more than an after-school program for kids. Possibilities would deal with drug and alcohol prevention, teen pregnancy, obesity in children, suicide, and anger management, among others, she said. There would also be a wide range of activities like ballet, basketball and cheerleading.
Council Member Mary Sanders strongly supported the Armory and Hay.
“I’ve seen what she’s doing, and she’s doing a great job,” said Sanders, expressing concern for the youth of the community.
The council seemed sympathetic to Hay’s case but will still need to put the lease up for re-bidding.