By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester City Council’s June 7 meeting was packed with residents as they expressed their desire for the city to review how it handles development.
“We’re all here today because we want smart growth for our city,” said Busey Road homeowner Angie Halstead and her husband, Troy, who are members of Canal Winchester for Smart Growth, a citizens action group. “It seems we are turning into an industrial zone and we’re negatively impacted. We know we’re going to have growth, but I don’t want my days to be filled with noise from warehouses. We’re asking you to think about this.”
Bowen Road property owner Tom Obert is a contractor who has lived on his multi-acre property for 18 years. He said he knows what progress and change bring to a community. He said he is aware that the area where he lives is “not going to get an Ashbrook Village,” but he is keeping a watchful eye on what developments are proposed and built near his property.
Prior to the regular council meeting during a work session, Councilman Bob Clark said he was thinking about the city creating a long-term economic development and housing plan.
“I think it’s time,” said Clark. “We haven’t done it for a while.”
Development Director Lucas Haire said the idea is something his department and other council members have discussed and that it makes sense to take a fresh look at development within Canal Winchester.
A thoroughfare plan is nearly finished and a comprehensive park plan was created, along with other focused plans.
“We’re doing a significant amount of planning, not just in one document,” Haire said. “Typically, a comprehensive plan is done by a consultant and you try to get as much public engagement as possible.”
Haire said plans like the one the council discussed can take up to a year to complete and cost anywhere between $75,000 and $150,000 depending on the scope of the process.
Councilman Pat Lynch felt a comprehensive plan for Canal Winchester would be one of the best investments the city could make.
Resident Randy Stemen agreed with the idea and urged council to fund the study.
“We’ve all seen towns overwhelmed by warehouses and tuck traffic,” Stemen said. “We’re talking about smart growth. There are other things beside warehouses.”
Kathleen Vasko moved to Canal Winchester in 1978 and said she loves living in the city, wants to preserve green space, and is encouraged by the idea of a comprehensive study to guide future growth.
“I’ve been here through a lot of changes,” said Vasko. “Let’s think about what we’re doing.”
When asked about the appearance of vacant space in warehouses throughout the city,
Haire said companies are leasing space as fast as buildings are being constructed.
According to Haire, Canal Winchester is situated in one of the fastest growing regions in the Midwest.
“The vacancy rate for industrial properties is less than five percent on a regional basis,” said Haire, “which is the lowest recorded in the market. The amount of space available is very limited. The hub of economic growth is from Louisville, Ky., to Columbus and probably will continue to be the hub for years to come.”
Other CW news
•Council held the first reading on an ordinance amending the city charter that would go before voters in November.
Council also discussed the possibility of creating another charter ballot issue setting a one-year residency requirement for elected officials and debated the merits of language prohibiting partisan endorsements for council.
Councilwoman Jill Amos felt residents should be the ones to choose whether there should be a year’s residency requirement for office and Councilman Will Bennett concurred.
“I, too, would be in favor of offering residency requirements,” said Bennett, “but I prefer the residents decide that.”
•A public hearing is set for June 21 at 6:30 p.m. following a council work session to discuss the 2022 tax budget.
•The city received word from Columbia Gas of Ohio that the company plans to file an application with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to raise distribution rates and implement an alternative rate plan.
Columbia last filed a rate increase application with the state over 10 years ago and since 2008 said it made significant infrastructure investments to benefit customers.
“…residents have paid for many of these investments through items on the gas bill know as riders,” stated the company in a May 28 letter. “In its rate case application, Columbia will seek to recover more of these costs through the fixed base distribution portion of the bill. This shift will account for a large portion of the rate charges requested in Columbia’s filing.”