An area plan is described as a set of guidelines for future developers to adhere to based upon the suggestions of community members.
"Community input is the key to creating a land use plan," said Benjamin Weiner, with the Franklin County Department of Economic Development and Planning. "It is a reflection on how they want their community to look in the future."
For the past year, the county and members of the Southwest Area Commission have been hard at work to establish an area plan for the region.
They have held numerous meetings to discuss what they do and do not want to see in the area.
To get more input, they have also held public workshops for residents to view their area plan drafts and give constructive feedback on how to make it better.
The most recent public workshop was held on Sept. 30 at Franklin Woods Intermediate School.
There are four main topics within the plan and they include Land Use, Recreation and Open Spaces, Transportation and Urban Development.
At previous commission meetings, residents have complained about the look of the area. Many spoke against commercial development incorporated into residential developments, similar to what is currently along Frank Road.
Under the new guidelines, industrial developments would be "designed to increase compatibility between residential and abutting uses and to mitigate environmental impacts."
New industrial development requirements would be required to incorporate landscaping to soften their building along front elevations or elevations that face public streets, have hidden parking and be stationed so that loading, storage and other external activities that generate noise are not facing public right-of-ways or residential uses.
Under new residential requirements, developers would be discouraged from adding walled or gated communities, and encouraged to add landscaping for a greater aesthetic appeal.
In the transportation portion of the area plan, there is a great demand to see the addition of sidewalks and bike paths in the surrounding communities.
"We don’t have any bike paths or walking trails on our side of town," said resident Connie DiSerio. "It is something I would definitely like to have in the area."
The city of Columbus’ Safewalks Program have recommended sidewalks should be constructed on Brown Road, Dyer Road, Frank Road, Gantz Road, Hardy Parkway, Harmon Avenue, Harrisburg Pike, Hart Road, Jackson Pike, Mound Street and Stimmel Road.
Those streets are broken up into priority zones. The segments of Harrisburg Pike and Brown Road, north of Frank Road are the primary priorities. Harrisburg Pike south of Frank Road, Gantz Road and Mount Street are the secondary priorities, and the remaining streets and roads and the third priority.
The area plan also states that neighborhoods should "have an interconnected street and sidewalk system with connections to existing and future residential, commercial, civic and cultural areas, and to existing and planned paths and trail systems."
Residents agreed with the assessment that road enhancements (such as crosswalks) should be added to Frank Road and Brown Road, Frank Road and Harrisburg Pike, Harrisburg Pike and Mound Street and Brown Road and Hopkins Avenue.
Recreation and open spaces
One place where residents all want to see some type of development is the vacant site where the Franklin County Children’s Services was located.
"I would like to see a YMCA and a park together there," DiSerio said. "We don’t have many parks around here, nor do we have any places for youth programs."
"The residents came up with five different concepts for the Children’s Services site and the preferred concept was a community facility with a passive park, some active recreational facilities and limited office development," said city of Columbus Planner Adrienne Joly. "The office development would go up on the corner of Gantz Road and Frank Road."
The new amenities of the park would include walking and biking trails, the restoration of Big Run and Early Run, benches and wildlife viewing areas.
Weiner stated that an advantage to having office spaces is the ability to sell the land, which would generate funds to construct and operate a recreation center or other facility.
"One of the priorities is to improve the look of the area corridors," said Joly. "Residents love their neighborhoods, and they do not feel that the corridors reflect it well."
For Brown Road, residents strongly feel that the corridor should maintain its predominant residential and commercial character, and retail and office uses should be the focus of the redevelopment of the intersection of Brown Road and Frank Road.
For Frank Road, residents want to maintain the existing industrial land use on the south side of Frank Road, east of Gantz Road and on both sides of Frank Road, east of Brown Road. They also believe that undersized parcels rezoned to a commercial district should be discouraged along the north side of Frank Road.
On Harrisburg Pike, residents strongly agreed that rezoning to a non-residential district should be discouraged on both sides of Harrisburg Pike at Rosemount Avenue and Belmead Avenue; Frank Road and Big Run Road; and between Alkire Road and Blue Rock Boulevard.
On both the Brown Road and Harrisburg Pike corridors, residents strongly agreed that there should be no more developments of auto-oriented uses, such as auto repairs shops or automobile shops.
"We have heard many complaints about that," Joly said.
She added the implementation of the area plan would make sure owners of the shops asked for approval before starting up their businesses.
What is next?
The Southwest Area Plan is nearing its final stages. The Sept. 30 workshop was the third in a series of four. Representatives with the county and the city will go over the feedback that was gathered from this workshop, write it into a draft, and present their final draft to the public at another workshop later this fall.
"I think this has just come along nicely," said Ralph Horn, chairman of the Southwest Area Commission. "We’ve had extremely good cooperation with all of the stakeholders (the surrounding townships, jurisdictions, county and city officials) and the public participation has been outstanding.
"Everyone seems very excited about this plan."
Joly said the draft could be viewed at http://td.co.columbus.oh.us/Bizdevelopments/PlanList/index.asp and suggestions on the plan are encouraged.