By Noell Wolfgram Evans
The theme to the April meeting of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission (GHAC) would be the future. That’s because the bulk of the information shared at the April 4 meeting dealt with things to come.
The meeting started with a change that will affect the immediate future of the commission. Chairman Jay McCallister read a letter from commissioner Brian Bainbridge in which, Bainbridge tended his resignation. Citing his newborn son and the need to be an attentive father of two boys under 2, as well as his real estate business, Bainbridge stated that he no longer had the time needed by the commission. Bainbridge’s term was to expire this year.
McCallister said that the seat Bainbridge held would remain open until the forthcoming election.
The featured speaker of the night was Carla Williams-Scott, the director of the department of neighborhoods for the city of Columbus, who spoke about the long-term future for residents.
The department of neighborhoods is a relatively new city department. Formed in 2016, the department houses what were once several independent divisions of the city including community relations, neighborhood relations, and the 311 call center.
Williams-Scott shared that the department had been formed to work toward the major focus points of Mayor Andrew Ginther – neighborhoods.
“Some of our neighborhoods have not enjoyed the same prosperity as others<’ said Williams-Scott.
In particular, she singled out Linden and the Hilltop.
“So it’s time” she said “to set that right.”
To do this, the city has contracted with the Neighborhood Design Center at The Ohio State University to help with the creation of a master plan for each of the two focus communities.
Linden is up first and the plan for the Hilltop should begin to be formed in late 2018 or the first quarter of 2019.
“I know it seems like a long way off,” Wiliams-Scott said, “but hang in there with us because the results will be amazing.”
Some in the crowd though were not convinced.
One resident in attendance expressed skepticism that parts of the Hilltop would even last that long.
Williams-Scott understood the concerns and hoped that there could be a collective agreement between the city and residents on working through some of the more pressing issues of the area in advance of the master plan.
“We will not desert you” she said as she pointed to some programs that have just started like PACE (Pro-Active Code Enforcement), programs that are in some form of planning such as the mayor’s pre-k initiative and some infrastructure plans, and programs that are forward and future thinking. On this list would go Smart Columbus which is looking at innovative ways to make Columbus a more connected city. One of their blue-sky ideas is for the creation of Smart Streetlights. These lights would not only illuminate the streets, but residents minds too as they would radiate a wi-fi signal.
Regardless of what’s done in the interim, Williams-Scott understands that the heavy lifting in the area will be done by the forthcoming master plan. A song that she knows residents have heard before.
“Some of you are probably thinking ‘Ok, we are being planned to death.’”
This time though would be different she said.
“This time, the mayor has committed to dedicating resources to the implementation of the plan.”
The next full commission meeting will be held on May 9 at 7 p.m. This is a change from the regular schedule.