SWAC looking to form planning committees

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Members of the Southwest Area Commission are combing the community looking for people to serve on a variety of committees as the commission begins work on a plan that will serve as a guideline for future planning and development in the area.

Planner Adrienne Joly from the City of Columbus explained the plan would be put into use when developers come into the area.

"It’s for land use and urban design," she said. "It’s what kind of buildings do you want and how is the land to be used. It’s also a starting point for capital improvements."

Joly said the first thing the commission has to do is approve a planning services document, then appoint a working committee and select other people who would be willing to give their input for the future of the area.

The Southwest Area Commission covers an area bounded by Interstate 270 on the south, West Mound Street on the northwest, the Scioto River on the east and a line just west of Harrisburg Pike on the west.

Copies of the plan were distributed to the members to study and later vote on.

SWAC secretary Rita Miller suggested members study the document and seek answers to their questions before the December meeting.

Joly said she would like to have that document approved and the working committee members named so they can begin work the first of the year. She said it takes about a year to complete a plan that would be in effect for several years and be used as a guideline for future development.

She advised the members that the working committee is the "rolled-up sleeves" group and should represent broad interests.

"Commission members can participate and you should look for other people who can attend meetings and provide direction," she said, recommending the commission look for eight to 12 people to be on that committee.

 Joly was one of several state and local officials who addressed the commission prior to a short business meeting.

State Rep. Dan Stewart told the group that the legislature would be working on a capital budget this coming year.

"I’m on the Finance Committee, so if there is anything you want, you should get in touch with my office," he said.

Stewart also said another issue the legislators will take up is restructuring electric rates.

"If we don’t deal with it in a year, the caps will come off and the rates would go up," he said, adding that rates could go up as much as 80 to 100 percent, which brought groans from audience in the room at the New Horizons Church on Harrisburg Pike.

He also talked about some possible uses for vacant buildings in the area, such as turning the empty Macy’s store in Westland Shopping Center into academic use, and the Delphi building for retraining workers.

Matt Baldwin from the city’s Health Department, talked about the health advisory committees that have been formed on the Eastside, the Westside and in the Southside.

The Eastside group meets monthly and has two subcommittees that are active. The Westside group is planning to resume meetings early in the new year while the Southside group has been looking at a location for a health center.

Jackson Township Trustee Bill Lotz told the group that the Shelley Company is once again looking at opening another gravel pit south of I-270. An earlier proposal for a new gravel pit was withdrawn after Jackson Township officials learned that the added number of vehicles on the highway would be around 200 a day, not the 25 as had originally been thought.

"I personally oppose it," Lotz said, adding that a new gravel pit would mean added traffic on Route 104. His stand was echoed by SWAC member Eve Crego.

Franklin Township Trustee Cheryl Schrack said she and her colleagues allowed the city to annex Cooper Stadium as long as Delphi, Westland Shopping Center and Children’s Services were left to the township for development.

Cathy Johnson, a member of the South-Western City Schools board of education, said that in a year or so the district would be looking at funding from the Ohio School Facilities Commission to help build facilities. The state would provide 47 percent of the funding and the district would have to provide the rest, she said.

During the business meeting, commissioners approved a four-month leave of absence that member Crego had requested because of health reasons. "I’ll be back in April," she promised.

Roy Bertossi was appointed acting vice chair to fill in for Crego during her absence. Crego also encouraged other members to fill in for her on community committees she attends.

Commission Chair Ralph Horn was selected by the city to serve on the 2012 Commission, a body of city residents who will be working on various projects for the city’s bicentennial observance in little more than four years.

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