SWAC puts area plan in motion

Residents in the southwest part of the city know what they want – safety, appearance and recreation.

These were the issues that topped a list of concerns that emerged at a public forum for the South West Area Commission (SWAC) which is working toward an area plan of development-related policies and urban design over at least a 10-year period.

About 40 people gathered April 14 at Franklin Woods Middle School for the first of four public forums that will be necessary in the year-long writing process.

Public participation is important, said SWAC Chairman Ralph Horn.

"Do you want sidewalks? A safe place for your children to play? Handicapped ramps for seniors? What to do with the Clippers‚ stadium?" he asked. "Here is your chance."

Adreinne Joly, a planner for the City of Columbus, explained that the plan will offer guidelines on what residents want the area to look like in the future. The area is bounded by the Scioto River, I-270, Route 62 and West Mound Street. It includes portions of Franklin County, the City of Columbus, Franklin Township, Jackson Township and a corner of Urbancrest.

Those at the meeting included residents and business people from the area as well as governmental representatives.

After an overview of what their assignment would be, participants then dispersed to four tables where they discussed their concerns. Each table was led by a planner from either the city of the county. Each participant was asked to list their top concerns.

"Comments can be either positive or negative," Ben Weiner, a planner with Franklin County, told the group at his table.

Residents said they want to see a recreation center in the area, as well as a library, sidewalks, street lights, and bus transportation.

"I’ve got a negative," said Tim Guyton, chairman of the Franklin Township trustees, even after he had acknowledged a need for safety issues. "Sidewalks and street lights cost money."

"That’s all right," Weiner said, responding to Guyton. "Negatives do count. All these suggestions will be taken back to the office and tabulated."

Many of the suggestions posted after that brief discussion period mirrored what Joly said had been found during some one-on-one interviews with residents and business people of the area.

Some of the concerns found at that time centered on the ratio of residential versus industrial development, the need for more retail opportunities, sidewalks, bike paths, street lights, a recreation center, library, and medical assistance, she said.

Other items of concern were a park, a clean up of the area and the need for emergency services.

When people listed appearance and clean up of the area, they mentioned the Frank Road area where there is a lot of industrial-type business. Safety issues, such as sidewalks, were centered on the residential portion of Frank Road, while traffic congestion on Harrisburg Pike was another big concern.

Afterwards, people were invited to visit three tables to register the likes and dislikes about the area, where they would like to walk or bike and areas where pedestrian safety is an issue, and some areas of opportunities for development or redevelopment.

"I like where I live," said Aurelie Petrarca. "I’m trying to find something positive about the area."

But a lot of negatives showed up in the area along the Scioto River.

"That’s Inland Products," Petrarca pointed out.

One participant left a hand written comment on the map at a transportation table that pointed out "a large amount of people come to FCCS (Franklin County Children’s Services) with limited transportation" and that people "walk from the bus line on Harrisburg Pike and Brown Road."

A lot of comments were focused on the development map around Gantz Road. Residents noted they wanted to see a park, a recreation center or a library in that area.

Planners will enter the night’s comments into a database and compile a new map showing areas of concerns to present at the next public forum scheduled for June 24, Joly said.

She said she was pleased with the turnout, saying it fostered "small group and got a lot of people talking."

An updated report will be prepared for presentation at the June 24 meeting, but a time and location have not yet been determined.

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