SWAC ready to unveil land plan

During a Sept. 22 special meeting, Franklin Township Trustees and Southwest Area Commission members got a taste of what the public will hear about the Southwest Land Use when it is presented on Sept 30.

Adrian Joly, planning manager with the City of Columbus Department of Development Planning Division, went over the draft of what the public feedback has been so far for the plan and to get trustee and commission members’ input.

Joly stressed, however, that this is all subject to the public information meeting.

"I can’t stress enough that it’s only at the draft stage and this isn’t the final version; it’s something for them to react to and tell us what they think," said Joly.

Trustee Tim Guyton agreed, adding that no changes are being made at this time and the community leaders do not want people to get the wrong idea.

"The assumption from the residents will be that their input isn’t necessary at these meetings because we few people are making decisions for them," said Guyton.

Joly said the most important thing for people to know is the draft for the future land use looks at the big picture to guide future development.

"I also think an important fact is that the county, townships and city are collaborating for the first time on these issues for the area," said Joly.

Most of the draft reconfirmed what is already happening in the area, but encourages the township and commission to keep the areas that are already residential as only residential and keep the industrial and commercial areas the same. This has been a problem in the past due to people operating businesses out of their homes or in areas that are not appropriate for commerce.

"There’s one house on Hard Road operating as a business. He starts his diesel trucks early in the morning and lets them sometimes run all night, keeps them running 24 hours a day and here these trucks are running right next to the neighbor’s bedroom windows," said Cook.

The draft would only operate as a guideline for the township and commission but the Franklin County Board of Commissioners has the final say. While the county usually tries to stick to the guidelines, Trustee Don Cook said in the Hard Road case, they did not.   

"We wrote letters that we were opposed to it, residents spoke up and they were opposed to it. A neighbor called me and said the zoning went through," said Cook.

Ben Weiner, a County Planner from the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department said one of the possibilities that will get presented is giving Southwest Area Commission (SWAC) the opportunity to give their recommendations on all land re-zonings.

"We propose in 100 percent of the planning area, to make the first stop the SWAC for a recommendation," said Weiner.

Guyton expressed his respect for the SWAC but stated that at the same time as a township trustee, he takes issue with all re-zonings going to SWAC first.

"We don’t live in the city, we live in a township. We govern a township – we were elected to do that. And we expect that SWAC won’t step on our toes and conversely we won’t step upon theirs," said Guyton. "But I have made a statement to Don (Cook), right, wrong, indifferent, that I don’t want a zoning within Franklin Township that’s going to a commission and to have that commission dictate what we can do," said Guyton.

Joly said this idea still being thought through.

"The idea would be to kind of take anything to the area commission as a clearinghouse for all the developing property in the area. And that’s something we’d have to float around the city and the county of how we’d do that," said Joly.

Cook said he understands the draft is still being worked out but expressed discomfort with working with the county and city.

"I don’t mind working together. Just don’t come and steal something," said Cook.

Cook did not further elaborate but Guyton explained Cook’s comments.

"Most people sitting here don’t know why Don says what Don says is because we’ve been burnt on one large occasion that we discussed a little tonight, so there’s a reason we don’t trust," said Guyton, although he chose not to elaborate any further.

Guyton later questioned how to enforce a guideline that would encourage new businesses to utilize the vacant land that already exists.

"We have a problem where there’s vacant buildings everywhere." said Guyton.

Joly suggested the township offer programs and incentives, such as TIFs, or Tax Incremental Financing, as an eminent domain tool to entice businesses to use those empty spaces.

"TIF means the government entity in the area where the TIF is created uses the taxes that are generated to plow back into the specific site to improve infrastructure like sidewalks, driveway cuts, street lighting, etc," said Guyton.

Joly and Weiner encouraged all residents to come and give their input. Weiner said another reason they want the community to come out is to give input on what the county should do with the former Franklin County Children’s Services site.

"Franklin County is exploring options for the former Children’s Services site on Frank and Gantz roads. Part of that process is soliciting community input, which is why it’s part of the land use planning process," said Weiner.

The Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department will reveal the draft of the land use plan at a public forum scheduled for Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Franklin Woods Intermediate School.

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