February 6, 2013 10:59:56 AM
Jeff Clark - [email protected]
A city project that began as a discussion during a community charrette in 2009 has finally become a reality.
The Columbus City Council approved a comprehensive plan for the city during a Tuesday morning public hearing in the courtroom at City Hall.
"The state requires us to have a public hearing before we can officially have a comprehensive plan," said city planner Christina Berry. "Basically, this gives the city a guide to how we want to look and develop over the next 20 years."
Berry said the plan was designed with input from KPS Consultants and Neel-Schaffer Engineering. The plan's six chapters cover a variety of subjects from land usage to transportation. Berry said the plan recognizes the city's assets and makes recommendations as to how the assets can be used in development.
"One of assets is green infrastructure," Berry said. "We are surrounded by water and wetlands and a lot of this cannot be developed.
"We want to make the city more connected. Connectivity is one of the major factors in the comprehensive plan. We want to make the city's core more dense while making the outside areas less dense. A lot of things in the plan are already being used by the city."
Berry said the plan also addresses annexation, which has been a controversial subject among mayor Robert Smith and some board members.
"If Columbus is going to continue to grow, you're going to have to connect to some of the outer areas," said New Hope resident Mike Smith. "New Hope is a rural area and we are concerned about y'all getting closer."
According to Berry, the plan has no specific annexation goals but provides general language about how best to approach annexation.
"The plan doesn't cover annexation going east or west or north or south," Berry said. "It does not cover targeted areas."
Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin, who has publicly supported annexing areas north of the city limit, said not to expect annexation any time soon.
"Annexation is very expensive," Gavin said. "When you are looking at expansion, you have to expand city services. That cost can get so high that the potential for growth may not be worth the cost."
The city's long-running drainage problems were also brought to the surface during the discussion on the comprehensive plan.
"What are we going to do about the drainage problems we have in the city?" asked Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens. "Does the comprehensive plan address this problem?"
Smith said the drainage problems are nothing new and suggested the city continue its current efforts.
"The drainage problems are long-running," Smith said. "There is no way we can come up with the money to do this overnight. All we can do is to keep applying for grants and doing it a little bit at a time."
With the city operating under a drainage plan that was designed more than 40 years ago, Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem stressed the importance of staying proactive with the comprehensive plan.
"We need to update the 1971 master plan (for drainage)." Karriem said. "We really don't know how big our drainage problem is because the plan is so outdated. I think if we are going to have a comprehensive plan, we need to prioritize it and keep it active instead of just passing it and letting it go."
Before the council voted on the plan, Smith recommended Berry start on establishing priorities for changes outlined in the comprehensive plan and hold a workshop with the council to discuss her findings.
"We want to identify everything that would make our community better," Berry said.
To read the plan, go to columbusplan.blogspot.com