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Planning Commissions Meet in Annual Meeting

The Bartholomew County Planning Commission met Wednesday night with the Columbus Planning Commission for their annual meeting.

Columbus Planning Director Jeff Bergman says the meeting was an opportunity for the two departments to get together, train and discuss different perspectives on current and upcoming projects. He adds that both departments share staff, so there is already a good working relationship.

Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown made a special presentation on "Advance Columbus," a community-wide strategic plan that she implemented shortly after she took office. Along with "Advance Columbus," Brown also made a presentation on the Columbus Arts District strategic plan.

Mayor Brown began her presentation citing the words of Columbus icon J. Irwin Miller. She said Miller's goal of making Columbus the best community of it's size with the best opportunities for it's citizens is as much of a goal for city leaders today as it was when he first spoke those words nearly 50 years ago.

The meeting focused in large part on four specific projects. They included the State Street Corridor Plan, the area's Flood Risk Management Plan, a Strategic Growth Plan and the implementation of a Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan.

The State Street Corridor Plan includes the work of a Chicago consultant group to help with the long term plan for the area. While it was agreed that the area's overall image is in need of improvement, some specific issues were addressed during the meeting. One area of concern is the lack of sidewalks, or sidewalks that are too close to the road. There is also a concern about the lack of engagement from community members and business owners along the corridor.

Mayor Brown indicated that several people that live and work along the corridor were asked to participate in helping to improve the area, but were not interested. It was also noted that a high concentration of the city's Hispanic population lives on the east side of Columbus and that efforts to engage them and include them in planning for the area also failed.

Despite the lack of engagement, city officials did have a number of ideas to improve the area. Research indicates that State Street is wider than it has to be. This would allow for widened sidewalks, bike lanes or a road beautification project. Regardless of what is decided, any changes to State Street would require the approval of the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), as they own the road.

City officials and the consultants have plans in place to hold an open house in the next several weeks to talk to residents and discuss options and try to get a better feel as to what area residents would like to see happen.

The Flood Risk Management Plan was also discussed at length.

The city has worked with Christopher Burke Engineering to better prepare the area for a flood after the historic flooding of June 2008. Efforts taken include the implementation of flood gauges in area streams to help alert officials and residents about an impending flood event. The city also has access to a flood assessment tool that helps them to plan and warn residents well in advance. 

"This plan far outweighs any other plan in the state," Brown said. 

Compared to the city's preparedness before the 2008 flood, City Planner Jeff Bergman said "It's like night and day."

The Strategic Growth Plan is in place to deal with the perceived lack of developable space in Columbus.

City leaders say the plan is of importance to both industrial and residential concerns. The plan involves the identification of issues, making recommendations on how to address those issues and finally, the actual development. The Strategic Growth Plan is expected to be ready next year and will identify properties that are ready to be developed, properties that will be ready for development in less than five years and properties that will be ready for development in five years or more.

The Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan was also discussed.

Many gaps in the trail system were filled by the City Engineer's office. Expected updates include CR 200S and Shadowcreek Farms where the development will install a crosswalk.

Plan goals include the adding of facilities, the increase in connectivity and maintaining an accurate inventory of existing sidewalks. This would aid in finding what areas need connections. A final plan is scheduled to be drafted and adopted later this year.

Last Updated: Thursday, July 18, 2013 1:13:29 PM

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