BLANCHESTER — College students are helping form a plan for Blanchester’s future.
Chad Gibson, Professor of City & Regional Planning at The Ohio State University, and seven of his graduate students have been working with Blanchester leaders and residents to create the village’s first comprehensive plan.
This includes forming a steering committee and distributing a survey to local residents to see what they want.
The student group consists of Jina Yu, Leo Brandon, Kenny Ganter, Megan Esselburn, Nick Kearney, Riane Federman, and Wes Lloyd — all second-year graduate students in the Master of City and Regional Planning program through Knowlton School of Architecture at OSU.
Gibson told the News Journal that the student-led survey has garnered over 200 results, and they hosted their first committee meeting on Tuesday. Three more meetings are scheduled to take place on Nov. 10 and Dec. 1, with the project wrapping by Dec. 4.
“Most communities have a comprehensive plan which is a guiding document for land use,” said Gibson. “Basically the plan summarizes goals for the community and how to achieve them.”
The idea for utilizing Blanchester for the students’ project came from Clinton County Regional Planning Commission Associate Director Emily Long.
Long, who joined the Planning Commission this year, is a 2020 OSU graduate, and a former student of Gibson’s.
“What I saw when I first started was Blanchester’s population is really close to having a city population,” said Long. “They haven’t had a plan, and the mayor (John Carman) seemed opened to one.”
A 2019 U.S. Census report indicates there are 4,252 residents in Blanchester.
The survey started around the beginning of the semester in August. Gibson advised that this comprehensive plan is part of a project grad students do as part of the curriculum.
“It’s been super positive and we’re excited to take the feedback and produce a planning document,” said Gibson, indicating they’ve received a good idea what the village wants.
Blanchester Mayor John Carman said everyone is excited to be working with the group and they’re looking forward to what they present.
“2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. Blanchester has not been immune, but we are very optimistic as we move into 2021,” said Carman. “We will continue to actively look for ways to bring growth to Blanchester. Our hope is having a comprehensive plan will help make that a reality for our community.”
Long was happy to see the massive response to the survey and engagement of citizens taking part in it.
“I think it’s a great experience for the students to work with officials and locals,” she said. “For the village, I think this is a good moment to get some vision as they grow and develop some more ideas and what they want to become in the next ten years.”
Wes Lloyd said that Blanchester residents are “kind and strong, eager to help direct our hands.” Lloyd added he was proud of the feedback they had received and the work they’ve done so far.
Riane Federman said he sees that the village has had some bad luck recently, but the leadership they’ve been working with have had a positive outlook for the future.
“I definitely believe they have the potential to recreate the vibrancy that once was,” said Federman.
Jina Yu said the group hopes the plan will serve as a compass and roadmap for the decades to come.
“From what we’ve heard so far, Blanchester seems like a great place to live,” said Yu. “Our goal is to help keep the best parts great, improve what must be improved, and invest into the future by planning for it.”
Gibson wants to emphasize that they’re in no way trying to dictate what Blanchester should do.
“We’re asking the residents what they want and we’re going to try and create the framework for that achievement,” he said.
Long advised that if anyone has questions about the project, they should contact the Planning Commission at 937-382-3582.
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574