UNION TOWNSHIP — Key takeaways from the public input in a local planning project include: Preserve the “small town” feel and character; keep up the positive momentum in Wilmington; and take up challenges in the villages.
Sarah Kelly, a senior project manager for Columbus-based Planning NEXT, was guest speaker at an annual steak fry sponsored by the county engineer’s office for the local township trustees and fiscal officers. Kelly serves as a consultant in the ongoing update of the Clinton County Comprehensive Plan named Clinton County 2040.
About 150 people participated in the first round of public input with nearly 1,000 comments, said Kelly. Though there is age diversity among participants, those with a higher education and higher annual household income were over-represented relative to the county’s population, according to a summary.
Other key takeaways, said Kelly, are: Preserve rural land character overall and the prime soils of the east and southeast parts of the county; increase availability of retail opportunities (convenience and small/local); provide more housing (variety and moderate income); address socio-economic, educational and public health issues; and enhance connectivity — both physical and social.
She also identified “emerging themes.” Those include: Static population demographics over time in the county and Wilmington; prime farmlands should be conserved for rural preservation; a need to regulate what’s called rural sprawl and address major uses such as expansive solar farms; and the western section of the county could be a growth-pressure area because of developmental pressures from adjacent Warren County.
Rural sprawl involves low-density residential development that is scattered outside villages and smaller cities. RuraI residential sprawl usually occurs away from existing central sewer and water, with homeowners relying upon on-site septic systems.
As part of the public feedback process, a strong / weak places mapping exercise was performed. Strong places were defined as places that have a look and feel that makes you want to spend time there, places you would like to see replicated elsewhere in the county, and places that reflect well on the community.
The five most-often identified strong places in the county are: Cowan Lake State Park, downtown Wilmington, bike trails, Wilmington College, and Caesar Creek State Park.
Regarding downtown Wilmington as a strong place, several participants called out specific locations including the General Denver, The Murphy Theatre, and the Wilmington Public Library, as community assets.
Of Wilmington College, many participants recognized the asset of having a college in the community and thought its potential to attract and retain additional residents is an asset.
Weak places were defined as places that need to be improved or changed; places at risk or that are threatened and need attention; or places that have significant, untapped opportunity. Many of the weak mapping dots clustered around outlying villages in the county.
Several participants wanted to see more county investment in the outlying villages, but there was not a consensus on which ones to invest in and how exactly those monies would be spent, the summary stated.
Additional infrastructure and funding for internet access was cited as a crucial need for the county, especially given a work-from-home trend.
Some residents wanted to see a more diverse range of jobs and employment opportunities in the county, especially for higher-wage positions like management and office jobs.
Strengthening local farms and local businesses were repeated desires among participants. Adding and expanding youth recreational opportunities was also a repeated theme.
The 11-page document summarizing the first round of public engagement input can be accessed on the website www.clintoncounty2040.com by clicking on the “Engagement Summary Memo” button.
Another series of opportunities for public input is planned for fall 2021.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.