February 6, 2013 10:57:44 AM
If Moses had been from Columbus, he probably would have had to interrupt God somewhere around Commandment No. 7.
"I probably should be writing this down, huh?" our Columbus Moses would likely have said.
In its almost 200 years, Columbus has had many things. What it hasn't had -- as far as anyone can determine -- is a plan. At least, it has never had a plan that someone bothered to write down.
On Tuesday, our city leaders took steps to remedy that problem with the unveiling of the Columbus Comprehensive Plan, which is best defined as a big-picture strategy to enhance and manage our city's growth for the next 20 to 25 years.
The plan, almost four years in the making, was presented during a public hearing before a large and generally enthusiastic audience at City Hall. Christina Berry of the city's planning department has been doing most of the heavy lifting on the project. The sheer volume of the report, contained in an 83-page document, prohibits anything approaching a detailed summary of the findings. Residents can read the report by going to http://columbusplan.blogspot.com
In the most general terms, the comprehensive plan establishes goals and objectives that should be followed throughout the city as it grows and changes over the next quarter century. In and of itself, the comprehensive plan establishes no hard rules or ordinances. It is not a document that tells anyone what they can or cannot do. In that vein, it should not be thought of as a city-wide zoning mechanism, but rather, a blueprint to follow as zoning and development questions emerge. The plan addresses a broad range of issues that are likely to come up for discussion as the city moves forward. The plan's goal is to help create a cohesive, vibrant, efficient and sustainable community. If successfully implemented, the plan will be a benefit to residents and businesses alike.
To be successful, such a plan needs to be specific enough to provide clear guidelines for future development yet not so specific as to inhibit development with a mountain of arbitrary regulations. The right plan will respect the city's history, understand the unique characteristics of neighborhoods and be an asset rather than impediment to growth. It will consider past and present as it contemplates the future.
The plan presented to the public on Tuesday is certainly thorough and appears to meet all the requirements that would ensure success.
As good as the plan may be, the success or failure of the plan will rely on other factors.
First, the plan should not be relegated to the back of our city leader's file cabinets, something we have a history of doing. Rather, it should be kept close at hand, reviewed often and used as a reference when matters that affect the city's growth arise.
Second, the best way to ensure that a plan works is to use it.
For that reason, we urge the city to be aggressive in getting started. Start small, if you must, but start. We urge the city to be aggressive in seeking grants to fund these first steps. Producing something tangible gives the plan credibility and creates momentum.
Finally, we believe that since residents and business owners alike are stakeholders, it is important that all of us take the time to read the plan and commit to it.
Without question, implementing a plan likely will mean some sacrifices and create some costs. For example, zoning will almost certainly be affected as the city seeks to follow these guidelines. Personal preference is often laid on the alter of public good.
It is our hope that all of us who call Columbus home will recognize the wisdom of careful planning as the city approaches its 200th birthday.
Most good things do not occur by happenstance. They happen because, first there was a plan.
At long last, we have a plan.
It's even written down.