Planning for Future City Services in Columbus
By: Nate Nickel
The City of Columbus is currently working on a Strategic Growth Study that identifies sites within Columbus’ two-mile planning jurisdiction that have future development potential based on the level of municipal infrastructure and service provision. Land availability in Columbus is currently limited within the existing corporate boundaries, particularly for sizeable industrial operations and residential neighborhoods. Therefore, many developers have begun seeking out land that is located on the outskirts of the municipal limits, resulting in actual and potential annexation requests to the City.
In 2012 the Mayor initiated the Strategic Growth Study out of a desire for the city to proactively prepare for future industrial, commercial, and residential development. Emilie Pinkston, AICP, Senior Planner with the Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department, describes the goal of the Strategic Growth Study as identifying the sites that are within both the City’s two-mile planning jurisdiction, as well as vacant incorporated areas, that are likely to be developed in the future. Often times a key component for the future development of these sites is access to City infrastructure and services. The identification of these sites is intended to encourage orderly, connected development in areas where infrastructure and services are most available. It also can help to show potential development constraints that the City might be able to proactively address in order to enable development in these locations. For example, in an area where City fire protection, sewer, and water are all available, a particular road might be in disrepair. This plan strives to not only identify that development constraint, but also highlight the road’s repair as a possible action item for the City to pursue in the future.
Ms. Pinkston says that this study, which is being completed entirely in-house by staff, has so far been largely a mapping exercise. Planners layered several development factors on top of the other to identify the areas that are most suitable for development. They have also met frequently with staff from other city departments to learn more about their operations and future plans. Some of the factors analyzed in the Strategic Growth Study include City water and sewer availability, fire protection, parks access, road suitability and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Additionally, floodplains, wetlands, well-field protection areas, topography and wooded landscapes were analyzed as well. The Strategic Growth Study will be utilized as an advisory document by the City of Columbus for use in future land use decisions. According to Ms. Pinkston, it has already produced valuable information for both the Fire Department and Parks Department. Ms. Pinkston anticipates that the Strategic Growth Study will be completed in early 2015.
(The author appreciates the helpful assistance provided by Emilie Pinkston, AICP, Senior Planner with the Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department in preparing this blog post, as well as providing the accompanying image).