Issue 9 | October 31, 2014

Article contributed by Kimberly Sharp, AICP, Deputy Director of Planning and Development, City of Westerville

Through the insight2050 process, it is evident the Central Ohio region will experience growth of over 500,000 people, and with that, the thousands of jobs and housing units needed to support that population. How much growth can the suburban cities expect or prepare for? How does the region work on this together? Future growth depends on two major factors which greatly influence each other: 1) demand for housing and 2) jobs which drive that demand.

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Much like preparing a business plan for a company’s future, Westerville is preparing a comprehensive Community Plan for its future. To establish the baseline, Westerville produced a Community Snapshot Report, outlining moderate household growth, decreasing household sizes and a healthy job market. But unlike a business plan, this process has included a great deal of public input and citizen engagement, a process we are calling ‘Imagine Westerville’.

To bring such a complex document together, a citizen advisory team, the city’s planning team and consultants Planning Next and Kimley-Horn Associates are using the statistics along with community input to develop three potential growth scenarios. Much like insight2050, the scenarios are a tool to help understand how various land use decisions can impact the holistic urban systems of transportation, public services, public finance, environmental resources, jobs and educational institutions. In December the City will host a CHOICES WORKSHOP, where the public is invited to review three scenarios with metrics and “character types” to help choose a more desired outcome – and lead to a preferred scenario. The preferred scenario becomes the basis for the community plan – an overall policy document for future development.

National reports show that suburban cities will see a significant portion of future growth, and being ‘walkable suburban’ is the key. Market shifts and living preferences contributes to different types of homes in demand. The single person household is the fastest growing demographic and demands quality rental housing in denser, walkable locations*. The National Association of Realtors’ 2014 market trends** reports the common thread for all generations’ choice of home location is quality of neighborhood and convenience (to job, schools, friends). This communicates to all cities that no matter the age, people want quality of place and places that are easily connected to other places. Buyers want the ability to choose to walk to work in a safe and enjoyable way. Westerville is paying attention to these factors.

This market shift for options beyond the suburban four-bedroom house is the quandary for many suburban cities to plan for and zone appropriately located ‘other’ housing types. The Westerville Community Plan will outline how smaller single-family on smaller lots, townhomes, and multi-family apartments and condos will integrate with existing jobs, housing, shopping and schools in walkable neighborhoods. Westerville’s growth scenarios will consider these aspects with an emphasis on growth associated with established infrastructure, including public transit and mixed-use areas.

Another important factor to take into account is the number of people who drive into Westerville every day for work. If a portion of this workforce wanted to work, live and play in this community, it would mean less cars clogging the community’s road system trying to get on and off the highways at peak times. Those who live close to work have shorter commutes and more time to enjoy doing what our community does really well, including active outdoor lifestyles, biking on trails and enjoying great neighbors and great food.

Westerville has a history of proactive leadership, and now we are establishing a comprehensive community plan to reach the larger goals of fiscal, social and environmental resource sustainability in today’s changing world.


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*Arther Nelson: The Mass Market for Suburban Low Density is Over

**Home buyer and seller generational trends

**Creating value in a changing world