Orange Township residents were asked Tuesday evening what they thought the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are to the township.
The questions came from a group of The Ohio State University graduate students in the Master of City and Regional Planning program during an open house. The students are working with the township update its 2010 Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Tuesday was the first in a series of three open houses to be held over the next few months. The next two opportunities for residents to participate are Thursday, Nov. 2 and Tuesday, Dec. 5. Both meetings will be held at 7 p.m. at the township hall, 1680 East Orange Road, Lewis Center.
Trustee Debbie Taranto said the event was excellent. She noted that the most important thing about the open house is the people who attended.
“I would love to see the people who have so many questions, complaints, and concerns show up to these meetings. This is their opportunity to make a difference in how they see the future of Orange Township and its development proceeds,” she said.
Instrumental in persuading the university’s program to work with the township was the Zoning Director Michele Boni.
“I’m hoping to create a product that doesn’t just sit on the shelf,” she said. “I hope to send it to the trustees for their approval so we can really get this thing rolling to shape our township.”
Boni said it was the first time the program had tackled creating an active plan for a township. She said that the project was a big undertaking for a 15-week course in which the students will create and distribute surveys out to residents via social media, mailings and by going door to door to obtain as much input as possible.
How does Boni know what the workload entails? She took the class herself two years ago when she was a graduate student in the same program.
“It was very vigorous, with endless nights and lots of work,” she said. “But I had a really great experience. So I thought why not let me see if we could do this here at Orange Township. I reached out to Chad Gibson to see if we could be awarded the opportunity and we were able to get it.”
Instructor Chad Gibson is an associate faculty member at OSU and Upper Arlington’s senior planning officer. Gibson has 20 years of experience in community development and has taught the the class for 12 semesters.
“We’ve done projects for Chillicothe, Lancaster, Upper Arlington, and Fayette County,” he said. “These are graduate students, extremely high level students who are working on their master’s degrees. They are the best of the best.”
Gibson said the program’s reputation has grown to the point that communities are reaching out asking for the program’s help.
For Orange Township, the project’s main focus will be a “full court press on outreach to the residents of Orange Township,” he said. “This is really planning at the grassroots level. We’ll be trying to find out what the residents of this township want for their future.”
One of Gibson’s students is Laney Ellzey, an intern in the the township’s zoning department since January. She said working with the township allows her to see the practical side of the zoning department.
“I already have a basis of how the township works and I definitely like to see Orange Township succeed and make this a more wonderful place to live,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a positive experience for both me and the township.”
One of the residents attending the open house was Karl — he didn’t want his last name published — but said he’s lived in the township for 14 years and thought the open house was a great idea, but said he was cautiously optimistic about the process.
“It seems like from living here the planning and development plan as a whole seems always on kind of a path that is of course. I want to sort of change things in the long range,” he said.
Another resident, Tim Storer, said his general feeling about the open house was it was great to give the input to help plan the future of Orange Township.
“There are things we can change now for the future to make this a better place,” he said. “I hope the township uses the suggestions that are gathered to direct the development better.”
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.