New plan seeks to make Clark County a good place to live, work

Jan 09, 2018
  • By Emily Williams
  • Staff Writer
Downtown Springfield. Ty Greenlees/Staff

Clark County will swap out next month a 19-year-old document for a new comprehensive plan, an outline of goals and actions for the county on topics including land use, economic development, agricultural and environmental resources and transportation.

The new plan, Connect Clark County, will be presented to the community at an open house from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, at the Clark County Public Library Main Branch, 201 S. Fountain Ave.

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For the last year and a half, a committee of 17 Clark County residents has guided the plan’s development, which sought to be responsive to residents’ visions for the county while also being realistic about its challenges.

Among the county’s biggest challenges are population loss, median household income decline, low funding and lack of cooperation between city and county government. Since 2000, the county’s population has dropped 5 percent and household incomes have fallen 22 percent, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Even facing bleak statistics, the committee generated a pro-con list that weighs more heavily on the positives. It cites the county’s agricultural heritage and historic villages, its natural and recreational areas, its strategic location and a willingness in the community to start working together more.

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“Having the right people at the right time is always the biggest challenge,” said Cory Golden, transportation planner for Springfield-Clark County Transportation Coordinating Committee, which has led development of the new plan. “Right now, the time is right.”

Jo Anderson, a Springfield Twp. resident, served on the committee that developed both the new plan and the former plan, which was written in 1999.

“I am aware of the number of things that have changed and also the number of things that have not come to fruition that we had expected, such as population growth,” Anderson said.

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The 1999 plan accounted for a predicted population of 240,000 in Clark County by 2040. Now, with a current population of about 135,000, the county is projecting more population decline, putting current projections for 2040 at just 128,000 residents.

The former plan was also much more technical, Anderson said, while the new plan is broader in scope and answers deeper questions.

“With this new plan, we were asking, ‘What in this county would make people comfortable being here, make them want to stay, make them want to bring a business here?’” Anderson said. “‘What would make it a good county?’”

The committee and the TCC hosted open houses last year for residents to give suggestions. Comments were also submitted online or over the phone. More than 600 people participated, Golden said.

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From that feedback and from the suggestions of the steering committee, the plan was divided into four goals: strengthening physical character, advancing prosperity, enhancing quality of life and improving infrastructure.

Those goals were then broken into objectives, or sub-themes, of the main goals, and those objectives were divided into individual actions — projects, policies or programs that can be implemented.

The first goal, which is focused on developing more desirable places to live, work and play, has action steps such as adopting mixed-use zoning districts — areas that include a variety of property uses from residential space to retail, all in one walkable space.

The second goal, advancing prosperity, proposes a “Your Hometown” initiative to keep young people in Clark County, including more networking opportunities for local jobs and possible tuition reimbursement programs.

Goal three, advancing the quality of life, addresses one of the most pressing issues in the county — housing.

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“We identified housing as a real weakness in our community,” said Bryan Heck, Springfield deputy city manager. “We need to be able to introduce newer housing into our community.”

Incorporating a countywide housing study into the plan development process was something that was considered, Golden said, but the committee decided to include conducting the study as one of the suggested actions.

“It needs to be its own project,” Golden said. “We couldn’t devote the time and attention needed, but it is an objective; it is an action and we are all aware of it.”

Under goal three, the plan also proposes raising awareness about addiction recovery programs, particularly for opioid abuse, and incorporating housing for recovering substance abusers into the county’s planning policy.

The fourth goal, improving infrastructure, includes suggestions to increase opportunities for walking and bicycling.

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Overall, Anderson said, the committee hopes this plan can boost confidence in the county, something which she said has been lacking since the Great Recession.

“What I really want for this county is to have a good self-image,” Anderson said.

Tuesday’s open house will be followed by a three-week-long “roadshow.” Displays explaining the comprehensive plan will be posted in four different locations: first the Clark County Public Library, then the Springview Government Center, followed by the South Charleston Town Hall and the New Carlisle Public Library.

The displays will be up for five days at each location.

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After receiving more feedback from the open house and roadshow, final adjustments will be made before the plan’s adopted in late February, Golden said.

A digital version of the plan will also be available online at ConnectClarkCounty.org.