Graduate students of the Ohio State University have been working with Fayette County to produce the “enVision Fayette County plan,” the first update to the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan since its inception in 2006.
The class presented a brief outline of the project Thursday evening at Southern State Community College.
Thirteen graduate students pursuing master’s degrees in city and regional planning have been attending festivals and public events, collecting surveys, and interacting with various county offices to identify strengths and opportunities to advance economically and socially.
The process of updating Fayette County’s Comprehensive Plan began in September of 2016 when the students started working with subcommittees of stakeholders to address priorities such as economic development, health and safety, historic and cultural preservation, and natural resources. Building on the feedback they have gathered from the subcommittees, various public events, surveys collected, and three public meetings, students have updated the existing plan based on new best practices in the planning field and changes in the local context.
OSU students presented a short synopsis of the finalized version of enVision Fayette County to the community Thursday evening. During this presentation, the goals of the plan were shared as well as strategies to achieve them. The plan focuses on four main points: people, place, prosperity and partnership, with multiple sub-points each including a recommendation for the county. These were not the only recommendations included in the plan, but were a few suggestions to show the crowd what direction the students were going in and what is important to take away from the plan.
The first of these recommendations dealt with the people section. After visiting various events, including the Scarecrow Festival and Thrill in the Ville, the students determined that the community would like to see more events as well as preserve the culture of Fayette County. Recommendations from this section included developing additional public spaces, continuing to contribute to the construction of a men’s treatment facility for addiction, building a new jail to help with overcrowding, and working with Great Oaks.
The place section focused more on how the community can strengthen itself. The students suggested using neighbor-to-neighbor programs to help fix, remodel, or even clean up houses. They also suggested that the community update the septic and well systems.
The prosperity section dealt with how to retain younger people in the community, train skills relevant to jobs in the area and use commerce and tourism to help the nearby trails and pull in tourists. One of the other recommendations was to amend zoning codes to allow for more self-sufficient energy generation solutions.
Finally, in discussion concerning the partnership section, the students spoke about how a collaboration could exist between businesses in the community, the rich agriculture-based industry and even the City of Washington Court House. They tied points in to suggest that by renovating the second and third stories of the downtown businesses, young people could be retained with additional housing options and tourism could benefit from the update. The presentation concluded with a brief overview of the design of the document, how it should be utilized and where finances for the various plans could come from thanks to a handy “Grant Table.”
“I want to commend the students for the work they have put into this project, but it’s only mirrored by what they received from us, as a community,” Fayette County Commissioner Tony Anderson said following the presentation Thursday. “I really appreciate the input because this was a document created by the input. It is so beneficial that we have the city heavily involved this time because as our government will continue to move forward, we will become smaller and the need for collaboration will be great. We need the community to look at this, but we are greatly appreciative of the efforts and we thank you students for your work.”
The students and others expressed the need for implementation and within the recommendations was one that creates an implementation committee. With this seeming to be the next step, Godwin Apaliyah, OSU Extension Educator (who helped to connect the students with the community), said that the plan will be presented again to create that committee and that he hopes the recommendations will be attempted.
The document, after students review and finalize any suggestions made during the presentation, will be available Tuesday digitally for residents to read. More information about the plan and presentation are available at envisionfayette.weebly.com.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy