City planning officials have completed a new strategic growth plan for Columbus designed to prevent sprawl and promote orderly growth.

The plan, which took more than a year-and-a-half to complete, identifies sites within the city’s two-mile planning jurisdiction which have development potential.

Jeff Bergman, director of the Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department, said the document was completed in-house without consultants, something he said is unusual for a city of Columbus’ size. He estimated that if consultants had been used to craft the document, the cost would be in the six-figure range.

He also cautioned the introduction of the study does not signify that Columbus is preparing for any unwelcome annexation or land grabbing.

Instead, it should be viewed as a reference tool, Bergman said. In addition to the planning department, developers and Realtors can use the information to understand where infrastructure is available for redevelopment and what services are already available in areas of the city.

Emilie Pinkston, senior planner, presented an overview to city councilmen Tuesday. Presentations on the study also will be made to Columbus’ planning boards.

Pinkston explained the planners started with a base map of Columbus, and identified environmental factors, floodplain and wetland areas, available infrastructure, available city services and other characteristics.

The city was divided into six districts and corporate boundaries, developed land and the city’s floodway were marked. The districts were generally determined by following natural breaks in the landscape such as rivers, or major roadways. Areas with no future development potential, those that already have been developed and those in the floodway were noted, Pinkston said.

Each district was then evaluated for utility services, fire protection, how they were served by the location of parks and the bus system, water and sewer system availability and environmental factors, such as wetlands, forested corridors or areas that are protected because they are in the city’s well field.

The evaluations were used to come up with specific recommendations for those districts and some overall conclusions that are included in the planning document, Pinkston said.

For example, the planners learned that fire protection might become an issue if an area served by Eastern Bartholomew Water Co. was annexed into the city.

If annexation occurred, the city would be required to provide fire protection for Eastern Bartholomew Water customers but they would not become city water customers.

Pinkston said Columbus firefighters have concerns about the flow rate, pipe material and hydrant maintenance in place now, and providing adequate fire protection. To do that, the city would have to run parallel water lines, meaning duplicate infrastructure, something the city generally tries to avoid, she said.

Each of the districts has its own evaluation, showing development opportunities and development constraints.

Among the overall recommendations for residential areas was to consider relocation of Columbus Fire Station 3 farther east to serve future development in the city’s southeast area.

Establishing new parks on the east and west side of Columbus also was recommended to preserve some green space for physical activity and to improve the aesthetic quality of neighborhoods.

Among the recommendations for commercial and industrial areas, the planning department is suggesting road improvements on County Road 300W between Deaver Road and State Road 58, Pinkston said.

County Road 300W provides access from the north to the Woodside Industrial Park and would provide primary access for other industrial sites identified in the plan, according to the recommendation. The county road’s pavement width doesn’t match the planning department’s criteria for this type of road, the recommendation states.

The study also recommends working with the Columbus Board of Aviation Commissioners to develop the former Walesboro Airport as a future industrial park.

Councilman Frank Jerome mentioned that it would have been helpful if this material had been available earlier this year, when city officials began discussing selling the airport land to potential developers.

Bergman said the study was substantially completed by the end of last year but was delayed by the holidays and was being rolled out now.

Information about the study will be available on the city’s website to share with the public and will be shared with the Columbus Area Municipal Planning Organization Board and the city utilities board.

Where to read the study

Copies of the study may be viewed at the Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department offices at Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.

The study will be placed on the city’s website (columbus.in.gov), according to city officials, but that has not happened yet.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.