Lebanon residents now have a chance to shape the future of their city's urban core

Posted at 12:00 PM, Mar 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-05 12:00:28-05

LEBANON, Ohio -- Lebanon officials are thinking up a plan to enhance the economic vitality of the city's downtown, and they want community members to help.

City leaders hosted a listening and learning workshop March 1 as part of the Think! Downtown initiative. The initiative is a nine-month planning process to create a new master plan for Lebanon's downtown and North Broadway corridor.

A master plan is a document that acts as a guide for members of governing bodies when establishing policies and pursuing improvement projects.

"These are the documents that are used to make our policies," said Lebanon city planner Sam Hill.

Although a master plan is in place for the city as a whole, the document slated for completion later this year focuses specifically on the urban core.

"The city's downtown is a very important part of the community," Hill said. "It's a historic downtown."

The new document will replace a master plan established in 2001.

"Typically, when you're doing master plans, the goal is to update them every three to five years," Hill said.

As part of the planning process, which began last year, city officials are considering what works well in the existing documents and what needs to be changed.

Some ideas city officials are exploring in the new plan include the possibility of residential development, new and diverse businesses, and bringing development to the periphery of the urban core.

"We really need to take it to the next step," said Mayor Amy Brewer.

The March 1 workshop and another planned for May are designed to allow residents to share what they would like to see for the downtown area's future. The workshops are open to all community members.

"As a resident or a person that works here, a person that owns a business here or owns property here, they definitely should have a vested interest in having their say in what this document is going to provide," Hill said.

Because a master plan guides improvement projects and financial incentives for businesses, Brewer stressed the importance of community input as well.

"Some of what we may potentially do may be using some of their tax dollars, and they should have a say-so in how their tax dollars are spent," she said.

Attending the workshops is key for anyone who would like to contribute to the planning process, she added.

"We want a good document in a good amount of time that we can then begin acting on," she said.

For Hill, the No. 1 priority is ensuring that the plan's goals and objectives are attainable.

"I think the biggest thing I would hope to see is that we have a plan that is executable," he said.

The city accomplished about 75 percent of the goals established in the existing master plan, Hill said. Local governments typically execute roughly 50 percent of the objectives laid out.

With input from the listening and learning session, city officials will draft a document to present to a steering committee comprising business owners, residents and representatives for local organizations.

"What they do is they take the information that the residents will be providing, then they formulate or try to steer this in a direction," Hill said.

Following the steering committee's input, the document will go back to city leaders to again review internally prior to approval.

Hill expects a new master plan to be adopted around September.