WARD Statement to City Council on February 7, 2022
On January 18, 2022, Worthington City Council made decisions with significant impact on efforts to develop the property at 1033 High Street, currently owned by LC Worthington Campus (Lifestyle Communities, LLC).
The WARD Planning Group presents the following responses to decisions made by Worthington City Council, the process for presenting this business at Worthington City Council’s meeting on January 18, 2022, and anticipated strategies now that new actions have been taken.
1) WARD Planning Group is strongly supportive of the four Guiding Principles on the update of the Comprehensive Plan approved by Worthington City Council. We affirm the decision to consider the whole parcel as an integrated property development initiative, rather than a piecemeal parceling which may maximize profit for the property owner, but neither serve the long-term interests of the city and its residents nor provide a visionary approach for this unique parcel.
In the clearest terms possible, we strongly support language that any approach be harmonious and compatible with the fabric of surrounding neighborhoods and the environment. We have long maintained that this parcel, centrally located, should only be granted a zoning change when it is expressive of the will of the citizens of the city. We believe it is irresponsible to seek a zoning outcome that negatively impacts the citizenry, and are encouraged that our city council has moved forward toward more responsible development. We believe that corporations have a moral obligation to consider stakeholders rather than simply the shareholders. This is especially true when seeking permission to change existing zoning.
2) Since September 18, 2012, WARD PG has examined and explored the preferences of the citizenry, with multiple open meetings and surveys whose response rate surpassed even official city surveys and prior developer’s efforts to survey our city’s residents.
Through these multiple initiatives, WARD PG has determined that our community’s residents oppose high density and height for housing on this property. Significant green space beyond simply the Tucker Creek ravine (which cannot be developed regardless) has also been long seen as desirable. Residents have long supported High Street commercial development and creative housing space that meets the needs of the city and surrounding communities. WARD PG does not oppose housing, but does oppose high-rise, high-density housing.
We applaud City Council’s decision to amend the Comprehensive Plan to better align it with the will of the citizenry. Based on unanimous negative decisions from both the Municipal Planning Commission and City Council, it is clear to WARD PG that the language of the prior plan was too vague, and greater clarity would assist both the property owner, and the developer who might choose to ignore the will of the citizens while seeking a zoning change. In either case, WARD believes that this amendment will spur better decision making.
3) Regarding process, WARD PG made the decision to understand the facts before weighing in on the process by our city council. Based on public statements, community meetings, blog posts and other information gathering, WARD has determined that the swift action on the part of City Council was strategically sound in seeking positive outcomes. We also believe that these decisions were driven by the views of the majority of the citizenry. Further, we believe that claims of acting arbitrarily and without knowledge of the citizenry’s opinions and beliefs about this property lacks substance and suggests political tactics at best, and character assassination at worst. We implore individual citizens as well as community groups to focus on issues rather than ad hominem attacks. We look forward to a more civil and appreciative process.
4) Finally, the WARD Planning Group believes that we are already moving into a new phase. We anticipate new groups will begin to lobby the citizenry to shift their perspectives to support high density development to maximize profits for the property owner. Regardless of whether these efforts are funded by the property owner or pursued by individuals in the property development industry, we urge you to explore the funding, leadership constituency, and vested interests as you make your decisions and express your values and hopes for our whole community.
Respectfully submitted 2-7-22
WARD Planning Group