Third Planning Session Looks At Neighborhoods

During its third and final strategic planning session Tuesday evening, the City of Warsaw Common Council discussed neighborhood revitalization.
At its Jan. 13 meeting, the council discussed transportation issues, more communication with the county, sewer lines and bringing “fun” businesses to the downtown while recognizing those that have long been established. Then at its Feb. 1 session, the council focused on marketing the city, what the downtown should look like and how social media could help promote the municipality.
Starting the conversation on neighborhood revitalization last night, City Planner Jeremy Skinner said, “We’re really looking at our community as a whole and identifying and understanding the areas where we would like to look at for reinvestment.” He said they also want to protect the community as a whole and not just invest in developments “as they pop up.”
The objective of the neighborhood revitalization goal is to “develop programs to support a balanced mix of safe, stable and desirable neighborhoods within the community.”
A couple of things Skinner said they’ve worked on but not completed over the last few years are the rental registration and neighborhood revitalization ordinances. Physically, Skinner said the city completed the Market Street plan as part of its comprehensive plan, and “more aggressively pursued abandoned buildings and homes in foreclosures.”
Skinner and Assistant Planner Tim Dombrosky discussed how difficult it is to pinpoint neighborhoods as people create their neighborhood and its boundaries on their own. Skinner said mapping neighborhoods is something the city still needs to accomplish.
“It has to be an organic process. It’s not an easy process,” Skinner said.
He suggested the city could create a process in which neighborhoods “organically” come to the city to state what their neighborhood needs and ask what the city council can do for it.
Council President Mike Klondaris suggested the council kind of did that with putting the street lights up on Eisenhower Parkway. After those lights went up, Klondaris said the neighborhood to the south, Pheasant Ridge, wanted lights.
Skinner said maybe the city could give neighborhoods a means to tell the city what it needs, and Klondaris agreed.
If one neighborhood gets something, another will want the same thing. For that reason, Skinner said the city would have to plan for a long-term process.
Mayor Joe Thallemer said that for the Market Street project, the Warsaw Housing Authority went into the neighborhood and found out what the residents wanted on the road. Dombrosky said the residents’ input changed the city’s plans for the street.
Thallemer also said there are areas in town which are blighted, and that the city needs to address them more proactively.
Dombrosky said neighborhoods aren’t necessarily municipality-bound. Some neighborhoods go into the county or adjoining towns like Winona Lake. Skinner agreed, but said those neighborhoods had to understand they have a part to play in their revitalization.
Over the past five to six years, Skinner said there’s been little home remodeling in the city. “We’re seeing mostly new construction,” he said. The city’s done a good job with new housing, but more needs to be done to promote reinvestment in current housing.
Thallemer later commented that the city’s funding is limited so Warsaw needs to spend money on projects where it can get the biggest bang for its buck.
Further in the 80-minute meeting, Thallemer talked about the importance of schools and parks to neighborhoods. Schools want to see their students get safely back and forth on good public sidewalks, and parks give children places to play.
Discussing the creation of the stormwater utility, Thallemer said that has identified a “multitude” of stormwater projects. “There will be enough projects for a long time,” he said.
There also was discussion about community standards and how one person’s idea of community standards may be different from another’s, but everyone’s ideas together form the overall community standard.
With the three strategic planning sessions completed, Skinner and Dombrosky will put together a rough draft of the strategic plan. The council will review it – probably in a couple of months – and make changes as necessary before the final plan is approved.