By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MIDDLETOWN - It's been 30 years since this city had a 20-year plan, and officials say that is too long.
City Council is considering hiring a consulting firm to study and compile the city's first 20-year plan since 1973.
During a presentation during council's Tuesday meeting, Michigan-based community planners McKenna Associates told city leaders that Middletown is at a critical crossroads in determining its development future and said a comprehensive plan is key to a successful future.
As the city positions itself to improve on a sluggish local economy with the recent retention of Middletown Regional Hospital, a $13 million revitalization effort downtown and the raising of housing standards, the time is right, said Caleb Faux, senior principal planner for McKenna.
"We think this is a very critical time for the city of Middletown ... and we want to help you be proactive, rather than reactive," Faux said.
Marty Kohler, Middletown director of planning, agreed, saying: "It's time to take a fresh look. We need a long-term plan for ... revitalizing the community."
The council later will vote on whether to enter into a contract with McKenna for such a plan, but Councilwoman Laura Williams has already endorsed such an idea, saying the city administration lacks the personnel, resources and skills to compile one.
"Unless you are an expert, you hire an expert," Williams said.
In other action, council voted 5-1, with Councilman Perry Thatcher abstaining, to authorize the city manager to sign a petition supporting a Special Improvement District (SID) for the city's troubled central business district. The city owns about 34 percent of the properties in downtown and if 60 percent of all downtown property owners agree to form an SID, each owner would be charged a yet-to-be-determined fee to cover the expense of collectively marketing and maintaining the district.
Councilman Bob Wells said a SID would further the city's efforts to draw more people downtown, and that not endorsing the creation of a SID at this initial stage would damage the city's downtown revival efforts.
"Who's going to market the city and bring in the people and keep those buildings clean?" without an SID, said Wells, who voted for the measure.
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