Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer answers questions from StaceyPageOnline.com readers. Have a question? Email is to [email protected] and the mayor will answer them in this monthly column:
Q: Although the comprehensive plan is still being completed, what types of things have thus far been showing up as a “common denominator” among the groups that are contributing to the study?
Mayor: The Comprehensive Plan is a blueprint for growth and development for the next 5-10 years. It can be updated as conditions change, but it is generally a document with specific recommendations for zoning, transportation, utilities, economic development, housing and neighborhoods to meet the goals and objectives for future growth in the city of Warsaw.
Ground Rules Inc., a community-planning group out of Zionsville, Ind., is preparing the plan. They have done work in Carmel, Bloomington, Angola and Huntington, to name a few. They are just finishing the public meeting and information gathering phase of the project.
Community stakeholders (business and industry leaders, school corporations, economic developers, builders, etc.) individual, group, public and private individuals are being interviewed. The first draft should be presented to the plan commission in late October or November. That will be our first look at any emerging trends. The finished project is then scheduled to be completed by next February. It will include sections on land use, community character and design, housing and neighborhoods, thoroughfare and transportation, economic development, annexation, and public facilities and services. Our last comprehensive plan was developed in 1998 and the update is long overdue.
Q: The city is now looking to expand the facade grant program to include development of alleyways for some downtown businesses. Other than restaurants, what types of businesses do you think would utilize alleyways and how? And how would limiting access to some of those alleyways affect downtown traffic?
Mayor: The most important element of downtown development is to keep the buildings occupied with inviting front facades. That has been and will be the main objective of the façade grants and revolving loan fund projects that are available through the Warsaw Community Development Corporation.
The expansion of the façade program to include alleyways is a pilot program that is being proposed to the city council for their approval. This program would allow a portion of the façade grant funds to be used for side and back alleyway entrance improvements. This would allow current owners to expand the use of their buildings to include previously inaccessible space. It could also provide a win/win source of space for start-up businesses of any type. Cheaper rent would be available for the start-up and an expanded source of revenue for a landlord. Coffee shops, cafés and bistros could expand into the alley to provide a unique space for customers.
While I feel most alleyway spaces could function without closing the alley, the businesses that want to expand into the alley could seek approval from the Board of Works to provide limited/temporary closure of the alleys to vehicle traffic. This would obviously be subject to public safety issues and potential interference with loading and unloading of adjacent businesses. Permanent closure would only be considered after the benefits are demonstrated to outweigh any concerns.