World planning day brings new ideas to Amberley Village

To celebrate World Planning Day in Hamilton County, ninety planners and planning students gathered in Amberley Village to brainstorm how the town might utilize vacant green space that would fulfill the community's goals.

The annual event, organized by the Hamilton County Planning Department and Cincinnati's chapter of the American Planning Association, helps one community think through their major planning issues each year.

The Amberley town government owns a vacant golf course and swim club, and the neighborhood also has an unused school. A town where young families are moving in and new ways of thinking are on the rise, Amberly hopes to improve its community dynamic while also staying green.

At the World Planning Day charette, planners gathered into groups to address the vacant properties, as well as the lack of sidewalks and bike paths in the community. At the end of the day they presented their ideas to the mayor and town council.

Mayor Merrie Stillpass said that almost all of the town is built-out except for the 133 acre golf course, Amberley Green, that is currently used by residents for walking and running, and its future is a hot issue in the small community.

"We are currently working on ideas - which this World Planning Day event helped us look at with a different lens - to develop it as a mixed use area," Stillpass said. "We've turned down some previously proposed developments because we're looking for the right mix and right density that adds value, is an amenity to the community and doesn't have negative impacts."

The planning group covering Amberley Green suggested one idea, or a combination of ideas, that stuck out to Stillpass.

"For the Amberley Green property there were some thoughts about having an interdisciplinary program that might be supported by a couple of the local college programs," she said. "A research facility that could become a sustainability center with an agricultural component and maybe a residential component, or a banquet center - something that could generate revenue for the Village but perpetuate the higher calling of sustainability."

Another big issue in Amberley is the lack of sidewalks or bike paths, and one group of planners suggested a hierarchy of pathways that could be built to begin connecting the Village's different neighborhoods to community gathering spots.

In a couple of weeks the ideas gathered that day will be posted on a website hosted by the Hamilton County Planning Department, and at that point Amberley's Mayor and Town Council will start sifting through the ideas to see which ones are worth future investigation, Stillpass said.

Hamilton County's director of planning, Todd Kinskey, said Wednesday's event had the highest turnout in the eleven years his office has helped to sponsor the event. Community's that are interested in hosting a World Planning Day charrette can contact his office for more information.

Writer: Henry Sweets
Illustration provided
The approval by Village Council of a plan to landscape the intersection of Ronald Reagan Highway and Ridge Road