CIRCLEVILLE — For Ryan Scribner, Pickaway Progress Partnership (P3) Economic Development Director, now is the time for Circleville to capitalize on its assets to position itself for the future.
Scribner spoke to Circleville City Council during their meeting Tuesday night. He called for development of a master plan and to look into changing things, no matter how uncomfortable those conversations can be.
Scribner said the question moving forward is what Circleville’s leadership wants for the city.
“What is the vision for the City of Circleville and what are we trying to accomplish and what are we trying to become,” he said. “Is it just to grow? How, where and what do we do to affect that. Is it to preserve heritage in historical buildings as a worthy endeavor that should be a part of any plan is something to consider. Maybe you’re content with what we have and we need to just polish and shine what we have. What does that mean? We need to think about that.”
Scribner said it’s been a long time since those questions have been discussed and that the city should come together to create actionable goals they agree on to move forward.
“We need to decide what we want to be, where we want to grow, how we want to grow,” he said. “I think there needs to be an opportunity for public input and other stakeholder’s input.”
Scribner said Circleville is in a good position to grow.
“You’re blessed to have on paper the ability to expand into millions of gallons of wastewater treatment capacity per day,” he said. “That’s an amazing asset to have. Other communities would face a big price tag to get where they need to go.”
Scribner said city has a running joke about what the city doesn’t have, but now is the time to look
“Take your pick: steakhouse, bowling alley, so many of those things are purely the function of population dynamics, demographics and income,” he said. “If we grow in the right places in the right way, magically, those things will come, but we don’t have the right scale or complexion to have the things we want.”
Scribner reflected on the last few years, citing growth in the industrial sector across the county and where things have been.
“We’ve been in this dynamic where there’s been a lot happening around the community, a lot of growth and industrial growth, development and a lot of jobs and a lot of frustration, frankly, from employers struggling to fill open positions,” he said.
“I think about the plight of the local small businessperson the entrepreneur, many of whom have had a rough go of it over the last year, especially during the pandemic, and what benefit those people can really have from growth in the market.”
Scribner said thinking about those questions and reflecting has gotten P3 thinking about what other communities are doing.
“There are communities hosting forums where they are getting people out of their silos to talk about what’s going on and people who don’t normally talk about the issue of the day, whether that’s workforce or housing or whatever it might be,” he said.
“We see communities utilizing tools just for industrial development for housing development…I’m not prescribing that’s what we do here, but it’s just interesting that’s what communities have decided they want to do through a strategic planning process.”
Scribner said the Edsall Plan, created in 1999, still has merit, but it’s not a comprehensive strategic plan.
“It’s not a comprehensive strategic plan,” he said. “It’s a map and some concepts on how things might go, but it’s not an action plan or a set of steps. Even if it were, it is really old. There are roads not on the plan and if nothing else, the plan needs updated.”
Scribner said when there’s no plan, they just react to things, something they’ve been doing in the northern part of Pickaway County as things pop up constantly.
“Whatever the crisis of the moment is, it’s hard to think about taking time to pause, catch your breath and think about what’s a complicated and lengthy process of creating a strategic plan for Circleville,” he said. “But I think right now is perhaps the best time to do just that.”
Scribner highlighted several companies with expansions and growth happening around the city, including at DuPont, Sofidel, Forjak, Lemon Development Project,
“Any one of these projects would be the envy of communities that are trying to develop and grow,” he said. “It’s happening here and gives us opportunities to think about how we leverage, maximize and benefit from it.”
Scribner said the city should think big like discussing the tax code, land use, zoning and more. Once when everything is on the table and the city is thinking big, they need to make sure everything is aligned.
“Put everything on the table, regardless how painful, or potentially controversial, or sticky, or difficult a topic might be,” he said. “We need to not just think about a new land use plan, but strategies toward an end.”
Scribner said Circleville has the right leadership for it.
“I know you’re all good people, I know you’re here for the right reasons to do what’s best for the City of Circleville and you can work with that,” he said. “I’ve worked in other communities and you don’t find that all the time. We’ve got the right mix here.”
Scribner, admittedly saying he sounded like he was giving a halftime speech at a football game, said now is the time, despite any naysayers.
“I’m excited about the idea of doing this, I know at least a few of you are as well. There are the Debby Downers, glass half empty people and the naysayers. There’s the pervasive thought process. I say bologna to all of that. I really believe Circleville is in a position to grow and become and decide what we want to be. The only thing we’re limited by is what we plan to do and our courage, creativity and cohesiveness to decide to do it and stick to it and execute it. We have this special confluence of variables and I think it’s up to us to decide what to do with it.”
City Council seemed to react favorably to Scribner’s charge.
“If I didn’t think it would embarrass you, I’d give you a standing ovation,” Katie Logan Hedges, council member, said. “I think this charge is exactly what we need. I think it’s time to figure out what is the path. I think we spend a lot of time figuring out what is the right decision and I think if we had a guide, it would make those decisions easier.”
Barry Keller, council member, agreed, saying they know the Edsall Plan is outdated and they’re taking a look at the zoning code now.
“We need to think about a broad picture, not just roadways and streets — it’s services delivered, it’s where we grow, partnerships we make,” he said. “We need to facilitate that and get the ball rolling.”
Circleville Mayor Don McIlroy said he was happy Scribner shared what he did.
“I think Ryan is right on that we have the right leadership team and I would love to see us move on this quickly,” he said. “I would like us to redo the Edsall Plan and hire some experts to help us with a strategic plan.”