Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Athens Residents Meet Their New Planning Director

Natalie Jovonovich

When you enter the city of Athens, you can come one of many different ways. Whether you're driving down Richland Avenue, Columbus Road, or Stimson Avenue, there are many different gateways into town. Mayor Paul Wiehl says these gateways are part of a larger branding process: "It's how we define ourselves as a location." Branding is using the city's different aspects to give the city a certain feel that would potentially attract tourists. "It's also defining the city as something. What does a citizen see the first time they visit? Who's coming in and what does it look like? It's about how to look at it as an insider, as well as an outsider."

Enter new city planning director Paul Logue. He says he thinks gateways are a great introduction to the city. A town meeting was held on Thursday night at the Athens Community Center for residents to come out and have an opportunity to ask Logue anything. "A brand should be agreed upon by the community," Logue said. "If you have a common theme, it's good for attracting tourist dollars." Logue says a brand also gives the community a sense of civic pride.

Assets of the Community

Logue says Athens has a lot of great qualities, and any brand created for the city should be more about the assets of the community. He mentioned several things our area has to be proud of:
- traditional Appalachian culture
- environmental attributes, like The Ridges and the Hocking River
- high technology
Service Safety Director Paula Moseley says a lot of community involvement is what she wants to see in determining the brand.

As City Planning Director, Logue will have to enforce the city's comprehensive plan and that means more community involvement. With an annual budget of $250,000, he says they need to build on the plan that's already been created because it already has a lot of great ideas. "I think since the plan's been written, we need to focus on updating it as we get down the road, reviewing it to see if things need changed, and improving onthings that need improved on." Logue says it's about implementing what's already been done, and with the support of other city officials, working on issues like:
- housing
- parking
- new and old development
- historic districts
- the bike path
Wiehl says the planning position is not just about development, but also about recognizing need. While Logue works with the zoning code, he will also be responsible for the actual planning of activities in the city.

Finding Logue

Mayor Wiehl says about 15 people applied for the position, which the city then narrowed down to four candidates. Logue came highly recommended, according to Moseley: "He has community planning experience, he used to be a part of Athens, and he had glowing references." Moseley also says Logue's application responses were the most in line with what they were looking for in the position. Logue is currently interning in Columbus where he is directly dealing with community needs. "Really what stood out to me about Paul was he has a lot of community-based intiiative stuff," Wiehl said.

Mayor Paul Wiehl talks about his hopes for Logue.

Because Athens is a low-income community, the mayor wanted someone who would be accessible to the people. "He's also new at it, so he'll have some fresh ideas coming out of school." Logue completed his undergraduate degree at Ohio University so he is familiar and comfortable with the area. "Athens was always a place I thought I'd like to be and it happened at a great time," he says. Moseley says he will be good at making sure that as new developments are proposed, they are still in line with the comprehensive plan.

The Future of Athens

While Logue has only had the job a few days, the mayor and City Council already have big plans for the city's development. Moseley says she thinks Athens should have a main gateway into the city, but she also wants him to look at neighborhoods, like Stewart and Mill Streets, green space, and sidewalks.

Paul Logue talks about his big plans for the city.

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