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MAHONING COUNTY Committee exploring Canfield's future encourages public discussion of issues



Published: Sat, September 25, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



The planning group expects to meet with other residents and officials soon.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- To some members of the steering committee working on a plan for Canfield's future, the issues facing their community have been "elephants in the corner."

Everybody knows they're in the room, but nobody's talking about them.

It's a situation the committee hopes to rectify during two public meetings at which residents will be encouraged to discuss the future of their community. The meetings are set for 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday in McMahon Hall at the Mill Creek MetroParks experimental farm on state Route 46.

"We're going to get the elephant out of the corner," said committee member Lynn Roman. "The future's happening whether we're ready or not, and we're going to be ready."

Comments made at the meetings will be used to create a plan to prepare the city and township for their combined future. The Canfield plan is expected to be similar to the 150-page 20/20 Austintown plan, which lists several projects that residents can undertake to improve that community.

Likely issues

Issues expected to be discussed at the meetings include:

UControlling development.

UKeeping young people in the community after they graduate.

UBuilding a community center.

UConstructing a new post office and library.

UAddressing alcohol sales at restaurants.

UDetermining the future of Red Gate Farm, the former Kilcawley family farm on Leffingwell Road that Canfield City Council bought last year.

Residents of both the township and city are being encouraged to attend the meetings Monday and Tuesday. Roman stressed that the planning process will be a grass-roots effort that relies on the input of residents from throughout the community.

Committee members said they hoped to have between 100 and 300 people at the meetings. That could be a tall order, however, as several committee members agreed that Canfield residents are more likely to discuss the community issues with their neighbors than at public meetings.

Bill Kay, committee chairman and former Canfield High School principal, said Canfield residents may believe they haven't been provided with the best forum to discuss community issues.

The committee hopes the meetings will serve as that forum.

"I think we hope to bring to the surface some goals for the community to discuss and perhaps establish priorities for what the community would like to be," committee member Bruce Neff said.

Diversity issue

Neff noted that another issue he hopes to discuss at the meetings is Canfield's image as a community for wealthy, white families. He added that township and city residents should talk about the diverse mix of people that could be moving to their community as it grows in the future.

"We hope that it comes up," Neff said. "I think we could benefit from addressing diverse backgrounds of potential new residents."

Yet Kay also stressed that he believes Canfield's lily-white image is overblown.

"I've never agreed with that," he said. "It's not accurate. If you would go to the schools, you would see that it isn't."

The committee was organized by the nonprofit Canfield Foundation. Nils Johnson, foundation president, has said the foundation decided to work toward creating the plan last year after reading articles about 20/20 Austintown in The Vindicator.

Johnson also has stressed that the foundation hopes to use the plan to direct growth in both the township and city. Canfield Township is expected to be the top community in Mahoning and Trumbull counties for single-family housing construction this year.

"You look at other communities, they didn't anticipate things, the 'big boom'" in development, said committee member Karen George. "We hope to plan now and avoid the mistakes of other communities."

The 2000 census shows that the city and township had a combined population of about 14,600.

Hired to create plan

The Canfield Foundation has hired a group of students and planners from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., to direct the effort to create the plan. The Ball State group, led by Dr. James Segedy, also directed the 20/20 Austintown effort.

Segedy said much of the format of the final plan will be determined by the comments of Canfield residents. He noted that his group also plans to meet with local government and business officials and members of community organizations in the near future to discuss their ideas for the future of the community.

The foundation is paying for the $25,000 planning effort using a $10,000 donation from Johnson's family foundation, as well as other donations and $5,000 from city council. Johnson also has asked the township trustees for $5,000 to help pay for the plan.

Kay said he hopes Segedy's group will have the comments of local residents compiled for the committee between Thanksgiving and Jan 1.

hill@vindy.com




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