Group lays groundwork for growth

A planner suggested changes to the village green.
CANFIELD -- Lawyer Nils Johnson looked out at 125 fellow Canfield faithful Tuesday night and said simply, "There is a hell of a hole in our community."
He was talking about a problem common to pretty-well-off bedroom communities: Moms and dads spend $40,000 to educate their children in good schools and colleges, and then they're gone because they can't find a good job close to home.
But actually, 14,624-resident Canfield will have to deal with a number of "holes" that Ball State University urban planner James A. Segedy discovered stand between the place in 2005 and what it would like to become.
Johnson is chairman of the Canfield Foundation, a panel of key community residents: the mayor, township manager and a trustee, school superintendent and representatives of men's and women's service clubs.
The foundation hired Segedy, Ball State's director of community-based projects, to guide the group to its image of what it wants to become and what it never wants to happen.
Painting the future
Segedy compiled 132 pages of notes after conversations with some 300 individuals, and he was back in Canfield to tell what he heard.
"This is what you told me you want," he said before a half-hour presentation of highlights of the future he painted from the nuances he compiled in listening sessions.
The city and township officials need to identify areas -- his map showed a large property block on the West Side of the city -- for light industrial manufacturing and commercial development, places where people can work, he said.
And whatever plan it comes up with, Canfield has to stick to the "cookbook" it writes for progress, even when developers of promising projects fight, he said.
"Canfield needs tax base and jobs," the planner said. But it needs to set the terms of development, "stick with it and you'll win," he said. The alternative, Segedy said, is "a zit on your nose on prom night, you don't need that."
He advised establishment of a community development corporation to entice investment.
Bypass suggested
Segedy urged an alternative to heavy trucks passing through the city on U.S. Route 224: a bypass.
The route would take heavy traffic south of town, looping from the state Route 11 interchange with Route 224 and connecting with state Route 14 near the fairgrounds around to the west of town.
"We need to get the trucks off 224 and state Route 46," he said.
In the quieter heart of the town, free of rumbling trucks, its village green should become a one-way, pedestrian-friendly boulevard with angle parking, the planner said. He acknowledged that civic leaders had the traffic patterns set up that way once and abandoned the arrangement. Canfield should return to that pattern, he said.
His plan focuses entertainment and public activities in the area of "the green."
That's where people should go to a larger post office, in the same place, and an expanded library, an amenity many of the individuals he contacted favored, Segedy said.
The community lacks a centrally located gathering space, he said, and the village green is the place. What it needs is more restaurants, shopping and entertainment.
The mix should include storefronts with "affordable" housing units on upper floors to make it possible for younger families and singles to afford to live in the center of town.
Canfield's strategy should focus on development where roads, schools, water and sewer already exist, Segedy urged. Planners should strive to fill in open spaces in those areas rather than scattering residential and commercial development.
Segedy, executive producer of an upcoming public television series on the theme "This Old Town," told the group crowded into a room at Mill Creek MetroParks Farm that it needs to ask, "What is Canfield?" then fine tune the details of its vision based on the answer.

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