Aurora City Council will vote Monday on a five-year master plan that prioritizes green space and historic preservation over new development.
The draft document focuses on six key areas, consistently addressed throughout the plan. These include economy, housing, land use/zoning, community facilities, transportation and natural features.
The plan calls Aurora a “quaint community” and emphasizes retaining Aurora’s semi-rural character. It recommends a focus on low-density housing, boutique and mixed-use commercial development and environmentally friendly construction.
One recommendation calls for considering “a complete zoning code update.” Noting that the existing zoning code has not been substantially modified since 2000, a new post-pandemic code would be useful for incorporating new businesses, such as food trucks.
The master plan “is a guide, it’s not a mandate,” Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said, but she’s used it as a roadmap for pursuits in office.
The city charter requires the mayor to appoint a master plan review commission, every five years, to read over the previous five-year master plan and to suggest updates.
This year’s commission was appointed in January 2022 and worked with a consultant through September reviewing each section of the master plan, Womer Benjamin said.
The plan is divided into five chapters, each one covering a different phase in the planning process. The planning process — outlined in the first chapter — consists of four phases: identify, assess, recommend and implement.
The second chapter presents the city’s demographics, economic state and population trends. The growth rate of Aurora’s population has been slowing slightly, according to the plan, which Womer Benjamin attributes to efforts under recent administrations to control residential development.
“I think my predecessors, a couple predecessors who were mayors, tried to manage growth,” Womer Benjamin said. “One of the ways that was done was by buying up green space, and we have been doing the same thing.”
In the most recent census period (2010-2020), population growth decreased by 3.82%.
That trend matches a broader decline in Portage County, which is projected to have a population 6.3% smaller over the next 30 years, according to the Ohio Department of Development.
The proposed master plan calls on city officials to consider green spaces and historic preservation when choosing to adopt developmental projects.
The plan recommends that the station district should be treated in the same regard as the Town Center in terms of historic character.
Having a listing on the National Register of Historic Places could potentially benefit Aurora, the plan states.
“The master plan has always recommended that we look forward to, anticipate future needs, future projects or expansions that we may need to do,” Womer Benjamin said. “Just in the last two months, we purchased two pieces of property to address future needs.”
The purchases were for a house next to the library and two lots adjacent to the fire station.