Group has vision for the region

Tribune Chronicle

Area organizations are getting on board with Vibrant NEO, a program commissioned to research and find a solution for creating a resilient future for northeast Ohio.

“I thought it was an interesting project that goes beyond the borders of our normal area,” said Bill Miller, director of the Trumbull County Planning Commission and member of the Vibrant NEO Board.

In addition to the Planning Commission, Miller said The Wean Foundation and Trumbull 100 have been indirectly involved through the Fund for Our Economic Future. In Mahoning County, the Diocese of Youngstown, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and other organizations are also getting involved with Vibrant NEO.

Vibrant NEO is a program developed by Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium (NESCC) and is funded by a first-of-its kind $4.25 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities initiative.

Jeff Anderle of NESCC said the main point of Vibrant NEO is to bring together all the plans of various regions.

“There’s a lot of disparate forces of information out there,” Anderle said. “It’s tough to get all this data together.”

Miller said the opportunity to compare and see how other communities are run “turns on some light bulbs” for innovation and planning. In particular, Miller said it has been interesting to question how to shape the future in regards to population and employment.

The program has already began to foster collaborations. Anderle said for the first time, they were able to create a regionwide land use and zoning map. They have been holding presentations on the information they have been gathering, including one on fair housing in Warren in mid-March.

“In general, people were really interested in the information we presented on land use and fiscal impact,” Anderle said.

Vibrant NEO held the first of three workshops at the end of April at John F. Kennedy High School in Warren and several other locations across the region. There were about 600 participants overall.

The “Business as Usual” workshop took a look at what the region would look like if no changes are made.

Anderle said the next step for the research will be the release of “Imagine MyNEO,” an online application that will let users address policy codes among other topics.

The next round of workshops will be held around July to address alternative scenarios to the first workshop’s. The public is invited to engage in communication about what the region would look like in the future if nothing changes.

At the final workshop to be held in September, participants will assemble a “preferred scenario” that will be included in the 2040 vision for northeast Ohio.