There was little opposition present at a Jan. 14 public hearing regarding Canal Winchester becoming part of a proposed joint economic development district (JEDD) with Lancaster, Pickerington, Violet and Bloom townships.
The proposed JEDD would encompass the U.S. Route 33 corridor from the Franklin County line southeast to Bloom Township’s eastern border. The area would include lands one mile to the north and south of U.S. 33 excluding the Canal Winchester CEDA area around Canal Pointe, residential lands, properties that are part of a pending annexation (such as the Snider-Thornton properties), and areas served by already existing joint utility agreements.
Speaking at the public hearing held in Canal Winchester Town Hall, Canal Winchester Law Director Gene Hollins said JEDD’s are set up for commercial and industrial development.
Property owners wanting to take advantage of a JEDD must petition to be included in the district. Governments cannot create a JEDD on private property identified for commercial and/or industrial development.
The term of the proposed agreement is 30 years and all parties would agree not to annex into the JEDD, which would be administered by a five-member board. Utility services, for the most part, would be provided by Fairfield County.
"For much of the area Fairfield County is the only logical choice as the provider for the utilities," said Hollins. "Success may depend on whether Fairfield County will service the area, but from what I hear they (county officials) want (utility) customers."
At a Canal Winchester committee meeting in November, Hollins described a JEDD as "…an alternative to annexation and is somewhat similar to the CEDA, which is the ability to share the benefits of development with the township, but with annexation. With a JEDD, you don’t annex.
Jurisdictions, for the first time, are cooperating and coming together and came up with an idea to get on the same page for a corridor for commercial and industrial development.
"We (Canal Winchester) would derive some income tax revenue from where we didn’t anticipate.We don’t want to hodgepodge development. This is a commitment to higher quality and uniform standards all up and down the corridor. It will be up to the townships to make this work. It’s been encouraging to see the cooperation of five entities around the table."
Opposing the JEDD
Canal Winchester resident Jeffrey Bond said he opposes Canal Winchester entering the JEDD.
"We’re (Canal Winchester) surrendering a chance to make hay with annexations," said Bond. "This is our turn. This is our time."
He said such agreements like the JEDD create urban sprawl which is "not for the benefit of the people."
He characterized the JEDD as a "short term dream" that was not reflective of "reality" because "land use plans change often" and that the JEDD would take land "into usages that will be regrettable in the next 10 to 15 years."
Supporting the JEDD
Violet Township resident Norm Hopkins said he could see the benefits of a JEDD in that it could eliminate the annexation legal battles between local governments that have plagued the area in recent years as well as establish development standards.
"It’s an opportunity for good working relationships (between government entities) and a chance to make sure the 33 corridor is developed to mutually agreeable standards," said Hopkins.
Violet Township Trustee Gary Weltlich said business owners will not take the risk of moving into an area where there is political infighting among local neighboring governments. He said the JEDD would remove this risk.
He added the JEDD would give local governments more control over the development of the U.S. 33 corridor.
"We can either let the developers do it and get fast food and storage sheds, or, we can cooperate and take away risk and control our own destiny and develop what is best for our citizens," said Weltlich.
Hollins said representatives from the five potential JEDD partners will meet in March following Bloom Township’s February public hearing on the JEDD. He said the group will meet and tweak the potential agreement and prepare a final product for the five governments to consider for approval this spring.