Residents from Prairie Township, Brown Township and the City of Columbus were seated in the auditorium of Westland High School on Aug. 28, awaiting discussion about the proposed Darby Accord Town Center.
Those who attended to hear the plan and see proposed illustrations, however, left disappointed. The only plan in place right now, is a plan to plan.
Representatives of a consultant company hired by jurisdictions involved were at the meeting to provide residents and interested parties information about how “the plan” will come about.
The consultant firm that is currently in place has been given the mission to help officials hire another consultant, which will help in the design of the Town Center Master Plan.
They will also prepare a “scope of services,” to help ensure that all necessary components are included in the design.
Audience members were given questionnaires asking about their major concerns and issue with the Town Center. They were also given a list of various topics, or “plan elements” that could be included in the center, and were asked to rank each item according to its importance to themselves.
Items on that list included items such as market studies, development programs, design guidelines, a stormwater management plan, a school analysis, a transportation plan and more.
The Big Darby Accord is a Watershed Protection Plan that covers 555 square miles of central Ohio, west of the Columbus metropolitan area. It was put into place in order to help protect the Big Darby Creek, which flows 80 miles from Logan County in Circleville, where it joins the Scioto River.
The purpose of the Town Center is to initiate a high density development area within the Big Darby Accord within close proximity to areas that are already urbanizing. The eastern edge of the accord, near the borders of Franklin and Madison counties, is the most urbanized area within the accord.
By centralizing development within the Big Darby Accord to one area, the Town Center, it is expected that the remainder of the area will be preserved.
The portion of land proposed for the Town Center will encompass only 4 to 5 percent of the Franklin County portion of the Big Darby Accord.
The land will be serviced by a centralized sewer system running from Columbus. The City of Columbus has identified sewer capacity for the Town Center of 5,000 equivalent dwelling units. This means that they will provide sewer to that amount of dwellings without the threat of annexation, leaving local jurisdictions much more say in what happens in that area.
When residents raised the question as to who would pay for those sewer services, however, there were no answers.
“Give that a high priority on your list if that is something you feel is important,” said the consultants, referring to the itemized handouts they were asked to complete.
The one fact consultants were able to share with concerned residents was that the area would be of “mixed use,” meaning a combination of residential, commercial, retail and office space. There was also some talk of parks and open areas.
Consultants also took applications for a Town Center Procurement Committee (TCPC) that will consist of 5-7 members representing a balance of interests.
The TCPC will assist the jurisdictions in preparing the proposal for the Town Center Plan by sitting in on meetings and reviewing their work. They can expect to meet at least two to three times in the fall.
TCPC members are expected to have an understanding of the Big Darby Accord, as well as the Town Center Concept.
Applications for the TCPC are due by Sept. 7. Selected committee members will be selected and notified by their local officials.
To learn more about the Big Darby Accord or to download an application for the TCPC, go to www.franklincountyohio.gov/bigdarbyaccord.