West Jefferson village council members agreed to rezone more than 250 acres located northeast of state Route 29 from A-1 (agricultural) to a Planned Commerce District (PCD), offering an open door to progress in the area.
The request that triggered debate between council members, the mayor, and the Planning and Zoning Commission ended in favor of REX Project Management in a 6-1 emergency vote to rezone the Timmons property to PCD. Council Vice President Ron Garver offered the only dissenting opinion.
Council member Doug Eakins said West Jefferson is ripe for opportunity and should not stifle its potential.
“If we start hassling these companies, micro-managing and ignoring the advice from planning and zoning, any area for opportunity that we have will be negated and West Jeff will have a reputation of unfavorability,” said Eakins at the July 21 council meeting.
“We always call that area the golden triangle. If we don’t do something, we’re going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” he said.
Rick Snyder, chairman of the West Jefferson Planning and Zoning Commission, agrees that it would be in the village’s best interest to start now.
“It’s a matter of cost efficiency,” he said.
Madison County and the Ohio Department of Transportation require an initial plan from REX Property Management to assess the safest and most cost effective methods to improve interchanges and intersections, according Sean Hughes, executive and development director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
“For us to get full cooperation from ODOT, we need to be online,” Hughes said, meaning the property needs to be properly zoned and a plan in place.
A combination of public and private funding for infrastructure requires that private entities “pay into the pot,” Hughes said. The county will not receive money from REX Project Management until the property on state Route 29 is rezoned and purchased by the developer.
The cost of building materials continues to increase, as well, and fewer drivers on the road means a decrease in federal revenue collected from the gas tax, leaving the federal Department of Transportation scrambling for ways to account for the deficit, said Hughes, who labeled the decision to rezone the Timmons property critical.
“I applaud the council and the mayor for making this happen,” he said. “Now we can get back to attracting jobs.”
Another Annexation Request
The village received a request to annex more than 21 acres located on state Route 29 in Jefferson Township and owned by J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.
The village passed a resolution to inform the Madison County commissioners of the services available to the area, which include water and sewer services, police protection, and fire and EMS services.
The resolution represents the second step in the process to annex the property on which the village intends to develop retail and commercial businesses to bring additional jobs to West Jefferson, according to Mayor Scott Hockenbery.
“The more stuff that comes in on that (land), the better it will lead to other kinds of development,” he said.
Hockenbery foresees a gas station, hotel, restaurants, fast food chains, and other similar establishments for the corner of state Route 29 and I-70, if annexed into the village.
West Jefferson hopes to receive any of four grants to enlarge several water mains and expand the Main Street Improvement Project.
According to Public Service Director Harold Walker, the grants range in amounts from $100,000 to $310,000.
Three of the grant requests were submitted to receive funds to meet standards of the Environmental Protection Agency that requires the fire department to hook into lines six inches in diameter or greater, Walker said.
Three streets in West Jefferson—Water Street, Twin Street and West Street—need water main expansions from four inches to a planned eight inches in diameter. These roads would also be resurfaced.
The final grant request was submitted to increase the dollar amount allotted to the Main Street Improvement project, which Walker called a long shot.
“It’ll be rare if we get funded this year,” he said. “I’m hoping to, but I’m not holding my breath.”
The grants are based on a points system, taking into account necessity and the scope of the project, among other criteria, said Walker, who expects to receive an assessment of the village’s points in mid-August.