After holding out for more than two years, Hilliard City Council officially agreed to the terms of the Big Darby Accord Watershed Master Plan Monday night.

After holding out for more than two years, Hilliard City Council officially agreed to the terms of the Big Darby Accord Watershed Master Plan Monday night.

Hilliard had been an outspoken critic of the plan before finally deciding to sign on as a partner in the multijurisdictional coalition.

The city joins Columbus, Franklin County, Brown Township, Pleasant Township, Prairie Township and Washington Township as accord partners. Norwich Township, Grove City and the village of Harrisburg have not adopted the agreement.

The master plan has far-ranging implications for future development in the southwestern and western Columbus metro area, including the Hilliard and South-Western school districts.

Monday night's approval by council was unanimous.

Hilliard Law Director Pam DeDent said she was comfortable with a signed letter from the city of Columbus that confirms Hilliard's continued home-rule rights.

"Columbus and Hilliard each retain the sovereign authority to apply their own respective and independent interpretation of the master plan, while complying with the master plan requirements to submit development plans to the Accord Advisory Panel for recommendations to their respective boards and commissions," the letter stated.

The letter was signed by Tanya Arsh, director of the Columbus Department of Utilities, and Susan Ashbrook, environmental steward for Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman. Despite earlier requests by Hilliard City Council members, Coleman did not sign the letter himself.

Equally important, DeDent said, was a promise that Columbus would not use the agreement as a basis to deny water and sewer services to properties in the Hilliard service area.

"If Hilliard City Council adopts the attached resolution, future disagreements between Columbus and Hilliard, if any, over the interpretation or implementation of the master plan may not serve as a basis for denying the extension of water and sewer in the Hilliard service area," the letter stated.

The letter also addressed concerns about the proposed town center development and the potential impact of that development on the Hilliard City School District.

"The city of Columbus takes very seriously the needs and concerns of the city of Hilliard and the Hilliard School District because we must plan for future generations," the letter stated. "In addition, we have Columbus residents who attend schools within the Hilliard School District based on the Win-Win Agreement. We have worked together in the past on this issue and will work together in the future."

Hilliard City Council President Brett Sciotto said he is glad the accord issue has been resolved and the city can move forward as an active member of the coalition.

"I think it was an important revelation that this was considered as a guide and not as law," Sciotto said. "I think that as that became clear to all of the parties involved it became much more reasonable for Hilliard to be at the table, having preserved its home-rule rights and ability to control development. We want to be a collaborative partner and continue to move down the road with all of these entities to try to figure out the specifics of the plan, which for months and months we have questioned."