Western Licking County leaders are trying to plan together for projected growth.

Western Licking County leaders are trying to plan together for projected growth.

"We identified our focus area for western Licking County, which includes St. Albans Township, Harrison Township, Jersey Township, Pataskala and Etna Township," said Bart Weiler, vice president of the Pataskala Area Chamber of Commerce. "We need to sit down and look at their (each entity's) comprehensive plans and put together one plan that will flow more evenly."

The chamber sponsored a meeting March 27 in which local leaders identified the following goals for western Licking County:

Plan for future growth.

Fund local projects.

Collaborate on local projects.

Solicit public involvement.

Address transportation and economic development issues.

The group came together again May 28 to determine ways to move forward and accomplish those goals. Planning has become a top priority.

"A regional plan is needed," Weiler said. "Collaboration will benefit the whole area."

Jerry Brems, director of the Licking County Planning Department, said his department can work with the group to help achieve a regional plan. Licking County planners have worked with many of the participating townships on plan updates in the last few years, so the staff is familiar with issues in each of the areas involved.

Past cooperative planning efforts have not been very successful, but Weiler and Brems said this situation could be different.

"We all need to sit down in a non-threatening environment and really discuss what their plans hold and what we'd like to design going forward," Weiler said.

Three years ago, representatives from Licking County, Johnstown, Alexandria, Granville and three townships --Jersey, St. Albans and Granville -- came together to plan for growth along the state Route 161 corridor.

After almost two years of trying to form a plan, St. Albans and Jersey trustees voted to remove themselves from the planning process. With the two entities holding the largest amount of property along the corridor out, the planning process stopped.

One of the major concerns of Jersey and St. Albans trustees at the time was how to fund a new plan for the area. Brems said funding may not be an issue in the western Licking County planning.

"As I envision it, there will not be a great deal of funding required, if any, unless there's a new plan required," Brems said.

He said county planners may be able to talk about what is already in place and find ways to make each plan work together.

"We need to compare future land use maps and massage them so they act as one region," Brems added.

He said success depends on each political entity.

"It depends on each political entity and how much they're willing to work together and think in a regional perspective," he said.

Weiler said the chamber is working to gather more information on the regional planning effort before scheduling another meeting. But, he said he doesn't want to wait too long so the group will not lose momentum.