The Licking County Planning Commission met July 26 to accept Jersey Township's proposed comprehensive plan.

The Licking County Planning Commission met July 26 to accept Jersey Township's proposed comprehensive plan.

Commission staff planner Ryan Edwards said township officials have been working on the plan for a year-and-a-half.

"In 2008 the trustees initiated the process," he said. "They were trying to anticipate the growth that came along with the construction of the (state Route) 161 expressway and also to respond to rapid growth in New Albany. The focus of the plan throughout the entire process has been the community's desire to remain rural while also providing for growth opportunities."

Edwards said the plan was the basis for future township zoning decisions.

"In a nutshell the plan establishes goals and objectives, as well as implementation strategies to achieve those goals," he said. "The future-land-use map was created during this process, in accordance with the community's desire to remain rural."

Also in the plan, he said, is a map that shows where township officials would like to see water and sewer extended.

Townships do not have authority under Ohio law to adopt comprehensive plans, but they may ask the county planning commission and the commissioners to do so on their behalf. The commission unanimously approved the request.

In other matters, the commission accepted changes to the Etna Township zoning code. Specifically, the commission approved changes to Article 5 of the code, which governs administrative procedures, including appeals to the Board of Zoning Appeals, appointment of the clerk to the zoning commission and the process of applying for exemptions from the zoning code.

Township administrator Chris Harkness said the requirement to allow a process for exemptions was a matter of court rulings.

"Use variances are mandated by case law," Harkness said. "We have to allow somebody to apply for a variance. We also need standards by which the variance can be granted."

County planning manager Brad Mercer said Etna Township is changing its variance standard.

"Currently, they have unnecessary hardship as the only standard," he said. "Ohio law has changed - at least the interpretation of it in the court system - so it is now a two-tier test, practical difficulties for use and unnecessary hardship for use variances."

The commission denied a request by Rex and Cassandra Smith for a variance from a requirement that driveway access be 550 feet from an intersection. The Smiths are dividing a 25-acre parcel at York and Palmer roads into five-acre lots.

Edwards said the separation requirement allowed the future construction of turn lanes. Though the land is zoned agricultural, the future-land-use map identified the area as residential, which suggested that traffic on the roadways eventually would reach the point where turn lanes would be required.