Licking County commissioner Doug Smith told Etna Township trustees June 18 that he was hearing rumblings of development interest along the state Route 161 corridor from such major retailers as Walmart and Target.

Licking County commissioner Doug Smith told Etna Township trustees June 18 that he was hearing rumblings of development interest along the state Route 161 corridor from such major retailers as Walmart and Target.

Smith said during the morning "coffee with the trustees" meeting that the area included Jersey and St. Albans townships. However, he said, the inquiries were indirect and secondhand, and in the case of Walmart, they are at least a year old.

"It's been more infrequent during this recession, but it's starting to heat up again," Smith said. "But the Walmart story is not one I would say is even warm at this point."

Commissioner Tim Bubb said most inquiries come into the water and sewer department through third parties.

"We get a lot of what I call blind inquiry," Bubb said. "They usually don't come with a Walmart jacket on or a Target jacket on saying, 'Hi, I'm Bill from Walmart.'

"Usually, it's a third-party site selector evaluating real-estate options. We've had plenty of that. The big question is always about the potential for water and sewer expansion."

Smith said the two dominant development areas in Licking County are likely to be the 161 corridor and the intersection of Interstate 70 and state Route 310.

"It's the next big thing in Licking County. That and state Route 310 and Interstate 70 is prime for commercial development, too," Smith said. "There are parcels that could be suited for multiuse and would be attractive. I could see a big-box store, a Kohl's or something locating in that area (at state Route 310 and Interstate 70)."

Bubb said residential development would have to pick up before any major retailers would begin construction.

"You could say Walmart, you could say Target, you could say five or six major chains (are interested)," Bubb said. "I suspect ... all those companies have (people) representing real-estate interests who are in the county constantly looking at undeveloped sites.

"The thing that makes 161 so attractive is that it has developed into a commercial corridor between Granville and New Albany."

Such developments can be sustained only if there is sufficient nearby housing, he said.

"You don't have nearly the rooftops in that corridor yet to justify big-box retail and rooftops are what dictate the process," Bubb said. "But at the same time, smart companies are out there right now optioning land and or looking for opportunities to buy land before development becomes like Sawsmill Road(in the Dublin area), where the price becomes almost prohibitive to buy out there."