Marysville city officials had mixed reactions Thursday, March 14, to the Upper Scioto Watershed Balanced Growth Plan proposed by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.
MORPC's proposal calls for communities to follow a plan when considering development and its effect on watershed areas. In exchange for following the guidelines in the proposal, communities may qualify for state grants and possibly federal money as well.
There are 29 communities and 433 square miles included in the Upper Scioto planning partnership proposed by MORPC.
Council heard the second reading March 14 of a resolution of support for the plan, which generated many questions when it was first brought up Feb. 28. Councilwoman Deborah Groat said she still has concerns that the plan was put together either too quickly with little research or MORPC just used a template of other watershed plans to develop this one.
"This plan links Marysville with a more broadly distributed set of goals," Groat said. "My personal focus is on private ownership of land and private determination of land use rather than a broader focus and larger governmental involvement.
"If we sign and follow the plan, we commit to goals not of our creation. If we sign and we don't follow the plan, we become hypocrites," she said.
Council President Nevin Taylor also expressed concern. As an agricultural educator for more than 30 years, he said the MORPC proposal does not live up to the true definition of a watershed.
"In a watershed, you must be improving water quality or the water serviceability or the water accountability," he said. "The plan that's before me is not a watershed by definition."
MORPC representative Nancy Reger said the proposal is not a watershed plan.
"It is a balanced growth plan in a watershed area," she said. "It's intended to educate the communities in that area of how development can possibly affect the water."
Reger said the plan must be endorsed by the communities in the Upper Scioto watershed in order for the state of Ohio to accept it and allow for the incentives to be released to communities in alignment with the plan.
"There are three ways that this plan is endorsed," she said. "It's based on 75-percent population, which gives Columbus the majority; 75 percent of land coverage; or by 75 percent of the communities agreeing to the plan."
Councilman Mark Reamer said he likes the plan.
"I think this is a good step for us," Reamer said. "I'm happy with the 10 guiding principles. I'm also happy to see some incentives for the communities that agree with these principles."
Marysville City Administrator Terry Emery also is on board, comparing it to the local collaboration efforts among the city, Union County and Marysville schools and the Council of Governments.
"This is jurisdictional collaboration," Emery said. "We don't have to do aspects of this if it's not going to benefit the city of Marysville, but we're at the table and we're collaborating, so I think it's a positive thing."
Union County Economic Development Director Eric Phillips agreed.
"This plan recommends for us to look at developing plans a little differently than we've done in the past and that's to plan around streams," Phillips said. "It's a guidebook. Our comprehensive plan is a guidebook. You don't have to do anything in that guidebook."
Marysville City Planner Greg Delong said the plan is all voluntary.
"We can use the plan as much or as little as we want," he said.
Taylor said two council members won't be able to attend the March 28 meeting so a final vote on the resolution of support will take place at the April 11 city council meeting.