The Plain Township zoning commission on April 12 reviewed an update on the township land-use plan, suggesting restrictions on uses in commercial areas.

The Plain Township zoning commission on April 12 reviewed an update on the township land-use plan, suggesting restrictions on uses in commercial areas.

Commission chair David Halsey said the township is not in the business of economic development but the land-use plan should provide direction for developers and protection for residents.

"We want to provide (residents) with that security of having development guidelines in place," Halsey said.

Gary Smith, of G 2 Planning and Design, said restricting commercial uses along Johnstown Road and adding restrictions in an overlay district make sense. An overlay district would protect the rural character of the area by establishing setbacks from the road and from neighboring properties, minimum lot widths for development and limited uses.

Smith said smaller office and retail uses, such as a dentist's office or a country store, could work in the area.

A proposed storage facility planned for the west side of Johnstown Road was denied in 2011. Neighbors complained that the development would hurt their property values.

Smith said by adopting an overlay district, the township can ensure development maintains the rural character of the area.

"I think we can mitigate circumstances or issues for people to the west," Smith said.

Smith suggested creating commercial spaces near state Route 605 and Walnut Street and Hamilton and Central College roads. Those areas would require overlay districts, as well, Smith said, to turn away big-box retail businesses and promote more neighborhood-oriented uses.

North of Walnut Street, near the developing Rocky Fork Metro Park, Smith suggested targeting parcels around the park with natural features. He said homes could be developed on larger parcels around the park, with open spaces and natural features being donated to the park.

He said the land could bring higher prices because of the proximity to the park.

"If you have houses that back up to the park with a higher lot price, it could be attractive to a developer and give you the flexibility to negotiate a better standard of design," Smith said.

Commission member Rick Wieland said development might be impossible without water and sewer connections.

Smith said there are ways to include on-site septic systems for larger homes on large lots.

Smith agreed to make the changes and have a draft copy of the plan ready for the township to include on its website this week.

Township administrator Ben Collins said the township is sending out a newsletter in late April and would like to refer people to the website so they can offer feedback on changes to the land-use plan.

The land-use plan does not affect zoning. However, it does include the township's recommended uses for land.

The township zoning commission will review Smith's changes again in May before making a recommendation on the plan to Plain Township trustees, who must approve the plan.

Besides working to update all maps and show all zoning changes since the plan's last update, Smith also will convert the document to Microsoft Word so the township staff can make changes to it as zoning applications are approved. He will show potential connections to the Metro Park and other area trails.

The township is paying Smith $6,400 to update the land-use plan, which was originally developed in 2007.