Despite recent setbacks, Violet Township and Pickerington officials said this week that they intend to move forward with a proposed joint economic development district in northwest Fairfield County.

Despite recent setbacks, Violet Township and Pickerington officials said this week that they intend to move forward with a proposed joint economic development district in northwest Fairfield County.

In June, Violet Township became the first of the five communities involved in the proposed district to commit to an agreement establishing the Northwest Fairfield County 33 Corridor Joint Economic Development District (JEDD).

The agreement seeks to establish a mile-wide business district along U.S. Route 33 from the village of Carroll, through Bloom and Violet townships, to Diley Road. In addition to the townships, the communities of Canal Winchester, Pickerington and Lancaster have participated over the last two years in developing the JEDD agreement.

In July, however, Bloom Township trustees voted against participating in the district. And last week, the Canal Winchester Village Council heard a number of arguments against it.

Violet Township trustees Gary Weltlich and Terry Dunlap said they were surprised and disappointed by the decision of Bloom Township trustees, especially since those trustees have been involved in crafting the agreement.

"I am very surprised," Weltlich said. "I found out two days later that they not only discussed it, but they voted on it and they voted against it."

If he had known, Weltlich said, he would have attended the meeting to answer any questions and assuage any lingering concerns.

"That doesn't mean I would have had any impact on the outcome," he said. "But at least I wouldn't have had to hear it from a third party."

Violet Township has taken the lead on developing the JEDD agreement. Among other things, it includes a prohibition against annexation of land in the district by the participating cities. In exchange, it allows the cities to share in revenue created by development in the JEDD area by putting in place a 2-percent income tax.

Establishing the JEDD requires the participation of only one township and one municipality, Weltlich said.

Dunlap said the JEDD is an economic development incentive and the largest portion of the tax revenue it generates will be used for infrastructure improvements.

He said he doesn't understand why Bloom Township officials wouldn't want such a tool at their disposal.

"It's not mandatory on any property owner," Dunlap said. "It's an option sitting on a shelf if someone wants it. Why not have another tool you can offer for economic development?

"All these other townships and cities that are working together are prospering," he continued. "Here we are ... fighting ourselves, and no business wants to come here because of all the negativism."

The greatest opposition to the JEDD has come from Fairfield County officials who argue that the district will compete with the Fairfield 33 Development Alliance, a public-private partnership established to market U.S. Route 33 to commercial developers. The alliance includes representatives from 26 entities, including governments, private companies, chambers of commerce and economic development department staffs in Violet Township, Canal Winchester, Fairfield County, Lancaster and Pickerington.

Fairfield County Development Director Bill Arnett told the Canal Winchester Village Council last week he has concerns about the JEDD.

"From my point of view, this is not about development," Arnett said. "I think it's difficult to craft a JEDD without a need. The current JEDD contract will make it difficult to obtain investments."

Canal Winchester Village Council has yet to vote on the agreement.

Pickerington City Manager Tim Hansley said Pickerington City Council has yet to consider the most recent version of the JEDD agreement.

"It's just kind of in limbo," Hansley said. "I think they are waiting to see what all the other jurisdictions do before they go ahead."

Still, Hansley said, he sees the JEDD as a positive and is advocating for council's approval.

"I would still say there is still a possibility of this JEDD, or something similar to it, happening, which would be to the advantage of Violet Township and Pickerington," he said. "It is still my assessment that it is everyone's best interest to pursue this JEDD or something very similar to it."