City Council supports Walnut Creek growth plan
Pickerington City Council last week agreed to support a regional development plan designed to protect the Walnut Creek Watershed.
Pickerington June 19 officially lent its support to the Walnut Creek Watershed Balanced Growth Plan.
In doing so, the city endorsed a plan developed by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, 13 other communities and 12 additional stakeholder agencies to place conditions on economic development in and near the Walnut Creek Watershed.
A primary goal, according to the plan, is to protect water quality and aquatic life in the watershed, which flows into the Scioto River, by reducing agricultural runoff, the negative effects of failing home sewage treatment systems, channel modifications and urban stormwater.
"Population growth is projected in the watershed, particularly in the Fairfield County portion of the planning area and along (state) Route 33 in Franklin County," the plan states.
"Future development in the Walnut Creek Watershed should be planned to minimize harmful impacts to the watershed, minimize the loss of important agricultural or environmentally sensitive areas, and maximize the efficient use of infrastructure."
Walnut Creek flows almost 58 miles from headwaters in northwest Perry County to the Scioto River.
Walnut Creek joins the Scioto River approximately five miles upstream from the confluence of Big Darby Creek and the Scioto River in Circleville.
"The nearness of the exceptionally diverse aquatic ecosystem of the Big Darby Creek watershed in conjunction with improved water quality in the Scioto main stem has allowed rare and sensitive species to recolonize historic ranges, including Walnut Creek, from the Big Darby," the plan states.
The Walnut Creek Watershed Balanced Growth Plan is one of five "balanced growth plans" being developed in contiguous watersheds in central Ohio and, according to the plan, is a "voluntary, local response" to a state clean-water initiative.
Other communities participating as "planning partners" are Ashville, Baltimore, Bloom Township, Canal Winchester, Carroll, Greenfield Township, Groveport, Harrison Township, Lithopolis, Madison Township (Fairfield County), Madison Township (Franklin County), South Bloomfield and Violet Township.
Stakeholder partners are the Canal Winchester Street Tree Board, Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks, Fairfield County, Fairfield County Regional Planning Commission, Fairfield County Soil and Water Conservation District, Franklin County Economic Development and Planning,
The Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Ohio Department of Transportation District 5, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Pickaway County Office of Development and Planning, Schacht Family Farms and the Southeast Community Coalition.
The plan identifies "priority development areas" in each community within the watershed.
These areas, the plan states, seek to maximize development goals without forcing the extension of infrastructure which might negatively impact water quality in the watershed.
Likewise, areas have been designated for greenspace conservation, thereby suggesting development shouldn't take place there in an effort to reduce watershed pollution and restore physical habitats for local plants, wildlife and aquatic species.
Following local approvals, participating communities and agencies can seek endorsement of the plan by the Ohio Water Resources Council, which would make the participating communities eligible for "special state incentives" linked to balanced growth projects.
Council passed the second and final reading of the resolution to support the watershed plan by a 4-1 vote June 19.
Council members Jeff Fix and Brian Sauer were absent from the meeting and didn't vote on the resolution's second reading.
Councilman Mike Sabatino was the lone opponent to the plan.
He said he wouldn't support the measure because it is a work in progress, which could lead to more stringent development restrictions as the plan is further revised by regional and state leaders.
"I still believe this resolution is a pig in a poke in that we really don't know what the requirements are going to be in the final legislation," he said.
During a June 5 council meeting, Fix said he supported the plan, in part, because it provided development guidelines for communities within the Walnut Creek Watershed without tying local governments' hands with binding requirements.
"At the end of the day, it makes a lot of suggestions ... but we are not as a city committing to anything at this point," Fix said.