Westerville News & Public Opinion

Public meeting set on Big Walnut watershed plan


Thirty-one communities that line Big Walnut Creek have teamed with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) to create a plan for future development in and conservation of the creek’s watershed.

A draft of the Big Walnut Watershed Balanced Growth Plan will be on display in a public meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. March 26 at the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave.

The plan is one of five balanced growth plans being developed by MORPC for central Ohio’s watersheds. Others are being drafted for the Olentangy, Walnut Creek, Upper Scioto and Whetstone watersheds.

Once adopted, the communities that approve the balanced-growth plan will be eligible for special incentives from the state, including extra points on grant applications and low-interest loans, according to a MORPC press release.

Currently, there are 28 state programs that include special consideration for communities with balanced-growth plans, the press release said.

The Big Walnut Watershed Balanced Growth Plan is meant to address the environmental impact of development in the watershed.

The plan covers a 370-square-mile area from the start of the watershed in Morrow County south to where the creek merges with the Upper Scioto River just south of the Franklin-Pickaway county border.

Representatives of municipal and county governments, area chambers of commerce, local conservation organizations, soil and water conservation districts, the Environmental Protection Agency and Metro Parks were involved in the planning process.

MORPC anticipates high population growth in the watershed, especially in northern Franklin County, southern and central Delaware County and Licking County, the plan says. According to MORPC, regional approach to that growth is needed because development decisions made in one community affect the entire watershed.

The plan identifies priority areas for development, conservation and agriculture. It aims to protect environmental resources, preserve the unique characteristics of each area and promote sustainable development.

It includes an “implementation toolbox,” which lists suggestions on comprehensive planning, such as by implementing stormwater management regulations, encouraging low-impact development, establishing natural areas, putting stream and wetland setbacks in place, protecting woodlands and tree canopies, redeveloping brownfields, constructing complete streets, preserving farmland and creating water-quality conservation plans.

The draft plan, which already is available online at balancedgrowthplanning.morpc.org, will be on display for public comment through the middle of April, MORPC associate planner Erin Grushon said.

MORPC then will put together a final plan in May for the groups involved in the plan to look through and begin to approve, Grushon said.

MORPC ultimately will seek local adoption of the plan and state endorsement.

The plan recommends that communities involved look to create local comprehensive plans with updates every five years and that communities incorporate the plan’s priority areas into local planning.