As governments trend toward consolidating services, Westerville and Blendon Township are looking to create a joint economic development zone.

As governments trend toward consolidating services, Westerville and Blendon Township are looking to create a joint economic development zone.

Under the proposed partnership, Westerville's 2-percent income tax would be applied to commercial and industrial portions of Blendon Township. Part of the money would be dedicated to capital improvements in the zone, and the township and the city would split the rest.

Westerville also would provide economic-development services to the township.

Members of Westerville City Council and Blendon Township trustees met to discuss such a deal March 13.

"We felt it was a natural extension of the cooperation we already have had and the shared services. It's a natural for us to look to Westerville and say this is one way to raise some funds," Blendon Township trustee Stew Flaherty said. "Our concern is focusing on Route 3, the redevelopment there. We felt that's a boon to our township. We also felt it's a help to Westerville if we don't have that dividing line."

There around 4,000 employees in the commercial and industrial portions of Blendon Township, and a 2-percent income tax in the zone could raise between $1.3 million and $2 million annually, Westerville economic development administrator Jason Bechtold said.

The tax would not affect any Blendon Township residents.

The joint economic development zone would provide additional revenue for the city with minimal costs. It would also provide financial stability for the township and dedicate money to improving the area, Bechtold said.

The joint economic development zone would be overseen by three representatives of the township and three representatives of the city, Bechtold said.

City council and the trustees would have to pass legislation allowing for the joint economic development zone, but the decision to create the zone ultimately would lie with Blendon Township voters, Westerville city manager Dave Collinsworth said.

Council is expected to hear legislation on the zone at its May 1 meeting, Collinsworth said, and the goal is to have the issue on the ballot in Blendon Township in November.

There are still issues to be addressed in creating a joint economic development zone, such as who should be allowed on the board, the length of the agreement to create the zone and whether the agreement should include an anti-poaching clause, but Blendon Township and Westerville officials voiced support for the zone's creation.

"This is where the (state) administration wants everyone to go," Westerville City Council chairman Mike Heyeck said. "I really think the model we have with Blendon Township with shared services is being propagated elsewhere, and this is just another step."