For the second time in as many meetings, Pickerington City Council held off a decision on a proposed joint planning agreement with Violet Township.

For the second time in as many meetings, Pickerington City Council held off a decision on a proposed joint planning agreement with Violet Township.

Two weeks after Violet Township trustees approved an agreement to share information about proposed development and land-use projects with the city of Pickerington, the city has yet to reciprocate.

City council on July 19 voted unanimously to table the JPA, which was proposed by Violet Township director of operations Bill Yaple and Pickerington city manager Bill Vance and billed as a way for the two governments to display a spirit of cooperation to potential developers and ensure incoming projects are mutually beneficial.

As proposed, the JPA wouldn't be legally binding, but it would commit the township and city to share information about development proposals within five days of receiving formal project submissions. It also would establish a panel of at least two representatives from both governments; the panel would have no authority to change, approve or stop a proposed project, but could offer recommendations or issues of concerns for the respective governments and developers to consider.

Council's July 19 decision to table a resolution to approve the JPA followed similar action on June 7.

Last month, council voted 4-3 to table the matter. While Councilman Brian Wisniewski opposed the plan as being "unnecessary," council members Jeff Fix, Cristie Hammond and Tricia Sanders said they wanted to hold off a decision while the city considered merging its economic development department with the township's.

Pickerington has since foregone the economic development merger for the time being, and on July 19, council tabled the JPA discussion so it could continue to explore the issue and consider a proposal from Violet Township resident Rocco Sabatino to allow developers to "opt-out" of the JPA. Sabatino owns commercial properties in the township and city.

He objected to the JPA on the grounds that sending proposed development plans to the joint panel would add another layer of bureaucracy that could scuttle projects.

"The opt-out means you don't formally submit the application packet to this new commission," he said. "I don't want to make my deal subject to this commission."

In supporting the JPA, Vance and council President Brian Sauer and Vice President Tony Barletta reiterated that the commission wouldn't have the authority to stop or change a project, but rather could address any problems a proposal might present to one of the two communities. They also said the commission could help reduce lawsuits between the two governments and help expedite projects in some cases.

"It's always better to have two entities sitting down and discussing these issues face-to-face than have rumor and innuendo going through back channels," Sauer said. "We can have that discussion without attorneys sitting at the table and spending a fortune on attorneys' fees."

In maintaining his opposition to the JPA, Wisniewski said there haven't been any lawsuits between the city and township in the past five years, and there is no need to formally share information that already would be public record.

"In my opinion, this is bureaucracy and absolutely doesn't have to occur," Wisniewski said.

Prior to tabling the issue, a motion to remove the section regarding the city-township commission failed by a 2-3 vote, with Barletta, Fix and Sauer objecting and Wisniewski and Hammond voting in favor.

Fix then proposed adding an opt-out clause to the resolution, but with council members Gavin Blair and Sanders absent from the meeting and Barletta and Sauer voting against the amendment, the proposal failed to garner the four required votes to pass.

In the meantime, Violet Township trustee chairman Gary Weltlich said he didn't support or object to adding an opt-out clause because he didn't think it would have any impact on the goals of the JPA.

He did, however, maintain that the agreement and the commission it would create would yield a better environment for regional development while also allowing both governments to at least provide input on projects that would affect both jurisdictions.

"The important thing to me is you pass it because it shows good faith, cooperation to me, on a regular basis," Weltlich said.