Residents in or near western Licking County want much of the land there to remain rural as development advances east from New Albany along the state Route 161 corridor, according to a survey conducted as part of a planning initiative for the area.

The results of the survey conducted by Columbus-based planning firm MKSK will be the subject of the next Western Licking County Accord meeting, slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 20, at Jersey Baptist Church, 13260 Morse Road in New Albany.

The accord would comprise a set of guidelines for about 17,000 acres, most of which are in Jersey Township. It would be a planning document rather than a binding contract among the governments, according to Adrienne Joly, New Albany's director of administrative services.

Leaders from New Albany, Johnstown and Jersey Township are working to develop the plan, which New Albany City Manager Joe Stefanov previously said was necessary because of factors that include construction along state Route 161 and the expansion of the New Albany International Business Park.

According to a map of the study area, the accord should include land bordered in part by U.S. Route 62 to the west and state Route 310 to the east. The area extends south of Route 161 to the border of Jersey Township and Pataskala and north to Johnstown.

Survey says ...

A total of 153 residents responded to the online survey about the future of the land to be included in the accord. Forty-four percent of those who responded were from Jersey Township, 29 percent were from Johnstown, 11 percent were from Monroe Township, 11 percent were from other locations and 5 percent were from New Albany.

Joly said New Albany paid $135,000 for MKSK's services, covering the entire cost for the three local governments.

Stefanov previously said New Albany is funding MKSK in full because the city has more resources than Jersey Township and was trying to be a good neighbor by including Johnstown.

Survey results indicated that most wanted to preserve the area's rural character. They also wanted more parks and largely agreed with the draft version of the initiative's vision statement: "The Western Licking County Accord provides a comprehensive, shared vision for western Licking County that guides growth and development in a way that celebrates and preserves the rural, small-town character of the area."

Joly said she was encouraged that so many survey participants responded positively to the accord's vision statement.

She also said she was surprised that design standards and tools to control growth were high on respondents' list of priorities. People know growth is likely to occur in western Licking County, she said, and they seemed to understand the need for local governments to have ways to manage it.

Those planning the accord guidelines will incorporate themes of comments and suggestions from the survey into their planning, said Jim Lenner, Johnstown's village manager and planner.

"What we don't want to do is create a plan that isn't accepted by the community," he said.

The preservation of western Licking County's rural character is a priority, Lenner said. The plans also will include water and sewer-service areas and development standards, he said.

Although New Albany, Johnstown and Jersey Township will remain individual entities, the guidelines would help them remain consistent with development standards, he said.

"We kind of want it seamless," he said.

Expansion impact

Another factor in planning development in western Licking County is the New Albany International Business Park.

Last year alone, New Albany acquired additional land for the park by annexing more than 200 acres in Jersey Township. Stefanov previously explained the New Albany annexations from Jersey Township have not removed the land from the township's jurisdiction. Rather, the New Albany and township jurisdictions overlap, allowing the township to continue receiving property-tax revenue for the annexed land.

To help accommodate larger amounts of traffic, a new $8.6 million Route 161 interchange is under construction at Mink Street. Morgan Overbey, an ODOT spokeswoman, said work began on the project at the end of March.

Jim Endsley, a Jersey Township trustee, said the expansion of the business park's Personal Care and Beauty Campus is affecting neighboring residents. The initial swath of land that would become the Personal Care and Beauty Campus was annexed into New Albany in 2009, according to city spokesman Scott McAfee.

"These residents didn't ask for these buildings to be there," Endsley said.

Endsley said Jersey Township has more than 2,400 residents, and he estimated about a dozen have property abutting the Personal Care and Beauty Campus. The commercial buildings affect them differently, depending on where their houses are situated on a property and how many trees are on the land.

However, Endsley said, MKSK, which administered the community survey, has provided good recommendations for moving forward that will be discussed at the April 20 meeting.

Lenner said he thinks most people are in support of business-park expansion as long as the growth remains on the Route 161 corridor.

The plan would solidify where such expansion occurs, he said, even though most companies' logistical needs would require them to locate close to Route 161 anyway.

If development is completed correctly, the outcome can satisfy interests of both New Albany and Jersey Township, Stefanov previously said. Portions of the township could remain rural, and development could be concentrated along the Route 161 corridor.

"We're not encouraging sprawl," he said. "We're not encouraging haphazard development."

Although most of the land included in the accord study area is outside of New Albany's current boundaries, Joly said, planning is the key to balancing rural growth with business-park expansion.

Not planning for growth can result in traffic congestion, changes to the character of communities and strains on government resources, she said.

The survey will help develop strategies that each jurisdiction can use to help achieve a shared vision, Joly said.

"The collaboration (among) the entities is a really positive thing," she said.