New Albany, Jersey Township and Johnstown are moving toward consensus on a set of guidelines that would help define the development of 17,000 acres mostly in the township.

The three local governments have prepared a final draft of their Western Licking County Accord, which would serve as a planning document rather than a binding contract, according to Adrienne Joly, New Albany's director of administrative services.

Jersey Township officials will hold a public meeting to review the accord at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the township hall, 1481 Mink St. SW, according to a press release.

New Albany City Manager Joe Stefanov previously said the accord was necessary because of factors that include construction and development along the state Route 161 corridor and the expansion of the New Albany International Business Park.

Objectives include maintaining each community's heritage and identity; preserving rural character; managing residential growth; building on agricultural roots; advancing employment opportunities; and extending park and bike connectivity.

New Albany's planning commission is expected to review the accord this month and provide a recommendation to New Albany City Council, Joly said.

"Regional collaboration like this has the ability to ensure a higher quality of development and a consistent level of development between jurisdictions," she said.

One of the main objectives in the plan, controlling residential growth, will help prevent the communities from overloading infrastructure or tax services, said Jim Lenner, Johnstown's village manager.

"I think it's a great product," he said. "I think it helps our three communities kind of have the same idea on where we want to go."

Johnstown's planning commission will hold a public hearing on the accord and make a recommendation to the village council Oct. 24, Lenner said. Council members are expected to hold a public hearing and vote Nov. 21, he said.

Jersey Township trustees have not set a date to vote on the accord yet, Trustee Jim Endsley said.

Surveys done as part of the planning process revealed that protecting the township's rural feel was important to residents, he said.

One hundred fifty-three residents responded to the online survey about the accord. Forty-four percent 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, Endsley said.

"If we could, we would close the gates tomorrow and not let another resident in here, but in reality that can't happen," he said.

What township officials can do, he said, is examine ways of controlling the growth they have the ability to control.

Preserving the accord area's rural character also is important to New Albany leaders, Joly said.

Design standards in the accord – such as the proximity of buildings to one another and the amount of open space between a street and a building – give jurisdictions strategies and tools to help future development preserve rural character, she said.

The accord was developed after a planning survey was conducted by Columbus-based planning firm MKSK.

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.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah