New Albany is the first of three jurisdictions to approve the planning document they created to guide development in western Licking County.

New Albany City Council on Dec. 5 approved the Western Licking County Accord; the village of Johnstown and Jersey Township still need to approve the nonbinding planning document.

Local leaders have been working on the accord for the past year after the continued eastward push of business development into Licking County got them thinking about the future of the area. The accord's guidelines could shield residents against urban sprawl and haphazard development by ensuring all three local governments follow consistent standards.

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.

One of the accord's key goals is to preserve the land's rural character, said Adrienne Joly, New Albany's director of administrative services.

The accord includes five other objectives, she said, including protecting the community; managing and focusing growth; building on the area's agricultural roots; advancing employment opportunities; and extending parks and connectivity for bicycles.

The guidelines will help the jurisdictions respond to development pressures along state Route 161, Joly said.

Jersey Township trustees plan to adopt the document by the end of the year, said trustee Jim Endsley.

They haven't approved it because they have been discussing some items within the plan, he said.

"I'm not going to comment on what the items are," Endsley said. "We're trying to work through a couple things."

Johnstown Village Council will vote on the accord in January, said Jim Lenner, the village manager and planner.

The overall tone of council members toward the accord has been positive, he said.

Now that New Albany has approved the accord, the city will make minor changes to its strategic plan, zoning code, regulations and design guidelines to become consistent with the accord, Joly said.

Additionally, to improve communications among the three jurisdictions, staff members from New Albany, Johnstown and Jersey Township will conduct quarterly meetings, she said.

Johnstown happens to be in the middle of rewriting its zoning ordinances and the changes will incorporate the accord details, Lenner said.

Having a way to regularly communicate is an important first step, he said, so that the different jurisdictions don't do anything counterproductive to one another's efforts.

"I think it's a great step forward, and a big step forward," Lenner said.

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

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