Orange Township residents soon can take a closer look at a new public-private initiative to attract more commercial development to the U.S. Route 23 corridor through the township and Delaware County.
A proposed Route 23 Corridor Guide, developed by One Delaware (originally called Delaware Now), and how it might be used in the township is the focus of an open house set from 6 to 8 p.m. April 9 at Orange Township Hall, 1680 E. Orange Road.
"The idea is to help everyone get a better idea of what it is and what it does, its purpose and goals," trustee Ryan Rivers said, "and also to get input from residents that we can use when setting standards for the look and feel of (Route) 23 and the type of businesses we want to attract."
The study completed by One Delaware advocates streamlined commercial zoning along the corridor through the county.
Other suggestions include infrastructure improvements, economic-development incentives and cooperation among governmental entities to market a unified approach to development.
The proposal was put together by MKSK Studios in Columbus for One Delaware, a 501(c)(3) fund of the Delaware County Foundation composed of local government, business and private entities and individuals.
Co-founder Steve Cuckler, an attorney and Delaware County resident, said the effort is overdue.
"Ideally, we'd have done this 25 years ago," Cuckler said, "but there is still quite a bit of undeveloped land that, if done properly, is prime for commercial development."
The hope, Cuckler said, would be to ease the tax burden on residents, improve their commutes and attract jobs to the area. To do this, investments in roads, utilities and aesthetics would be made, in addition to the streamlined commercial-zoning process, he said.
"Right now, it's a hodgepodge, and will continue to be so if we do nothing," Cuckler said. "This part of Delaware County is in competition for other areas in central Ohio for this kind of development. (Route) 23 still has fantastic appeal and potential."
Delaware County economic development director Bob Lamb said his office has been working cooperatively with One Delaware on the plan.
"It was a partnership effort to put forward a plan that will guide commercial development along the 23 corridor for years to come," Lamb said.
Cuckler said that partnership potentially includes as many as six governmental entities -- the city of Columbus, Orange Township, Liberty Township, Berlin Township, the city of Delaware and Troy Township -- as well as the Ohio Department of Transportation and Delaware County.
It's a daunting task, Cuckler said, to bring that many groups together, but he hopes affirming local control within each community benefits the collaborative process.
"Each local entity controls its own zoning," he said. "Each entity will hold all of its own hearings on the process."
"We respect the heritage of the communities while diversifying the tax base and bringing jobs to the area," Lamb said.
Rivers said he hopes Orange Township can help provide an identity to the corridor, which he would like to see become "not just a thoroughfare but a destination."
"Orange Township is an anchor in the plan," Rivers said. "The comprehensive plan that was done in 2017 and approved by trustees in 2018 included the 23 corridor and provides a solid foundation for this discussion.
"I think we can take the lead on the plan while still benefiting from additional resources that we don't have on our own."
Rivers said he is targeting early summer to adopt the township's version of the zoning overlay proposed by One Delaware.