Orange Township is moving closer to a zoning overlay that could shape the look and feel of U.S. Route 23 for decades to come.

The township will begin the process of considering a zoning overlay for the Route 23 corridor through the township with a zoning commission hearing Tuesday, June 16. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held virtually, including a livestream on the township's YouTube channel, Orange Township, Ohio.

Township planning and zoning director Michele Boni said she expects the commission's consideration of the overlay text to be thorough.

The June 16 meeting will involve a "high-level overview of the plan" and will "check commissioners' temperature on the text," she said.

Residents may preview the document at a planned virtual open house at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 11, also to be broadcast on the township's YouTube channel.

It would be the second such open house on the overlay.

The language of the zoning overlay is taken from the proposed Route 23 Corridor Guide, developed by One Delaware, a private-public partnership that seeks to promote commercial development and tax diversification along the Route 23 corridor throughout Delaware County.

The township's zoning commission heard an informal presentation on the document in February, Boni said.

She said the draft for the Orange Township portion of the overlay received conditional approval from the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission in May.

The overlay serves as "the standard for development along the corridor," said Boni, with detailed guidelines for architecture, signs, lights and more.

"It's important the zoning commission take its time with this," Boni said, explaining that the intent of the overlay is to streamline the zoning-application process for commercial development and would result in the ability to bypass the commission in the future and fast-track applications directly to the township trustees, after staff review.

In addition to the virtual open-house meetings, Boni said, the township has received more than 350 completed surveys regarding the overlay.

"We've done a lot of outreach," she said. "We want this to be as community-focused as possible."

Survey results will be shared at both the open house and zoning commission hearing, Boni said.

Although the overlay could involve as many as six governmental entities -- the cities of Delaware and Columbus, and Orange, Liberty, Berlin and Troy townships -- the current process involves only the portion of the overlay in Orange Township.

"We respect the heritage of the communities while diversifying the tax base and bringing jobs to the area," Delaware County economic-development director Bob Lamb said.

"Orange Township is an anchor in the plan," township trustee Ryan Rivers said.

Rivers said he hopes the township can be a leader in providing an identity to the corridor, which he would like to see become "not just a thoroughfare but a destination."

Boni said she expects the commission to hold additional hearings on the overlay.

If approved by the commission, the overlay then would be sent to the board of trustees for consideration.

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