Orange Township trustees eye U.S. Route 23 zoning overlay

JIM FISCHER
editorial@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

Orange Township trustees likely will decide Sept. 8 whether to schedule a Sept. 21 public hearing on a zoning overlay for the U.S. Route 23 corridor through the township.

The zoning-overlay language 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 Route 23 throughout Delaware County.

It advocates streamlined commercial zoning along the corridor.

The overlay would serve as "the standard for development along the corridor," township planning and zoning director Michele Boni said.

She said the intent is to streamline the zoning-application process for commercial development and fast-track commercial zoning applications.

The Orange Township Zoning Commission voted 4-1 Aug. 25 to recommend approval of the overlay, with some changes and amendments.

The zoning commission has been working on the overlay document for several months, beginning with an informal presentation in February and a thorough review process over the summer, including open houses, resident surveys and a public hearing.

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

The proposal recommended for approval includes a provision for an informal review of all overlay zoning applications by the zoning commission within 14 days of submission.

Boni said the commission would meet in a work session to offer comments to trustees prior to their vote on an application.

The commission also recommended some changes to the proposed overlay boundary map, along with a handful of other recommendations.

Commission member Todd Dove voted against recommending the overlay, citing "major concerns" about some aspects of the proposal.

"There were things that were brought up, not changed and apparently won't be changed," he said.

"Still, I think we've added some things that are very important," he told commission members, adding that he expects trustees to approve the overlay.

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.

"Orange Township is an anchor in the plan," board chairman Ryan Rivers said.

Delaware County economic-development director Bob Lamb, whose office has been working with One Delaware on the plan, said it always was the intent of the proposal not to usurp local zoning.

"We respect the heritage of the communities while diversifying the tax base and bringing jobs to the area," Lamb said.

"It was a partnership effort to put forward a plan that will guide commercial development along the 23 corridor for years to come."

Rivers said the development of an overlay "is critical to transform the corridor into a well-planned, attractive and vibrant boulevard that supports our residents and businesses."

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About Delaware

Connection 23

According to Delaware County's website devoted to the project, the U.S. Route 23 corridor project is "a public-private partnership seeking to determine the best uses for this historic thoroughfare in Delaware County."

Delaware County residents and business owners came together to form a group through the Delaware Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization, to raise money for a planning study to evaluate U.S. Route 23 in Delaware County, according to 23corridor.co.delaware.oh.us.

The objectives of the study were to create a shared vision, identify critical infrastructure improvements, craft scenarios to compare and prioritize alternative transportation and land use patterns to visualize infrastructure improvements and to recommend actionable strategies to address the prior objectives, according to the website.