Jerome Township Trustees voted Tuesday to continue a public hearing surrounding a proposed zoning overlay that would be the first step to establishing a local Innovation District. If approved, the overlay would not change existing zoning but could be “pulled down” by developers or property owners. (Graphic submitted)
The Jerome Township Trustees voted to continue Tuesday’s public hearing, electing to not yet decide on the fate of a proposed Innovation District.
Jennifer Huber, legal counsel for the township, said the proposed zoning overlay district is a “piece in the puzzle” that will encourage smart growth in the township.
“This is the township determining its future using the tools available to do that,” Huber said.
If approved, the zoning overlay district will encompass approximately 741 acres south of Warner Road and north of the Union County/Franklin County line, between Industrial Parkway and the CSX railroad tracks.
In a March 31 meeting announcing plans for the Innovation District, officials said it is intended to attract “clean, high-tech uses, advanced manufacturing and research and development facilities.”
Trustee Chair Megan Sloat reiterated that the overlay would not change the existing zoning. Instead, Huber said land owners can “pull (the zoning) down if you want.”
Sloat said the Jerome Township Innovation District is an effort to “pre-plan” and avoid “haphazard, piecemeal” development.
In a presentation to the trustees and residents, Huber broke the proposed zoning into “the what,” “the how” and “the why.”
She said generating commercial tax dollars in the area, specifically through the Jerome Township Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) District and earnings tax within the Joint Economic Development District (JEDD), will allow the township to invest in better infrastructure.
Huber noted that the Innovation District, which will be accomplished in part through the zoning overlay, is a collaboration with Union County and City of Marysville officials. The county maintains township infrastructure, like roadways, while the city is the township’s water and sanitary sewer provider.
Ultimately, she said the goal is to provide an incentive for prospective businesses or property owners to stay in the township rather than annex to nearby areas.
Director of Departments Douglas Stewart said approximately 1,650 acres of Jerome Township land have been annexed into the City of Dublin.
Trustee C.J. Lovejoy emphasized that annexation results in the township losing out on the potential benefits of growth in the area.
“We get zero,” he said.
Sloat noted that the Innovation District is a way to ensure Jerome Township reaps the benefits of attracting prospective businesses and residents to its community.
“This is a prime area for our township to take the reins,” Sloat added.
Huber emphasized that the area will develop “with or without the overlay,” so the township is working to ensure growth benefits it rather than neighboring communities.
“The options are not (implement the) overlay or stay like this forever and ever and ever,” she told residents.
Still, a number of residents asked the township to gather more input from community members before voting on the measure.
Laura Snyder, a Weldon Road resident, said “we didn’t know anything about this” prior to an Aug. 16 zoning commission meeting.
She said she is concerned that commercial development will encroach on the current residents. Snyder asked that required buffers around residential buildings – which were recently increased to 100 feet in some areas – are made larger.
“We deserve to retire in a rural setting,” she said.
Resident Scott Snyder added that he is concerned about impacts on the watershed and maintenance of the creek near Weldon Road.
Likewise, Industrial Parkway resident Barry Adler said he appreciates the trustees’ efforts to better plan for development, but saw flaws in the current proposal.
He shared concerns regarding how future traffic impacts will be mitigated, density and open space requirements and the current uses chart and definitions.
Adler also urged an “objective review” of the financial projections provided by Schottenstein Real Estate Group.
Sloat thanked residents for their comments, adding that officials are “in no rush” to vote on the matter. She said the trustees hope to continue to hear public comments and incorporate changes into the proposed zoning.
As evidence, Huber outlined a number of changes made to the zoning amendment following the most recent zoning commission hearing.
“A project of this scope is never going to make everybody 100% happy,” Sloat said, adding that she is “intent on finding the middle ground.”
Whatever changes are made, though, Sloat emphasized that she feels the Innovation District will accomplish two main goals: create revenue that will fund better infrastructure and decrease the tax burden on township residents.
“This will set us up not for 10 years, not 20 years, not 30 years – far into the future,” she said.
The public hearing will continue at 7 p.m. Sept. 21.
In other business:
– Trustees set a special meeting for public hearings for a zoning map amendment for Curry Farm and a development plan for Mitchell Highlands Section 6 at 7 p.m. Sept. 28.
– The board rescinded two resolutions surrounding an enterprise zoning agreement with Amazon Data Services, Inc. that was approved Nov. 19, 2019.
Stewart explained that the company has since changed which parcels they will develop and has accordingly requested to go through the process again with the intent of signing a new agreement.
– Trustees set the Trick-or-Treat dates.
Stewart noted that there has been conflict in the past because Jerome Township has students from three separate school districts – Jonathan Alder, Fairbanks and Dublin.
In an attempt to appease the issue, trustees said students who attend Dublin City Schools will trick-or-treat from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28, to align with Dublin’s date, while those who attend JA or Fairbanks will celebrate from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 31, the date set by Marysville and Plain City.