Big Darby Accord Closer to Implementation

Members of the ten Franklin County jurisdictions working on what’s known as the Big Darby Accord got an update Tuesday afternoon on a draft development and environmental plan. The jurisdictions, which include the cities of Columbus, Hilliard and Grove City, Franklin County and several townships – want to promote reasonable growth while protecting the Big Darby Creek watershed’s ecosystem.

The moratorium prohibiting development in the watershed west of Columbus has angered some landowners. Before its expiration on June 30, the ten jurisdictions want a plan in place that would balance growth with environmental protection. Andrea Sweigart works for EDAW, the lead environmental planning and consulting firm. She says the area’s sensitive and valuable ecosystem requires a greater level of oversight.

“You can achieve those standards not only with a change of land use, but with the application of best management practices,” says Sweigart. “And we’re going to provide a number of mechanisms to do that but in the end, it’s going to be governed by regulations from [Ohio's] EPA.”

EDAW says the draft land use plan protects environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands, groundwater recharge sites, woodlands and special habitat, with development designated for less critical property. Company vice president Paul Moyer says the multi-jurisdictional collaboration will help ensure a uniform approach to growth

“In the state of Ohio it is truly precedent-setting,” Moyer says. “Ten jurisdictions getting together is pretty unique because you’re dealing with ten different entities. I think in Central Ohio, and Ohio in general, this is pretty precedent setting.”

But the devil, according to one official, is in the details. And representatives from Hilliard and Grove City said they needed ample time to review the draft proposal. Consultant Andrea Sweigart was upbeat about the plan’s potential.

“This is sort of the beginning of the process. It’s the end of the planning process but it’s the beginning of the opportunity for the jurisdictions to take this plan and its recommendations and continue to work together and that’s really where the opportunity lies,” Sweigart says.

The draft of the Big Darby Accord will be ready for review May 23rd. The leaders reconvene to discuss it during the first week of June.