Big Darby Accord

Owners, environmentalists view proposal differently

Thursday, December 15, 2005

ThisWeek Staff Writer

An environmentalist group has come out in support of the latest proposal for land development in the Big Darby Creek watershed, but landowners in the environmentally sensitive area remain wary.

"We're strongly supportive of this plan," said John Tetzloff, president of the Darby Creek Association, an environmental group. "This is much better than the three original plans that were presented a few months ago."

In October, representatives of EDAW, the consulting firm hired by the 10 municipalities making up the Big Darby Accord to design plans for development in the area, presented three initial "concepts" at a public meeting. Tetzloff did not think any of those concepts provided a "low-growth option."

EDAW took feedback and developed a preliminary draft plan, which was presented to elected officials at a meeting on Dec. 6.

That tentative plan calls for 24,000 acres of green space, some of which is already present in the form of public parks. A large portion of new development would be concentrated west of Amity Road between Interstate 70 and U.S. Route 40.

"The plan calls for roughly half as much development as any of the previous plans did," Tetzloff said.

The purpose of the Big Darby Accord is to provide a development plan that can accommodate a growing Franklin County population while taking into account the environmental sensitivity of the Big Darby Creek watershed area. The accord is supposed to replace development moratoriums by Columbus and Franklin County scheduled to expire Dec. 31.

The 10 entities that make up the Big Darby Accord are Franklin County, Columbus, Grove City, Harrisburg, Hilliard and Norwich, Brown, Pleasant, Prairie and Washington townships.

In order to compensate property owners in areas where development is curtailed or banned, the plan calls for the creation of something called Transfer of Development Rights, or TDRs. Essentially, landowners in restricted areas would receive credits towards land easements in areas where development is allowed. Developers would then have to purchase these land easement rights in order to build.

Plenty of questions still remain, however, and landowners in the area are concerned that the compensation plan being discussed will not deliver fairly.

"It assumes that these TDRs will have a market value that's fair," said Bruce Ingram, an attorney for property owners in the watershed. "How could these credits possibly compensate the land owners for what their land would be worth if they sold to developers?"

Any plan involving TDRs would be dependent on approval of the Ohio legislature, which both Tetzloff and Ingram agreed could take at least six months.


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