Letter from DCA President John Tetzloff to Mayor Coleman regarding the Westland Area Plan

13 July, 2003

Mayor Michael B. Coleman

Mayor’s Office, City Hall, 2nd floor
90 West Broad Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Mayor Coleman;

The Darby Creek Association would like to call your attention to a development decision pending in Columbus’s Department of Development that could prove counterproductive in the ongoing effort to ensure the future health of the Big Darby watershed. Last Tuesday, July 8, the department was kind enough to brief our organization on revisions that the city will be proposing in an update of the Westland Area Plan. This plan covers part of the Darby watershed, in particular along Hellbranch Run.

At this briefing, we reviewed a proposed map of the Westland Area, which included — to our surprise—land use plans for approximately 1,000 acres within the Darby watershed, along and south of W. Broad Street. According to the map, the land use planned for this acreage will be standard density residential housing, with commercial along Broad St. The Department of Development intends to make this map public at an open house scheduled for July 29.

DCA has been actively participating in discussions with Columbus and various jurisdictions in the area, and has strongly echoed other environmental groups and state agencies in recommending comprehensive environmental planning. Our surprise at the Westland map stems from the fact that last October Columbus enacted an ordinance that not only suspended development in this area, but had as its specifically stated intent "to provide time for the City of Columbus and other governmental entities with land use jurisdiction in the Watershed to consider and/or implement a comprehensive land use development plan therein." Clearly the revisions to the Westland Area Plan have not been made under the auspices of a "comprehensive land use development plan"; nor do they meet the spirit of the ordinance’s call for multi-jurisdictional planning in the area. PEER, the group responsible for writing the ordinance, agrees that revising the Westland plan prior to the creation of a comprehensive land use plan would violate the stated intent of the moratorium, and they have endorsed this letter.

It seems there is some miscommunication between city divisions, considering that Columbus has recently committed to two broader planning initiatives—the multi-stakeholder advisory group for the EPA’s Environmentally Sensitive Development Area; and, with the Hellbranch Forum, a major regional stormwater study by the Army Corps of Engineers. DCA strongly supports both of these planning initiatives; in fact, we have contributed $1,000 to the Corps analysis—the only non-tax dollars involved in the study. Finally, the Department of Development did not seem to be aware that a major EPA pollution study of the Darby is in an advanced stage, and that the EPA has specifically stated that the results of this study must be incorporated into the water quality management plan for the area.

For the record, DCA is equally concerned about premature land use plans being floated by other jurisdictions, in particular Prairie Township. We are actively working to ensure that all jurisdictions stay committed to comprehensive environmental planning preceding any future development in the Darby watershed. We are convinced that cooperative planning is the only possible solution to the challenge of making development compatible with the exceptional water quality of the Darby ecosystem.

For the above reasons, DCA is asking that any revisions to the Westland Area Plan be postponed until the studies mentioned are completed, and until the watershed-wide planning called for in the moratorium ordinance has been achieved.

We appreciate the city’s statements of support for Darby Creek, and we look forward to partnering with the city to accomplish something truly great for central Ohio.


John Tetzloff

President, Darby Creek Association