WILMINGTON — The county is seeking financial assistance through the Ohio EPA for a potential public sewer project at or near the Interstate 71 / State Route 73 interchange.
Clinton County commissioners recently nominated the project via the Ohio EPA’s Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF). The fund provides financial and technical assistance for wastewater infrastructure and restoration projects, according to the agency’s website.
In an appointment this week with county commissioners, Clinton County Regional Planning Commission (RPC) Executive Director Taylor Stuckert said current development in Ohio is focused around interstate highways.
In Clinton County, the two interstate interchanges are important for economic development as well as being key symbolic entry points into the local community. As such, they should be protected from “low quality and low economic benefit use,” he said.
In addition, traffic circulation and access should be carefully planned and managed at the interchanges, said Stuckert. That’s especially the case around the I-71 / SR 73 interchange where traffic circulation is becoming an increasing problem, he said.
“And as long as development strictly runs along 73, it’s just going to get worse and worse,” added Stuckert.
The only place in Clinton County zoned as “C-3 Highway Commercial” is the I-71 / SR 73 interchange, according to the RPC executive director.
“Under C-3, you’ll see a whole host of uses. So basically at C-3 you can do anything under C [zoning] that you want — [ironically enough] at what we consider to be one of our most strategic areas in the county,” he said.
“So that’s kind of a misalignment when we have particular uses that may be better aligned with sewer investment, maybe better aligned with comprehensive planning goals, better aligned with the opportunity to build out the amenities we need to attract residents to live here,” Stuckert stated.
Accordingly, Stuckert told commissioners he would like to see the Highway Commercial C-3 Zone modified in the county’s Zoning Code. That is something that would have to be approved by the full RPC and the county’s Rural Zoning Commission, and then would have to be followed by Clinton County commissioners adopting the revision.
If adopted, that would limit some of the vulnerabilities at the I-71 / SR 73 interchange in the short-term, he said. But for the long-term, he asked commissioners to hire a consultant to draft a plan that has a laser-like focus upon the I-71 / SR 73 interchange area that would consider future land use, infrastructure (such as where specifically are sewer and water going?), and specifics on roadways.
As noted, the I-71 / SR 73 area does not have public sewer, but the Western Water Company does go through the region providing water although it doesn’t have lines to connect to all residents.
At the same meeting with commissioners, Stuckert made a case for updating the county’s Zoning Resolution (Code) as a whole.
“We’ve made some piecemeal changes in recent years, modified uses, added sections like the Blighted Properties section, and obviously suggesting further modifications [Highway Commercial C-3 Zone], but really we need to overhaul it and have a new code that aligns with what we’re trying to achieve as a county,” he said.
The Zoning Resolution doesn’t really align with the strategic priorities set out in “Clinton County 2040” which is the official comprehensive plan of Clinton County compiled from community input and adopted earlier this year, said Stuckert. It is designed to be a long-term guide — a document that gives a broad vision that the county has set for itself over the next 15 or 20 years.
For example, he said the current zones aren’t differentiated enough from each other given that residents want to adequately protect and enhance the rural character here. People feel very strongly about Clinton County retaining a strong agricultural and natural landscape, according to the more than 1,200 comments received through the planning process of “Clinton County 2040”.
Commissioners are agreeable to funding both an area-specific plan for the I-71 / SR 73 interchange and for an updated Zoning Resolution. Commissioner Kerry R. Steed called funding the two tasks a major investment in the future of the county.
Stuckert estimated a Zoning Code update will cost about $100,000 and take about a year to complete, while an I-71 / SR 73 Interchange Area Plan will also be about $100,000 (and approximately $125,000 if the I-71 / U.S. 68 interchange is added to the scope of the work).
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.