Leaders of four townships in Delaware County came together on Thursday afternoon to discuss the current state of their communities as part of the annual State of the Townships presentation.
The event, which was hosted by the Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce at the Brookshire Event Venue on Greif Parkway in Delaware, featured presentations from Berlin Township Trustee Ken O’Brien, Orange Township Administrator Michele Boni, Berkshire Township Administrator Kevin Vaughn, and Liberty Township Administrator Mike Schuiling.
Chuck Moore, president of the central Ohio branches of Middlefield Banking Company, began the event by introducing the four presenters and their credentials as leaders of their respective townships. Following the introductions, Moore noted a common theme of extensive work in public service can be found across all of their resumes.
O’Brien followed Moore and highlighted some of the important developments in Berlin Township, beginning with the township’s rebranding initiative to create a new logo. O’Brien explained the process of designing the logo, which includes features honoring the township’s history as “very much a German and Irish township,” a color scheme honoring the original Olentangy school, as well as the important resources found in the township.
Perhaps no development in Berlin Township is more important than the 1,800-acre Berlin Business Park, which is open and accepting businesses. Speaking on the Berlin Business Park, O’Brien said the goal of the development is to provide a place where township and county residents can work in the area without having to commute to find higher-quality positions that pay well.
“Berlin Business Park was intentionally designed to fill a significant and substantive professional and highly-skilled job gap for township and county residents,” he said.
O’Brien added the township “also wanted to make sure that our housing was appropriate for the area so that we didn’t have just one type of housing.”
“Of course, we want to have high-quality housing, but we also want to have a variety of housing available,” O’Brien said. “We went from a density of, at most, 1.25 units per acre all the way up to 10 units per acre. We wanted to make it so that a developer that wanted to come in didn’t have to think about zoning … I think we were extremely successful with the business park zoning overlay.”
O’Brien acknowledged that the process of getting residents on board with the zoning change was a lengthy process, but they were sure to make it “conducive to the area and met the needs of landowners and residents.”
Boni began the Orange Township presentation by noting the township is currently in the process of rewriting its zoning resolution.
“This is a pretty big undertaking. Our zoning code has not been majorly updated since the early 1990s … Where we’ve grown from then until now, it is time for a zoning change,” Boni said.
No discussion on Orange Township could be complete with the inclusion of the Evans Farm development, which is split between Orange and Berlin townships. Approved in 2016, the mixed-use residential and commercial development is slowly beginning to build out. Boni noted that the first few phases of the single-family developments have been finished, and she is hoping to see some occupancy in the commercial components of the development by the end of the year.
Boni also discussed the Creekside Industrial Park, which is located behind the Menards at 7241 Graphics Way, as one of the biggest projects in the township.
“We have a lot of upcoming development (at the site), and almost all the parcels have plans for industrial warehousing … There are a lot of great businesses coming to the township, so we’re very fortunate for that,” Boni said.
Boni went on to say the township is also working on updating its parks, recreation and trails master plan.
Speaking on Berkshire Township, Vaughn began by saying that during the pandemic, he and the township also “dusted off our zoning resolution” and did considerable work on background and policy work while they weren’t able to get out to “shake hands and make deals.”
Vaughn spoke of the considerable growth of township, which he said has been upwards of 84% over the last 10 years. “We’re trying to keep up with that, trying to keep pace, and do our best as far as public services and keeping up staff,” he said.
In looking at the recent residential growth in Berkshire Township, Vaughn said the township recognized providing the level of services it wants to provide to residents would not be sustainable given the township’s budget at the time.
“We’re trying to attract more job centers and larger commercial growth to support those types of revenues,” he said.
Vaughn noted that in conversations about bringing in those job centers, they’re often told Berkshire Township is too far away from Columbus to support the development. However, he pointed out that there is “quite the population” growing in a 10-mile radius of the township, which spans all the way down to Polaris.
Schuiling closed the presentation by first commending the collaboration throughout Delaware County to facilitate the growth that isn’t stopping any time soon. He then spoke of the importance of “looking at the picture” of a township’s future “holistically” to ensure it is diverse and sustainable in the years to come.
Liberty Township is currently constructing or set to construct three new facilities, including a new township hall and fire station that are underway. The third facility — a streets and roads department building — will be constructed in Liberty Park.
The township has partnered with the Delaware County Finance Authority to make funding for the three projects possible.
Schuiling went on to note the township has created a community improvement corporation.
Following the presentations from each township representative, Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce President Holly Quaine closed the event by saying there has to be a balance between residential and commercial growth, and that she has always appreciated the diversity of growth in Delaware County.
“A lot of you have done a lot of work and taken a lot of flak from a lot of people who don’t want anybody on their kid’s trampoline. Thank you for that,” Quaine said.