State of County: Smart growth


POWELL — The State of Delaware County 2024 is one of “smart growth,” its three commissioners said at the annual event Tuesday morning.

First, Commissioner Jeff Benton spoke of smart growth in terms of resources. Delaware County currently has 235,675 residents, continuing to grow faster than any county in the state, including twice as fast as Franklin County. Benton said, “We’re an expensive market to live in. We need to grow our housing market and diversify our tax base.”

The county had done an Economic Development Strategic Plan in 2017, but that was before the COVID-19 pandemic and the Intel announcement. That meant updating the Strategic Plan, which included identifying six growth corridors in the county.

There was a video shown about economic development, concluding with the slogan “It’s where you should be.”

Commissioner Barb Lewis talked about smart growth policy in action. This takes the form of social and physical infrastructure. The social side includes programs such as the Stepping Up Initiative, which cuts recidivism in half; and investing in the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, whose ribbon cutting took place Tuesday at the Byxbe Campus. Physical infrastructure is more than the visible roads and bridges (a video was shown of the various county projects), there’s the county sewer system, and a new transfer and recycling center on U.S. Route 42.

“We have the best roads in the state,” said Commissioner Gary Merrell, who then spoke of smart growth from policy to action. This includes the county providing information technology services to Genoa, Liberty and Orange townships, and adding IT services to Berlin Township and BST&G by year’s end.

“We learned a lot from the last U.S. Census and COVID about the digital needs of our residents,” Merrell said of the county’s Broadband Project. The county wants to eliminate the rural/urban divide, “enhance fiber services, especially in the northern half of the county,” and covering that “last mile,” so there are no gaps in coverage.

“Cooperation and collaboration — that’s what makes this county great,” Merrell concluded, pointing out the recent groundbreaking of Mill on Flax, 162 apartments on Delaware’s east side, whose development will also help the flow of east-west traffic.

A brief video of a special event concluded the morning — the solar eclipse on April 8.

The 45-minute presentation took place at the Columbus Zoo’s Africa Event Center, 4850 W. Powell Road, Powell.

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