Led by the Thomas J. Evans Foundation, Framework is a collaborative partnership between 15 city, town and village governments in Licking County with other stakeholders, ranging from banks to health systems to local chambers of commerce. The public-private partnership will release its full strategy recommendations in August, about one year after it first began.
But then, the onus will be on the local governments to follow through and create a vision for their future, planning NEXT principal Jamie Greene said in an interview.
“Folks here, they haven’t had the need to do a lot of planning,” Greene said. “Even though there’s been really terrific job growth and economic growth in the county.”
Greene, who has an extensive resume in community planning through his own practice, addressed a standing-room-only crowd at the Mary E. Babcock library in Johnstown on Wednesday. It was one of two final Framework engagement sessions.
Since the start of the three-phase project, more than 4,000 people have submitted feedback on what they think should and shouldn’t change about the communities mostly situated in the western half of Licking County. In one Framework survey, residents said they most valued the future of local schools, a sense of community, and housing.
That feedback, combined with technical research, will inform the final Framework proposal shared with jurisdictions, he said.
Framework is analyzing about 260 square miles of land, which is more than the entirety of the city of Columbus’ boundaries. “You got a lot of land. But that means to me, that doesn’t mean you can be insensitive about how it actually gets used,” Greene told attendees.
Some residents from Licking County and surrounding counties who attended the session hadn’t been to a Framework meeting before. Most brought paper and a pen to jot down notes. Some hugged or shook hands with the people whose property abutted theirs.
Ben Ferguson moved to Jersey Township about two years ago and wanted to get a sense of general planning progress as Intel moves in.
“I lived downtown, in Columbus, for a while,” Ferguson said. “I moved out here to have a little bit more land and a little bit more space between neighbors, so I’m hoping that continues. I guess time will tell, but I’m hopeful for the progress.”
Tamara Caudy lives in Delaware County, but her mother and father, who were both farmers, rooted themselves in Licking County. Caudy and her siblings still own the property their parents tended to. She said she would like to see plans that balance the more rural lifestyle in Licking County with benefiting the community.
“I think that’s what the goal of this whole idea is,” Caudy said.
That sort of engagement is what Greene encouraged residents to participate in.
“You have choices, right? You’re not just on your heels here. Each of your communities has planning and zoning authority to create the kind of community you want,” he said.
But what Framework publishes in August is only a set of suggestions. Greene said he believes many of the governments that have participated in Framework will take it and run with it — but not without some challenges. For one, he said he worries about the bandwidth each has to review and OK private sector projects.
“These local governments are not staffed right now,” he said.
Questions about water, sewer, and other public utilities also face the county, he said. AEP is already eyeing a large transmission line project in Licking and Delaware counties.
Framework Licking County will hold its final public engagement session Monday at the Downtown Newark Library, located at 101 West Main St., from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Residents can come weigh in at any time during that window, but brief remarks from project leaders will be given at 5 p.m.
The full list of participating jurisdictions is available here, as is more information about Framework.