NEW ALBANY, Ohio (WCMH) — How New Albany and Licking County will change, and how it should plan for that change, is the subject of two new studies, even as projects such as a 400-acre mixed-use development near Johnstown remain under consideration.

The expected growth around semiconductor fabrication plants under construction for computer chip-maker Intel is creating many changes, including a project to widen State Route 161 into the area and a recently announced billion-dollar investment by Google, which has a facility on Beech Road.

The Johnstown Gateway project, an effort led by the New Albany Company that would include space for offices, parking and neighborhoods, was considered by the city’s planning commission Tuesday night.

The studies represent attempts to anticipate what may come. The first, from Framework Licking County, was released this week. The second is part of an ongoing effort from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC).

Framework Licking County looks at large area

The Framework report featured 180 pages of community planning suggestions. Led by the Thomas J. Evans Foundation, Framework is a partnership of 15 city, town and village governments with other stakeholders, including banks, health systems and chambers of commerce.  

“Multi-jurisdictional work is complex, and people don’t always agree,” a news release said. “However, the opportunity for creative solutions, increased funding, greater opportunity to manage growth in a way that all of our communities can benefit outweigh any challenges. Decisions we make today will result in an impact that will last decades.” 

Framework analyzed about 260 square miles of land, which is more than Columbus’ boundaries. 

“You’ve got a lot of land. But that means to me, that doesn’t mean you can be insensitive about how it actually gets used,” Jamie Green said in June. Green is with “planning NEXT,” a central Ohio-based consulting agency. 

According to the report, 38% of available Licking County land — or 63,000 acres — could “accommodate” new construction projects, whether they be commercial, residential or otherwise. 

The report does not just prescribe possible uses for that land, instead outlining 14 “principle” statements voicing community values and identifying geographically which parts of Licking County to conserve for natural resources and which to direct toward projects that prioritize growth.

With the report out, officials within the participating jurisdictions — from Pataskala to Granville to Newark — will review and decide what planning suggestions make the most sense for their communities, and then create a timeline for implementing them. Implementation costs will be covered partly by the Licking County Commissioners and partly by the private partners for the first year, according to the release. 

The full Framework Licking County report is available here

Planning continues, in and out of Licking County

MORPC has a request for proposal for similar planning purposes. The commission is looking to study jurisdictions in a number of counties, all of which fall within a 40-minute drive from the eventual Intel semiconductor fabrication plants.

The proposed study would include “communities that are just a little further away than right in the immediate vicinity,” Nick Gill, MORPC’s transportation study director, said. That includes Franklin, Licking, Fairfield, Morrow, and Marion counties, among others. 

Gill said the study would allow MORPC to determine how best to use $1 million in funds from the Ohio Department of Transportation — and although the study will largely focus on planning for the future of regional transportation, it may go beyond that in some smaller communities that have yet to implement or update their zoning codes. 

MORPC is looking to hire a consultant for the study by the end of 2023, with the study likely to take about 18 months, he said.