Water should figure in plans,
Counties are urged to consider effect of development
By Bob Downing
Ohio communities need to look at development plans based
on watershed rather than political boundaries.
That's the finding of the state's new Balanced Growth
Initiative created by the Ohio Lake Erie Commission.
This report, which will be the subject of three public
hearings in the next two weeks, affects all or parts of
35 Ohio counties that drain into Lake Erie. These counties
include Summit, Portage and Medina.
Experts say how the land in northern Ohio is used and
developed has a major impact on Lake Erie and its health.
In 2001, the Ohio Lake Erie Commission -- made up of
directors of five state agencies -- appointed a 35-member
task force to devise a plan to foster development that
won't harm the environment in the Lake Erie basin. Both
developers and environmentalists were members of the task
The draft report will go to the Lake Erie Commission
for final approval in the spring.
Recommendations of the report include:
Establishing voluntary watershed partnerships involving
governments, planning organizations and other groups.
Incentives such as state grants and loans would be provided
to participating communities.
Identifying top-priority areas to be developed and areas,
such as wetlands and stream headwaters, to be preserved.
Offering model zoning and building laws that promote
development practices minimizing impacts on water quality.
Edith Chase of Franklin Township in Portage County spent
two years working on the task force. She said the initiative
is important because it is a first attempt to connect
land use in northern Ohio with Lake Erie water quality.
But the plan may be overly optimistic, in part because
it is based on state incentives and nothing that is binding,
The program is certainly not anti-development, Chase
said. Instead, it calls for looking more closely at development,
its impact on water quality and its location in the watershed.
The task force tried to ``come up with a means to help
locals make good decisions to help Lake Erie and streams,''
But the initiative was handicapped, she said, because
it couldn't spend money, create new laws or threaten home
rule of local communities.
``We were severely restricted by those parameters...
but I'm hopeful that the results will benefit Lake Erie,''
Chase said. ``It's a new direction. It won't solve every
problem. But it may help make Ohioans aware that land-use
decisions do affect Lake Erie. And that's important and