Orange Blossoms in Columbus Metro Area
Orange Township, Delaware County, Ohio is a happening place these days. Being just north of Columbus, the Township faces similar challenges and growth as its urban neighbor. Orange Township’s population is 35,000 and growing rapidly. We (Orange), are the largest township in Delaware County and as the title says, we are blossoming to a bigger future!
With this record-breaking growth, we have needed to be proactive with land use and urban planning projects - several are now in the works. In 2015, the Township approved a new urbanist development, known as Evans Farm. This development will have more than a thousand homes and Orange Township’s first Town Center. This community will finally have a live, work, and play center. As you can imagine, this large-scale project comes with challenges. The first problem being that Orange Township’s Zoning Resolution does not have a mixed-use district. How did we create a place with a mix of uses? Great question. Evans Farm had to file two separate planned districts: one for residential, and one for commercial. Creating these districts took about two years. Hey, better late than never, am I right? Orange is not perfect, but we understand our challenges and fortunately have a forward-thinking administration to think creatively and implement solutions.
Now to the second problem: COVID-19….enough said. As we all know, there is no way we could be prepared for a worldwide pandemic. The first phase of the commercial in Evans Farm was about to begin when March 2020 happened. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as we are in 2021 and going vertical! The first phase includes 11 townhome buildings and 2 four-story mixed-use buildings. It is unknown what uses will go into the mixed-use buildings. The original thought was to have office space on the second and third floors. COVID-19 added a new layer of complication with its effects to real estate, especially in the office market. Case in point, Orange is expecting an amendment to the Evans Farm zoning to fit current market conditions.
One of our most recent projects to brag about is the creation and adoption of our Route 23 Corridor Overlay District (RCOD). Route 23 is our major and only commercial corridor in the Township. Since our population uptick (post-recession), the corridor has faced a hodge-podge of development. In other words, we have hundreds of different planned districts, with bars next to a childcare next to a car dealership next to a cemetery…not a good look. This is not easy to enforce, let alone encourage consistent design. Implementing an overlay district is only the start to untangling this knot of inconsistent development. Overlay districts are an optional tool so it was important to make this appealing. We approved this in October 2020 and have seen quite a few projects opt-in. Some of community “wins” in the overlay were to require a central green space in all new residential projects, reducing building front setbacks to encourage parking in the rear which promotes pedestrian connectivity. So far, so good, especially considering we are still working through a pandemic, if I do say so myself.
Last but not least, something my nerdy zoning self is looking forward to, is doing a rewrite to our Zoning Resolution. This is in the very early stages as a Request for Proposals was just released. Considering the challenges we faced with Evans Farm, and finding the need for an overlay district, it was pretty clear we were due for a new Zoning Resolution. Our resolution has had minor updates for the past 30 some years but that is about it. Orange has changed a lot since then, don’t you think? I’m excited and fortunate to be part of the excitement and growth of Orange Township.
About the Author: Michele Boni
Michelle Boni became Planning & Zoning Director in 2016. Her title recently changed to Development and Zoning Director due to the Township’s emphasis on economic development. Please visit the Township’s website at www.orangetwp.org to learn more about what’s going on in Orange Township, Ohio.