The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) is "a voluntary association of governments serving Ohio. A catalyst for regional change, evidence of MORPC's work is seen everyday through planning, programming and brokerage services in the areas of housing, transportation, water, land use, zoning, environmental and technology issues."
Recently, MORPC laid out it's plan of how central Ohio SHOULD grow over the next 25 years. That plan is illustrated in the graphic to the right**. The problem?
From the Columbus Dispatch:
The agency has a 25-year plan to unite the seven counties of central Ohio and control how the region grows. If governments agree with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s idea to cluster new subdivisions and businesses along major roads, an estimated half-million newcomers would consume just 407 square miles.
But some say the plan puts Franklin County people in charge of the future of neighboring counties, leaving those most affected by growth on the outside looking in.
MORPC and scores of government officials spent four years predicting how population growth could affect Columbus, Marysville, Delaware, Newark, Lancaster, Circleville, London and points in between.
They predict that more than 355,000 of 573,000 new residents, about two-thirds of them, will make their homes in Delaware, Fairfield, Licking, Madison, Pickaway and Union counties.
Emissaries from those counties sat on a regional-growth advisory committee, but their representation in MORPC is scant. Of 74 voting MORPC board members, only 14 come from the counties surrounding Franklin.
While MORPC speaks loudly as a voice for controlled growth in the region the organization has little authority. It is not a government organization, despite being primarily funded by federal and state monies. But for that same reason it is not aprivate organization either. While claiming to speak for a regional coalition of county and local governments only two of the seven counties in the region are members of MORPC. As one local county commissioner puts it:
"Our land-use plan is built around agriculture, so our thoughts and philosophies are a bit different," Madison County Commissioner David Dhume said.
Madison County hasn’t joined MORPC because "we didn’t know what value we’d have to them or they to us," Dhume said. "I guess we did not even view ourselves as part of the central Ohio area.
"MORPC never even gave us a five-minute conversation about the values of being a member."
He said he appreciated that MORPC invited Madison County to participate on the regional-growth committee, at a cost of $50,000, even though it isn’t a MORPC member.
An interesting case of public/private coalition building. At worst it might be viewed as a heavy handed attempt by an urban county (Franklin county) to impose it's view of regional development on the surrounding counties. At best it's an attempt to start a dialogue.
Asked whether Columbus might be perceived as making a power play in surrounding counties, [Cheryl Roberto, Columbus public-utilities director] said the days of Columbus as an aggressive neighbor are over.
"We’ve only been building bridges," Roberto said. "The time right now is very exciting for regional collaboration in our community, and MORPC is going to have a key role in that."
But MORPC is widely viewed as a voice for Columbus.
**I live in the little gray area in the very southwest corner of Delaware county on the map. Some of the planned growth in the MORPC plan is in literally in my backyard...OK, not literally, but it is literally in the backyard of the people across the street. Hence the name of the post.