Bexley News

Bexley's 2013 highlights

City's year a story of new faces, initiatives

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Changes in city leadership, new commercial developments and new community programs are among the most significant events that took place in Bexley in 2013.

Here is a review of the year from the pages of ThisWeek Bexley News:

Leadership changes

City Hall will experience some change in January, based on the results of the Nov. 5 election.

Mayor Ben Kessler did not face competition for his job, winning an uncontested race; however, the job of city auditor and a few council seats were up for grabs. In the race for city auditor, voters elected Bill Harvey, who currently serves as the city's service director, to replace Gary Qualmann.

For City Council, voters elected newcomers Lori Ann Feibel and Deneese Owen, re-elected Richard Sharp and elected Anne Lewis to a full term to the seat to which she was appointed last year. Feibel and Owen will fill seats previously held by former President Rick Weber, who resigned from council after 24 years of service, and Matt Lampke, who also chose not to seek re-election.

Voters approved the Bexley Public Library's 2.8-mill operating levy, which also appeared on the fall ballot. The levy will enable the library to expand its collection, provide more e-books and begin work on a grant it received from the Bexley Community Foundation to archive historical items and make them available online.

 

New developments

One of the biggest developments Bexley City Council approved in 2013 is a planned redevelopment of the Bexley Square Shopping Center. It will include a new Giant Eagle supermarket scheduled to be built on the current site of City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.

The city's Bexley Community Investment Corp. has entered into contract to purchase the shopping center from Casto for $1.8 million. The city will lease the site to Continental Real Estate and make infrastructure improvements to access the Bexley Square Shopping Center, which is located just west of City Hall.

A 30,000-square-foot Giant Eagle will be built on the City Hall site, becoming the anchor tenant for the center.

Using money from the lease and tax-increment financing on the new supermarket, the city either will lease office space or build a new City Hall -- possibly at the redeveloped shopping center.

One development that did not go forward in 2013 was a proposed Joint Economic Development Zone among Bexley, Powell and Liberty Township. The establishment of a JEDZ would have allowed Powell and the township to collect income taxes at Bexley's rate of 2.5 percent until 2043. Income taxes would have been collected from workers whose companies fell within the zone's boundaries in Delaware County.

Research conducted by Powell officials showed the parcels in the proposed JEDZ would have an estimated annual payroll of $52 million. If the 2.5-percent income tax was applied, that would have added an estimated $1.3 million to the JEDZ fund. Proceeds would have been divided among the participants.

After Bexley City Council approved legislation establishing the JEDZ in mid-June, Powell and Liberty Township officials announced in late June they decided not to go forward, citing there would not be enough public notice to place the issue on the November ballot.

A development that is still under consideration is Capital University's proposal to add lighting and a new sound system to its Bernlohr Stadium. Capital introduced the proposal at the city's April 22 Planning Commission meeting.

The university withdrew the proposal in June after residents expressed concerns about noise, congestion and safety. The university submitted a revised proposal in October and later tabled that proposal to gather more community input at two public meetings held in November.

During a Nov. 18 meeting at Bexley High School, Capital and residents agreed to form a group that would work with the city to revise the stadium proposal.

The South Bexley Neighborhood Association is accepting nominations for representatives to participate in the group until its next monthly meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at at the Bexley Public Library. Nominations can be emailed to Ian Nickey, association coordinator, at ian@supportbexley.com.

For more information about Capital's stadium proposal, visit the city of Bexley's website at bexley.org/stadium.

 

New directions

In March, Bexley became the first municipality to be designated an arboretum by the Morton Register of Arboreta. For nearly 25 years, the city of Bexley has been a participant in the Tree City USA program, with more than 14,000 trees that are managed by the city forester in parks and public rights of way.

In January, the Bexley Alternative Revenue Task Force presented a series of recommendations to city officials that would generate additional revenue for the city. The task force's suggestions include installing parking meters on East Main Street and adding traffic cameras around the city, generating money from fines. City officials still are evaluating the recommendations and deciding whether to implement them, according to the city's website.

In February, a committee consisting of city officials and residents with development experience began meeting to explore updating the city's zoning code. One of the recommendations that the group is considering is to combine the city's Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals into one body. The group is expected to meet once more in early 2014 before submitting a formal set of recommendations to council.

A new policy that went into effect in 2013 allowing alcohol to be served at Jeffrey Mansion did not result in a substantial increase in rental revenue, according to estimates by the city of Bexley Recreation and Parks Department.

During a mid-year review at the Bexley Recreation Board's Aug. 7 meeting, Recreation Director Michael Price said projected revenue from mansion rentals was expected to be about $70,000 for the year, but the venue had booked only three additional events by July compared to the same point in 2012.

Price said the department would evaluate the effect the alcohol policy has had on revenue once a tally for the year had been completed.

 

Key events

The Bexley Community Foundation funded a variety of projects this year, including the Main Event, a monthly summer entertainment series that included movie screenings on Capital University's main lawn. The series concluded Sept. 20 with the first "Bexley's Got Talent Show," featuring 15 acts, including a band led by the mayor.

Bexley also hosted the Ohio Chautauqua historical celebration July 16-20. The event featured interactive workshops about state and local history at several area sites, including Capital University, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus, the Drexel Theatre, the Bexley Public Library and Jeffrey Mansion.

 

New programs

One of the new programs that began in 2013 is the Citizens Police Academy. The inaugural academy convened for 10 weeks in the fall, culminating with a graduation ceremony at City Council's Dec. 10 meeting. Graduates Michael Butler, Michael Johnson, Paul Kaltenecker, Michael McKinney and Lee Nathans learned a variety of department procedures, including how officers investigate crime scenes and conduct patrol operations.

Police Chief Larry Rinehart said the department will call on the graduates to provide input on new initiatives and provide feedback on what the department is doing well and areas in need of improvement. The next academy is scheduled to begin in fall 2014.

Support for the academy came through a grant from the Bexley Community Foundation, which funded a number of projects this year. Some other efforts receiving support from the fund included:

* A grant was awarded to the Bexley Health and Wellness Committee, allowing it to host the Bexley Kids Fit and Fun Expo; and to the Bexley Recreation and Parks Department so it could hold a Bexley youth sports event, the Splish, Splash and Dash.

* A grant was awarded to Cub Scout Pack 166, allowing it to establish five beehives at the Bexley Community Garden. The bees were to pollinate the garden's flowers and the scouts were to collect the bees' honey.

As a result of its continued growth, the foundation hired its first full-time executive director this year. On May 20, the foundation's board announced Whitney Abraham would fill the position.

Although Abraham didn't officially take over until May 28, she was in the office weeks prior, learning from and strategizing with former interim Executive Director Carol Porter and former Executive Administrator Cindy Ufferman.

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