The approach being taken by Clintonville Area Commission chairman John DeFourny and his wife, Megan, as they finalize the design for new entryway signs continued to draw outrage from some residents last week, setting the stage for a potentially explosive planning and development committee meeting Monday, April 30.

The approach being taken by Clintonville Area Commission chairman John DeFourny and his wife, Megan, as they finalize the design for new entryway signs continued to draw outrage from some residents last week, setting the stage for a potentially explosive planning and development committee meeting Monday, April 30.

In the wake of an April 16 committee session, at which 35 potential designs were on display and up for a vote by residents and members of the panel, emails, Facebook postings and local electronic bulletin boards were filled with expressions of dismay regarding the selection process.

In particular, some passionately denounced the decision by DeFourny to grant each member of the planning and development committee 10 votes while limiting residents to a single vote in narrowing the field of entrants.

As part of Columbus' bicentennial celebration, five free gateway signs are being offered to neighborhoods, with area commissions invited to choose a design for them. Megan DeFourny, who is not a member of the CAC or the planning and development committee, was appointed by her husband to devise specific rules for the Clintonville signs. Those rules go above and beyond the ones imposed by the city, including that the artist must surrender intellectual property rights to the commission.

The number of potential designs was narrowed to 10 semifinalists from the April 16 voting. Three finalists are to be selected during the committee's session April 30, and those, along with the current neighborhood logo of a C-shaped tree, its foliage vaguely echoing the outline of the continental United States, will be up for a final say by the full commission May 3.

Telephone messages left for both John and Megan DeFourny on April 18 and 19 elicited a response via email bearing the chairman's signature.

John DeFourny did not provide a direct answer when asked to explain the reasoning behind the weighted voting system.

"The P&D's selections for the semifinals were consistent with the public's input," he wrote. "The process continues on a fair-level field."

An account of the proceedings offered April 17 in an email from former area commission representative Sarah Snyder expressed concern about the design-selection approach at the commission's April 5 session.

Others also said the weighted voting left some designs favored by residents out of the remaining pool of 10.

"I'm sure that (Chairman) DeFourny will claim it was 'public voting,' but there was no notice to the community that it would be taking place," Snyder wrote. "People arrived at 7:30 p.m. expecting a committee meeting where we would learn about what selection process the committee was going to use. When we saw instead that there was an opportunity for members of the community to vote, but that it was only going to be open until 9 p.m., several of us posted to Facebook with our phones, trying to alert people to what was going on.

"There is absolutely no reason the CAC could not have announced what the plans for last night were ahead of time," Snyder wrote. "There were 35 really great submissions from the community and it's a shame that people didn't know that (April 16) would be their only chance to view them."

Snyder said the additional votes given to committee members diluted the votes of residents who had made it to the meeting, meaning the design with the second-highest number of votes from residents would be left out of the top 10.

"Overall, the public supported 12 of the designs, and of that, half are not included in the 10 selected by the P&D committee at the end of the night," she said.

Eliza Ho, a designer with husband Tim Lai's architecture firm who created a Facebook page devoted to the sign issue, late last week called on DeFourny and other commission members to alter the selection process.

"First, I would like to congratulate the neighborhood on the great turnout in terms of design submissions," Ho wrote. "I'm extremely proud as a member of the Clintonville community. However, I and many community members are very frustrated that the process was kept in the dark and was never publicly announced beforehand."

Likewise, District 9 representative D Searcy called for a redo of the selection rules prior to the planning and development session held April 20.
"Committee members should not be allowed to have 10 times the votes of individuals as was allowed at the April 16 meeting," Searcy wrote. "If P&D members wish to vote for their preference, they should have one vote."

"Ultimately, the CAC commissioners make the final decision," John DeFourny wrote after being asked a second time to explain the 10-to-1 voting ratio. "The recommendation to the CAC rests with the P&D committee. The P&D committee members were voted in by the CAC and has very wide district representation. The P&D committee members were allowed to take into account the public input when they were determining the designs to advance to the semifinals.

"The number of entries received necessitated a reduction of the 35 entries. The next P&D meeting will reduce the entrants down to a finalist from this cull who, along with the current design, will go before the May CAC meeting to determine the original proposal before us: (Do we) replace the Clintonville gateway signs with the original design, do we tweak the original design or do we change the design from that recommended by P&D?"

The April 30 planning and development committee meeting will be held from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the North Community Lutheran Church, 114 Morse Road. The public is invited.