The Clintonville Area Commission's split decision last week to once again favor a left-turn lane at East North Broadway and North High Street was either overdue or premature.
It signals a bright future or dark days ahead. It paves the way for investment at a key intersection in the neighborhood, or it will be the death of development. It will alleviate traffic problems in the area or only add to them. It's the best solution to a vexing problem or one of the worst ideas, ever.
"If this were an easy decision, it would have already been made," District 8 representative Kristopher Keller said at one point during the special meeting last Thursday, March 21, convened solely on the topic.
Actually, it was a decision the CAC already made twice before -- the first time in 2009, urging city officials to widen the mouth of East North Broadway to add a left-turn lane so eastbound motorists can legally go south on North High Street; and in 2010, rescinding that earlier approval.
It took 31/2 hours and several votes, but in the end, five members of the commission backed a return to the original position favoring the project, while three voted against it.
Chairman Daniel B. Miller abstained from all of the votes taken during the special session, held at Beechwold Christian Church on Morse Road. He said Friday, March 22, that his abstention was the result of a careful review of procedures for conducting a meeting.
"I learned that it is recommended at the least that the chair of a body should abstain from voting and really only break ties," Miller said. "The chair is supposed to be as impartial as possible, so I was trying to act consistently with that."
He added he plans to follow this approach from now on.
A little more than 75 people were on hand for the meeting.
During the session, Miller declined to respond to repeated requests from District 2 representative Nancy Kuhel to answer the question: Why now?
That sentiment was echoed by James R. Blazer II, who represents District 3.
"This was unnecessary," he said. "We were in a holding pattern for a while. It's a shame to bring this up and get the whole community riled again.
"I think it's embarrassing, and it's why it's so hard to get developers to come to Clintonville."
Blazer also argued it was "wholly inappropriate" for the commission to take action while a lawsuit filed by the North Broadway Street Association against the city and others over right-of-way issues is still pending.
"Let's let the legal system go through what it will go through," he said.
Miller, who first proposed a version of the resolution that was approved at a special session Feb. 25, opened the meeting with a call for civility, noting that rhetoric on either side of the issue "has at times been regrettable."
"Also, there's much to be said about listening, really listening, to the views of others," Miller said.
Patti Austin, administrator for planning and operations with the city's Department of Public Service, outlined how the turn-lane project came into being, the result of a request for "traffic calming" several years ago from residents of East North Broadway and adjacent streets. She said the estimated $350,000 project was ready to go, with only some minor updating required.
A total of 14 people -- seven on each side of the issue -- were permitted to address the advisory panel during last week's meeting.
"There's no reason to wait longer," Clinton Heights Avenue resident Stephen Hardwick said.
"We need to collect the right information to make the right decision," said Tim Conway of East North Broadway.
"We're pretty disgusted with this whole mess," said Steven Wilson, another East North Broadway resident.
"This intersection is not safe, it's not sustainable and it's holding back a whole community by not having a solution there," former CAC member Sara Snyder said.
"The longer this is delayed, the more chance for bad things happening," 33-year Clintonville resident Randy Ketcham added.
"My concern is due diligence has not been adequately done," said Olentangy Boulevard resident Joe Barylak.
After District 5 representative Dana K.J. Bagwell made a motion to approve the resolution calling for the turn lane to be built, Kuhel offered an alternative resolution calling for more studies by city officials on traffic issues throughout Clintonville and urging the city to "actively and aggressively" seek development options for the southwest corner of the intersection of North High Street and East North Broadway.
"We need a holistic plan," Kuhel said.
"There are lots of unanswered questions in the original resolution," Blazer said in supporting Kuhel's alternative.
That measure was voted down 5-3, although Rob Wood of District 1 amended the original resolution to incorporate some of Kuhel's suggestions. Only Kuhel and Blazer voted against adding the new language to the original proposal.
In the end, Wood, Bagwell, Keller, Jason Meek of District 7 and D Searcy of District 9 voted in favor of the turn-lane resolution.
District 6's Jennifer Kangas joined Blazer and Kuhel in voting against it.