Grove City's history and future are the themes of its City Council campaign this fall.
On Thursday, Oct. 10, the Grove City Town Center Group hosted an open forum for the candidates running for the three Grove City Council seats up for grabs this November. Each candidate received two minutes for an opening statement as well as 90 seconds to answer each of the questions they received from audience members, who had submitted them on cards prior to the start of the event.
The forum was held at the Blue Moon Event Center and moderated by Amanda Davis, executive director of the Grove City Visitors and Convention Bureau.
Five of the six candidates running for council attended the event: Roby Schottke and Laura Lanese who are running for the at-large seat, Councilman Steve Bennett and Sam Clark who are vying for the Ward 3 seat and Council President Ted Berry who is seeking re-election to Ward 1. Gary Haughn, who is challenging Berry, did not attend.
Topics addressed that night to candidates included what they want done with Beulah Park, how their education and experiences have prepared them to serve and their biggest concerns for the city. Questions that were submitted but not answered at the forum were copied and given to the candidates.
Schottke said he envisions a "grand thoroughfare" connecting the Town Center and Beulah, along with new housing and parks and recreation space.
"I see a tremendous area of green space for Balloons & Tunes and Fourth of July," Schottke said. "We need to keep this, and we need to have a vision."
Lanese said historical preservation is her "mantra," but she'd also would like to see a promotion of something along the lines of a cultural arts center.
"(Beulah is) part of our identity," Lanese said. "I would like to see green space. There's a lot we can use that for."
Clark said In addition to green space and historic preservation, he said he'd like to see an office building and housing that fits the area.
"I want my friends to come work here," he said. "Beulah is definitely the key piece to the Town Center revitalization."
Bennett said City Hall and a recreation center could go, along with some housing, in sync with other development occurring in the city.
"It's one piece of a larger overall picture," he said. "All of this stuff has to be working together in harmony."
Berry said the city should buy the property to control it while an overall mission is developed.
"We have to focus on why we are doing it," he said. "We've excelled at bringing families in. What we need to focus on is the young professionals and empty nesters."
To attract sustainable jobs, Clark said the city needs to make it welcoming to business and growth.
"You have to be able to approach businesses," he said. "Make them fall in love with Growth City. ... Tell them what it has to offer."
Bennett said the city needs someone to spearhead and target development.
"We don't have an economic development director," he said. "Right now, we're reactionary. ... We have to go out and attract the right people for the right projects."
Berry said the city needs to invest the amenities, facilities and other features that attract those type of workers.
"A dog park is not for dogs," he said. "It's for young professionals to bring their dogs. Those are the venues people use to socialize now."
While the city had been inviting, Schottke said it needs to do more and determine what kind of business it wants to bring in.
"We need to create a pro-business image," he said. " We need visionary people going out to look beyond the norm."
Lanese, who agreed with the need for an economic development director, said there are experts in the community the city should be talking to for input.
"We've got to attract businesses that need to come here," she said. "We need high-paying jobs."
Two things the candidates want
The council candidates were asked what two things they would like done in Grove City.
Economic development and adhering to an overall vision, Berry said.
"The new phase of economic development ... is what we're doing at (Ohio State University), and that's venture firms," he said. "These people don't have offices."
Keeping current residents and businesses in mind staying up to date on infrastructure and being transparent, lanese said.
"I really want us to get out there and see what our residents want," she said. "Find out what we can do to help them."
Schottke said the growth on the east side of Interstate 71 has created traffic problems.
"We've had this problem for many years, and it hasn't been approached or solved," he said "The recreation facilities all over Grove City need to be upgraded."
Bennett said improvements to the concession facilities at Fryer Park as well as the addition of more bicycle trails.
"Things are happening all over the community," he said.
Clark said he wants to see economic development bring the "jobs of tomorrow."
"We are in a technology world," he said. "I want to be able to bring my other friends."