Five candidates are on the Nov. 5 ballot for Pataskala City Council's three at-large seats.
The incumbents are C. Bernard Brush and Bryan Lenzo, and the challengers are Todd Barstow, Timothy Hickin and Jack Treinish.
City's Council's third at-large member, Merissa McKinstry, is not seeking re-election.
Brush, 64, has a bachelor's degree from Williams College and a law degree from Capital University Law School.
He is a self-employed attorney and farmer, and is married with two children.
Brush has served on City Council since 1996. He served as the Third Ward representative from 2000 to 2005 and was elected to his current at-large seat in 2005.
Lenzo, 36, has a bachelor's degree in political science from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and is the human resources manager for the Ohio State University.
He served on the city's planning and zoning commission from 2006 to 2009 and was began serving his first term on City Council in 2010.
Lenzo is married and has two sons.
Barstow, 51, has a bachelor's degree from Washington and Lee University and a law degree from Capital University Law School.
Barstow has his own law practice and is single. He has not run for office before but has served on Pataskala's personnel review board.
Hickin, 48, has a bachelor's degree from Ohio Northern University.
He is vice president of the Animal Hospital of Pataskala and is married with two sons.
Treinish, 41, has an associate's degree in fire science and is pursuing a bachelor's degree in public service administration.
He is a lieutenant with the West Licking Joint Fire District and works with the Ohio Fire Academy. He also coaches at Southwest Licking schools.
Treinish is married and has three children.
Challenges of growth
All five candidates were asked how the city can maintain its rural character, such as the city's legal firearms discharge zones, while growing and becoming more urban.
Brush said city officials must protect the aspects of that rural character.
"We must continue to uphold the zoning ordinances and standards the citizens have set for the various districts in Pataskala that protect and preserve the rural lifestyle, as well as promote safety for residents," Brush said.
"Conservation and agricultural practices should be encouraged that enhance our unique quality of life, allowing for abundant wildlife that can be managed by sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts.
"Urban growth can be controlled and kept in check by balancing the increased costs of providing government services with the limited funds received through taxes. Local events such as the Antique Power Show and farmers market help the community recognize the importance of maintaining its rural identity."
Lenzo said the economic slowdown in the past five years stunted growth in Pataskala, which "has given city officials, City Council and planning commission members an opportunity to re-examine the overall development strategy of our community."
"During this time, zoning codes have been tweaked to produce better development plans, rather than the Wild West approach to planning that the city experienced during the housing and development boom," Lenzo said.
"I believe the city, through a great many lessons learned, is doing a much better job these days supporting development that is conscientious and that makes better longer-term sense.
"As a planning and zoning commission member and later a City Council member for nearly 10 years, I have supported common-sense development that fits our community character, which maintains property rights and enriches positive growth."
Barstow said Pataskala will continue to grow because it "is a great place to live and work."
"City Council must take the lead in establishing a sound zoning and regulatory framework to protect rural areas while promoting responsible growth," Barstow said. "The city already has a good plan in place to accomplish that; City Council needs to ensure it is updated as needed and used for planning."
Hickin called protecting the rural parts of the city "a key issue" and said "efficient application of our tax dollars; well-planned and sometimes limited development; and zoning are the three main ways I would use to keep rural areas protected."
Hickin, a Westerville native, said he watched the cities of Columbus and Westerville expand, but Pataskala is different because it is a small city with access to the benefits of a small town.
"The rural areas of our city are key to that small-town character," Hickin said. "To be sure, as the footprint of the city gets larger, more pressure is put on rural areas to maintain their character and their rights. But I think that can be done easily enough with communication, sensible zoning and prudent development choices.
"As a councilman at-large, it would be important for me to hear the concerns and ideas of those people in the rural areas to know where they stand on the issues confronting the city," Hickin said. "It is my goal to hold regular, local, informal forums so citizens can come in and let me know their concerns."
Treinish emphasized planning and vision when securing Pataskala's future.
"As with the growth of any village, city, or municipality, there first and foremost must be detailed planning and vision," he said. "With a road map for future growth and expansion, Pataskala will be a desired destination for both city- and country-bred populations."
Treinish said the city has 30 square miles and "can maintain our rural area and its character as long as proper zoning is in place and enforced. We can also, at the same time, develop certain areas of the city that will draw good solid businesses and tourism while helping our current professionals stay strong."
Treinish said city officials must be vigilant in Pataskala's "upkeep and direction" and referred to the Antique Power Show; he said he wants to encourage other events that help the city "stay in touch with its rural roots."
The candidates also were asked how they best can unite the separate neighborhoods of the city: Summit Station, the Old Village Center and Columbia Center.
Brush said the city must continue "to promote public walks, paths, trails and bikeways along or near the railroad corridor that a volunteer group of citizens recommended several years ago to connect these areas. We should encourage this corridor connection with a variety of activities, as well as the use of our parks by all citizens.
"By having schools, volunteer and charity groups hold events, such as bike and running races, parades or holiday and historic tours, community ties will be strengthened and united," Brush said.
Lenzo said the city's infrastructure fell into disrepair for a decade and the police and safety forces diminished until approval of the city's first income tax, which caused such issues as uniting neighborhoods to "have taken a back seat."
He said the city has recently started taking steps to unite the neighborhoods.
"The city has really just begun taking a more concrete approach to this issue, by securing grants and constructing miles of walking paths, sidewalks and other means of real connectivity to bring neighborhoods -- literally -- together," Lenzo said. "I have been a strong advocate for creating these connections, when they make sense and when they are fiscally reasonable.
"On the other hand, 'uniting' some neighborhoods may sometimes not make sense or even be desired by the citizens who live in them. City Council members must understand these nuances before they create strategies and blindly push any connectivity agenda."
Barstow said one way to create unity would be to establish "local area commissions."
"They would meet periodically with local residents in public meetings to discuss issues and allow residents to offer suggestions, comments and concerns," Barstow said. "The results would be reported to (the) city government. Also, the various neighborhood commissions could work together to share ideas, concerns and issues."
Hickin said the local parks and recreation department could play a key role in establishing unity.
"We are already starting to do this as income tax money, (so far in the form of road improvements, gets distributed through the new city as a whole," Hickin said.
"While that is a start, I feel the greatest gains can be made via our parks and recreation programs. Having the city start a plan to build up the parks in the western half of the city would be a great start.
"We are only just beginning to generate revenue from the income tax. As more money goes to the different areas of the city, I think we will begin to think of ourselves as one united city."
Hickin said he likes when areas remain part of a whole even when they retain their own character. He said he likes Columbus' approach.
"Neighborhoods like German Village and the Hilltop hold their own character and are a link to the past, and yet everyone knows they are Columbus," Hickin said. "We can have that here in Pataskala."
Treinish said there might be too much pressure on individual communities "to form as one giant city under one name."
"We can and will come together while we preserve each community's unique history," Treinish said. "We should cherish and promote each neighborhood's character. Each one of these areas has something to offer that the others may not."
Treinish said the areas of the city are not within walking distance of one another and have different school districts, which often encourage healthy competitions in the form of blood drives and school rivalries.
"There has to be a conscious effort to ensure that all of these areas are developed and maintained at the same rate, with as close to the same amount of tax dollars spent each fiscal year," Treinish said. "One complaint I hear a lot is that the Old Village has the biggest park.
"We must work to continue to develop the parks and (park) programs on the west side of the city. Unfortunately, this all takes time and most importantly, tax dollars, so we need to find creative ways to fund these areas."