Olentangy Valley News

Plans moving forward for Orange community center

Voters' approval of 1.5-mill issue needed in fall

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In November, Orange Township residents will cast their votes on a bond issue to fund a modern community recreation center that has been in discussion for more than 10 years.

The 89,000-square-foot center would house a pool, health and fitness equipment, more than 200 community programs, common spaces, meeting and banquet rooms and a gymnasium. The design also includes opportunities for outdoor expansion.

Though a township planning committee still is negotiating a location for the center, it likely will be north of Lewis Center Road, adjacent to the railroad tracks to the east.

The cost of the project will be $27 million. The 27-year, 1.5-mill bond issue would cost residents about $53 annually per $100,000 in property value.

Officials said the planning committee made sure the center would be self-sustaining and wouldn't require an operating levy in the future.

"That has been the No. 1 criteria since day one," said Beth Hugh, township parks and maintenance director.

Last week, residents attending an open house asked questions and examined the center's design. Hugh said the open house was "one of the best turnouts" she's ever seen.

The center's architect, Chris Meyers from Meyers and Associates Architecture, answered attendees' questions about environmentally friendly building materials, the overall size of the facility, and about aquatics.

Meyers said the building will be designed for everyone.

"The whole effort has to represent a large community," Meyers said. "We want a timeless aesthetic. It fits the site and the community."

For some voters, the decision comes down to location and costs. Gloria Gaskey, who works for the Oak Creek Association, said she doesn't want the center if it requires residents to keep pouring money into it.

"It has to be self-sustaining and no operating levies," Gaskey said.

Nelson Katz, former Orange Township trustee, agreed. He said the community center isn't something the township needs, but it's a "very high want."

"I think it does make Orange Township attractive and keeps residents and businesses here," Katz said.

Holly Robertson, wife of community center planning committee member Mark Robertson, said she's positive about the center and its fate in November.

"I think it has a lot," Robertson said. "I think it covers everything. I support it 100 percent."

The center's next step is to receive design approval from the board of trustees. The design was expected to be discussed at the board's meeting Wednesday, July 2.

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