Upper Arlington News

City development took UA center stage in 2012

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Development, both current projects and positioning for the future, took center stage in a busy year for the city of Upper Arlington.

From the establishment of a community and economic development department to the continued construction of projects along Lane Avenue and elsewhere, preparing for more jobs and income tax revenue were among the top 2012 stories in the city.

Here's a look back at 10 of the biggest developments -- or stories -- of the past year, from the pages of ThisWeek Upper Arlington News:

* UA creates Community and Economic Development Department

Following a year in which Upper Arlington City Council established the 39-acre Lane Avenue Community Entertainment District and prepared to partner with Lane Avenue Redevelopment LLC on a tax-increment financing arrangement for infrastructure upgrades near a new five-story hotel, council in February established the Upper Arlington Community and Economic Development Department.

It was charged with administering the city's Unified Development Ordinance, commercial and residential construction inspections, promoting economic development, and enforcing the zoning, building and property maintenance codes.

The department and its efforts to recruit new business and help retain existing businesses were further bolstered less than a month later, with the hiring of Economic Development Manager Bob Lamb.

* A-Z connector doesn't make MORPC's list of roadways

A controversial road project to connect Ackerman and Zollinger roads was placed on hold for the foreseeable future last March after the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission's draft of its Metropolitan Transportation Plan didn't include the "A to Z connector," as it is known throughout Upper Arlington.

The proposal to construct a two-lane road south of Sunny Hill on land used by Ohio State University for agricultural research has been a hot-button issue in Arlington for several years. While city officials submitted an application to MORPC in 2010 for a federal grant that would have extended Ackerman to Zollinger, MORPC declined to recommend funding for the project, citing residents' opposition as a factor.

* Library, city levies OK'd

Upper Arlington voters renewed two longstanding tax levies at the polls March 6, supporting funding for the UA Public Library and paying most of the city's share of the police and fire departments' pensions.

Both levies are for five years, and will go into effect next year, after the current levies expire on Dec. 31.

The library levy, first passed in 2002, will cost the owner of a $300,000 home $184 annually. The levy made up about $5.8 million of the library's 2010 revenues, according to library figures, and accounts for 54 percent of its budget.

Revenue from the levy will be used to maintain current hours of operation and to continue core services such as timely access to new books and videos, online research databases and free educational programming, according to library staff.

Voters agreed to increase the police and fire pension levy by 0.14 mills, raising it from 0.94 to 1.08 mills. The five-year levy is used to cover the city's state-mandated liability for the employer's contribution to the police and fire pension fund.

* Issue 24 receives overwhelming support

Upper Arlington residents voted overwhelmingly Nov. 6 to permit alcohol sales for the entire Lane Avenue community entertainment district, and in doing so, preserved 11 current businesses' liquor licenses.

Issue 24 was the city of Upper Arlington's initiative to allow alcohol sales for all parcels in its 39-acre Lane Avenue CED.

The resounding result affirmed Upper Arlington City Council's prediction that the community wants the option of being able to purchase alcohol at stores and restaurants with bars along the Lane Avenue district and at a five-story hotel currently under construction there.

Two months earlier, Upper Arlington City Council moved forward with Issue 24, despite receiving an opinion from the Ohio Attorney General's Office if it failed at the polls, the 11 current liquor license-holders in the CED would be unable to sell beer, wine or spirits.

City officials championed the citywide issue's victory as an economic development driver in one of UA's most popular commercial areas, saying it would have long-lasting implications in maintaining the CED's continued success and growth.

They're banking on that prosperity after investing in CED infrastructure and parking upgrades.

That investment includes previous city projections that Lane Avenue Redevelopment LLC's plans for the former church site could generate more than $711,000 in new, annual property taxes and tax-increment financing deals with the developer to help fund roadway and other infrastructure projects with private dollars in lieu of tax payments.

* UA retains top financial rating

For the fifth consecutive year, Moody's Investors Service rated the city AAA and Standard & Poor's also reaffirmed the city's AAA status.

The Triple-A rating is the highest that can be attained and is considered the gold standard for government entities when selling bonds to finance projects. Proceeds from the 2012 bonds the city plans to issue will finance improvements along Lane Avenue as part of the new mixed-use development, as well as various capital improvements throughout Upper Arlington.

Standard and Poor's financial management assessment methodology considered UA's financial management practices "strong," indicating that practices are well-embedded and likely sustainable. During the last year, the city strengthened its contingency general fund reserve policy to 30 percent of the current general fund operating budget, from 20 percent.

* Huffman inducted into Ohio Grocers Hall of Fame

On Sept. 12, Tim Huffman, owner of Huffman's Market, 2140 Tremont Center, was inducted into the Ohio Grocers Hall of Fame.

The association is a nonprofit trade association representing 700 grocers and wholesalers from throughout Ohio.

The OGA established the Ohio Grocers Hall of Fame in 2000 to honor individuals who have dedicated their lives to the food industry. Inductees are nominated by OGA members and approved by a nominating committee

Huffman's has operated in Upper Arlington for 26 years. After receiving support from 85 percent of voters for a liquor option in March 2004, Huffman's Market on April 18, 2004 ,became the first store in Ohio to legally sell liquor on Sundays.

* Harley Rouda Sr. remembered

Following his death on June 28, friends, family and colleagues remembered Harley Rouda Sr. as a giant in the real estate industry who also took enormous pleasure in making others smile. Rouda was 83.

He founded the Harley E. Rouda (HER) real estate firm in the basement of his Upper Arlington home in 1956; within a decade, it was among the region's largest real estate businesses.

He retired from day-to-day operations in 1998.

"He's a legend in the industry. We will all miss him," said his son, Harley Rouda Jr. "He lived a great life. He really cared about people."

"He was a great businessman, but he was an even better person than he was a businessman," said Chris Derrow, president of Real Living HER. "He was someone I came to admire a great deal. He became something like a grandfather to me. I learned so much from him."

* UA headed for record income tax collections

As of December, Upper Arlington was on pace to collect more than $15 million in income taxes for the first time in its history.

Finance Director Cathe Armstrong said in November that 2012 would be a record year for the city, projecting it would collect approximately $15.4 million in income tax revenue this year.

The feat not only would mark the first time UA has exceeded $15 million in income tax collections in a single year, but it would be just the third time the city has collected $14 million or more in annual income taxes.

The record for income tax collections was set in 2011, when the city took in approximately $14.7 million, Armstrong said. Prior to that, 2005 was the only other year the city surpassed the $14 million mark in income tax collections.

* Council approves stricter texting ban

On Oct. 10, Upper Arlington City Council voted 5-2 to make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning that police can pull over and cite drivers they see sending or receiving messages.

That made the city's new law, which went into effect Nov. 10, more stringent than the state law on texting.

State law already banned texting, but it is only a primary offense for those younger than 18. Others must have committed another offense to be stopped by officers.

The UA ban is similar to those in Columbus and Dublin. Columbus police write about one ticket per week, and Dublin police fewer than one per month.

* City increases penalties for theft-related offenses

Stiffer penalties for crimes related to thefts are now in effect in Upper Arlington after City Council unanimously approved emergency legislation Nov. 26.

Following an autumn uptick in the number of vehicle break-ins and thefts from vehicles, garages and homes, council voted unanimously to create harsher penalties for those convicted of theft, criminal mischief, criminal damaging, criminal trespassing, aggravated criminal trespassing and unauthorized use of property.

The action came roughly a month after council President Frank Ciotola proposed increasing jail sentences, fines and terms of community service for those who commit thefts and theft-related offenses following a surge in criminal activity that saw more than 100 thefts from vehicles and homes in Upper Arlington between Sept. 20 and Oct. 15.

Those convicted of criminal damaging or criminal mischief now pay $250 more in fines and face up to double the maximum jail sentence. Those with previous theft convictions face mandatory jail time. And even first-time offenders are required to perform 40 hours of community service and pay a $250 fine.

The penalties, along with others directed at theft offenses, apply to crimes committed in the city. Although most are handled in Mayor's Court, suspects can have their cases heard in Franklin County Municipal Court. However, Upper Arlington 's new penalties will apply there as well.

 

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