Upper Arlington News

2013 Year In Review

Finances, fatal crash among top 2013 stories in UA

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A tragic car accident, an unsuccessful fight to save a 192-year-old home and the city's continued efforts to add revenue were among the top Upper Arlington stories of 2013.

As in years past, 2013 included a number of highs and lows in Upper Arlington.

It was a year that saw the opening of the first hotel in the city and national recognition for being a preeminent community in which to raise children.

It was also a year that saw a tragic crash involving a local police officer that resulted in the loss of six lives.

Late in the year, the local historical society was unable to stop the demolition of a home built by a Revolutionary War veteran.

Here's a look back at 10 stories that made news in 2013:

Six killed in traffic crash

In possibly the biggest Upper Arlington story of 2013, tragedy befell a family of Iraqi immigrants and the Upper Arlington Police Division after an early-morning crash Oct. 18.

According to Perry Township and Upper Arlington police, Upper Arlington police officer Shawn Paynter was responding to a report of an armed robbery at McDonald's, 1905 W. Henderson Road, around 1:35 a.m. when his cruiser collided with a vehicle driven by Eid Badi Shahad, 39, of West Columbus.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Fishinger Road. According to police, Paynter's dashboard camera showed his police cruiser lights and sirens were activated and that he had a green light when Shahad's Toyota Corolla pulled into his path.

All six occupants of the Corolla were pronounced dead at the scene.

According to police, no one in the vehicle was wearing a seatbelt, and a toddler in the backseat was not in a safety seat.

Those killed were the driver, Shahad, and his wife, Entisar W. Hameed, 31, and their daughters, Shuaa Badi, 16, Amna Badi, 14, Ekbal Badi, 12, and Lina Badi, 2.

Paynter, an Upper Arlington officer since 2008, was placed on administrative leave following the accident.

He returned to administrative duty this month, Upper Arlington Police Chief Brian Quinn said, and has recovered from head injuries he sustained as a result of the crash.

Perry Township police are expected to complete an investigation of the crash prior to the end of this year, Quinn said.


Family Circle recognition

After reviewing the traits and amenities for 3,335 cities and towns in the United States, Family Circle magazine determined that Upper Arlington is among the top 10 in which to raise a family among cities with populations of 10,000 to 150,000.

In recognizing the city, the magazine gave Upper Arlington City Schools its highest rating, noted 35 percent of local households have children and stated community events -- including the Upper Arlington Civic Association's annual July Fourth celebration -- "set this leafy Columbus suburb" apart.


City's first hotel opens

An approximately $15-million project to bring Upper Arlington its first hotel culminated with the opening of a Homewood Suites by Hilton on West Lane Avenue in August.

The 109-room, extended-stay hotel was constructed on the former site of the Lane Avenue Baptist Church. The project was a continuation of development within the city's Lane Avenue Community Entertainment District, which city officials viewed as a key to producing new revenue for Upper Arlington.

Initial reports have suggested the hotel is doing just that. According to the Upper Arlington Community Affairs Office, the hotel brought in more than $32,000 in bed taxes in its first two months of operation.

Hutchinson House razed

The Upper Arlington Historical Society (UAHS) received a wealth of coverage from numerous media outlets in November, but it wasn't a happy story for its members.

On Nov. 20, the 192-year-old Hutchinson House at 5292 Riverside Drive was demolished to make way for Preferred Living's 256-unit luxury apartment complex and 25,000-square-foot office development.

According to the historical society, the home dated to 1821 when Revolutionary War veteran Amaziah Hutchinson began its construction.

Hutchinson died in 1823, before the stone house was completed, but his son, Amaziah Hutchinson Jr., took up the project and completed it later that year.

Controversy arose after historical society members said they were unaware of plans to raze it until after the city granted demolition permits to Preferred Living on Nov. 1.

City officials said the historic nature of the residence slipped through the cracks because it wasn't annexed from Perry Township into the city until last summer.

Preferred Living agreed to delay the demolition for 10 days while local historical society members sought to find a way to relocate the structure. However, they were unsuccessful and the company ultimately leveled the home.

Upper Arlington Historical Society officials collected some of the home's stone with plans to use it to build an as-yet-undetermined structure commemorating the Hutchinson House in an Upper Arlington public park.

Tree of Life lawsuit

A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court Sept. 6 ordered a judge who dismissed Tree of Life Christian Ministries' religious discrimination lawsuit against the city to reconsider the case.

The case is still pending at the end of 2013 as Tree of Life continues to seek city approval to open a private school at 5000 Arlington Centre Blvd., in the heart of Upper Arlington's only designated office and research district.

In sending the case back to U.S. District Court Judge George C. Smith, the 6th Circuit panel said Smith must reconsider Tree of Life's claim because the Christian-based organization had recently sought to rezone the land it owns on Arlington Centre Boulevard.

Tree of Life's request subsequently was rejected in a bid Dec. 9 to have its property rezoned to allow the school.

In continuing to deny the rezoning, city officials maintained that permitting a school use in Tree of Life's building -- a former America Online corporate office and the city's largest office complex -- would harm Upper Arlington's ability to generate substantial commercial tax revenue from the site.


Financial review

In one of its final actions of 2013, Upper Arlington City Council Nov. 25 established its first Citizens Financial Review Task Force to help city officials plot a course for fiscal strategies.

The 13-member advisory board was scheduled to meet for the first time Dec. 16 and is expected to bring recommendations to council next spring.

Made up primarily of people with backgrounds in business and financial management, the task force has been charged with helping the city identify ways to increase its revenue base, while balancing the service needs of the community.

The task force was formed, in part, to help Upper Arlington counter the loss of approximately $6 million in annual revenue brought on by the elimination of the Ohio estate tax, effective Jan. 1, 2013, and cuts in the Local Government Fund from the state.


Death of Jake Will

The life and service of community pillar Jacob "Jake" Will was celebrated during a Nov. 8 funeral Mass at St. Agatha Church.

Will died Oct. 30 at age 86.

Prior to his death, he was credited by Upper Arlington officials and others in the community for being a selfless civic activist.

Just of few of his contributions included working with his wife, Margaret Will, to help raise close to $500,000 in Northwest Kiwanis Club scholarships for students in Upper Arlington, Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff; service as chairman of the Upper Arlington Chamber of Commerce's board of trustees in 1998; and establishing an Easter egg hunt for area children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Will also was a member of the Upper Arlington Bicentennial Committee, the UA Area Chamber of Commerce, the UA Community Improvement Corp. and the UA Historical Committee-Wall of Honor.


Kiwanis, UACA milestones

Two prominent community-based organizations, the Northwest Kiwanis Club and the Upper Arlington Civic Association celebrated milestone anniversaries in 2013.

The Northwest Kiwanis Club, which annually provides scholarships to students in Upper Arlington, Grandview and Marble Cliff, maintains a youth soccer program that's served approximately 25,000 area players, and provides other services to the area, celebrated its 85th anniversary in November.

The group currently has approximately 55 members and, among other things, is credited with sponsoring an annual Easter egg hunt for local youths and adults with developmental disabilities and providing financial support to schools, libraries and parks in the Upper Arlington, Grandview and Marble Cliff areas.

The Upper Arlington Civic Association celebrated its 80th anniversary in September.

That group annually sponsors a host of popular community events, including an Easter candy hunt, a Memorial Day run, the Golden Apple Awards for local educators, the Halloween-themed Golden Bear Scare and the July 4 celebration that is widely viewed as a signature community event in Upper Arlington.


UA loses out on JEDZ

In March, Clinton Township trustees voted unanimously to create a Joint Economic Development Zone (JEDZ) with Grandview instead of Upper Arlington.

Under Ohio law, townships are prohibited from collecting income taxes, but they can form JEDZs with a municipality that has taxing authority. Such a move enables the municipality to collect income taxes from businesses in a township and, typically, the municipality and township then share tax revenues.

In siding with Grandview, township trustees indicated they preferred that city's 2.5-percent income tax rate, to Upper Arlington's 2-percent income tax. They also said Upper Arlington didn't offer a split that would give 80 percent of those tax collections to Clinton Township until the "11th hour," and after Grandview already proposed an 80-20 split of revenue.


City manager surgeries

Upper Arlington City Manager Ted Staton returned to work in mid-November after a roughly three-week recovery from surgery to replace his kidney and pancreas.

The organ transplants essentially cured Staton of a lifelong battle with diabetes and the need for daily dialysis or insulin.

The procedures also followed bypass surgery Staton underwent earlier in the year to address coronary artery disease, which he said also was brought on by diabetes and which forced him to take leave from the city manager's office from Feb. 23 to April 1.