Upper Arlington News

MSC rezoning

More than 3,000 sign referendum petitions

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A citizens' group opposed to a plan to build professional offices on the site of the Upper Arlington Municipal Services Center gathered more than 3,000 signatures on petitions seeking a referendum vote in November.

Representatives of The Committee to Overturn MSC Rezoning said they intended to file the petitions with the city of Upper Arlington on Wednesday, July 9, after ThisWeek's press time.

Members of the committee said they had nearly double the 1,838 signatures required from registered Upper Arlington voters to have a referendum placed on the Nov. 4 ballot.

"We had a very limited time to gather signed petitions, but the response was overwhelming," said Martin Cordero, the committee's treasurer. "At one point, they were coming in at a rate of more than 100 signatures a day."

The Committee to Overturn MSC Rezoning is seeking to halt Upper Arlington's plans to pursue an office development on the city hall property through the referendum.

According to Ben Piscitelli, Franklin County Board of Elections public information officer, the committee is required to file the signed petitions with the city of Upper Arlington, which then will hold them for 10 days of "public inspection."

The city then is required to turn the signatures over to the board of elections, which will determine if the group has enough valid signatures from registered Upper Arlington voters by Aug. 6.

"Everything has to be here by Aug. 6 for the November ballot," Piscitelli said. "It wouldn't take very long to go through a couple thousand signatures."

The committee hopes local voters will overturn Upper Arlington City Council's 4-3 decision to rezone 5.36 acres at the MSC to allow professional office development and parking at the northern edge of the 7.43-acre property at 3600 Tremont Road.

The rezoning was approved despite widespread opposition from residents of the neighboring Trouville condominium community, as well as others who said Upper Arlington should not develop its city hall site.

"This would be like putting a drive-through restaurant on the lawn of the Statehouse," said Priscilla Mead, a committee member and former Upper Arlington mayor. "It's a peaceful place where scores of trees have been planted in honor of residents and city employees.

"It's the people's place, where nature reflects the culture and values of Upper Arlington."

City officials currently are considering two informal development proposals for the MSC site. They've said a project is needed there to help fill a nearly $6-million gap in revenue created by the elimination of Ohio's estate tax and cuts to the Ohio Local Government Fund.

Trivium Development LLC proposes to build a 36,000-square-foot medical office project. Daimler Group Inc. and Kohr Royer Griffith Inc. have proposed a 40,000-square-foot office.

Estimates are that the Daimler project would generate approximately $160,000 to $240,000 in annual revenue for the city, while the Trivium project is estimated to generate approximately $118,000 to $166,000 per year, according to information provided by the city.

City Manager Ted Staton said the referendum process being undertaken by residents "is all part of our rich tradition of local democracy and citizen engagement."

"Land use decisions, such as zoning matters, are often controversial with citizens on both sides of the issues," he said. "On one side of this issue are the petitioners who oppose the rezoning and on the other are a majority of the members of the city council, Board of Zoning and Planning, Community Improvement Corp. and the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce. All four of these bodies voted to support the rezoning.

"We will await the next step in the process which is the verification of the signatures submitted," Staton said.

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