Upper Arlington News

Guest column

Reversing MSC rezoning was difficult, necessary

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Governing is not always easy or pretty. In fact, there is an old saying that there are two things you don't want to witness being made: sausage and laws.

Whether you believe that or not, it is fair to say that the Upper Arlington community has just witnessed and been part of the ups and downs of government decision-making, courtesy of the Municipal Services Center rezoning issue. Just when you think the best decision has been made for the good of the community, new information and developments can bring us back to the table for further deliberation.

And so it has been with this rezoning.

There are many strong feelings on both sides of the MSC issue. This was emphasized by the initial findings of a recently conducted opinion poll, which reflected some confusion over the rezoning and a divided community on the issue. In addition to the referendum effort to overturn the rezoning, the issue faced the threat of protracted litigation that could have further delayed a final resolution of the matter.

With these considerations in mind, the city manager and city attorney recommended that council revisit its decision, and further recommended that we vote to rescind the legislation. That step was unanimously taken at a July 21 special city council meeting.

It's important to not lose sight of another critical consideration in our decision to rescind the rezoning -- that of asking the community to approve an income tax increase to fund our infrastructure needs.

At the time of council's original vote to rezone the property on June 9, several of us noted how dire the city's financial situation is and that the city must explore every available avenue for growing its revenue stream. Indeed, to that end, on Monday, July 14, council voted to place a request on the November ballot asking that the city income tax be increased from 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

This issue must be our primary focus in the coming weeks, to be sure that the community is informed about the city's critical need for passage of the income tax ballot issue in order to fund the 10-year capital improvements plan.

Since making it known last week that we had agreed with the recommendation to reconsider the rezoning, we have heard a mixture of comments from friends, neighbors and others in the community.

Some have been comments of gratitude and relief that the issue would not be moving forward at this time. Some have been comments of disappointment from those who believe this would have been a good project for UA.

Significantly, however, for all the differing perspectives shared on the rezoning issue, there has been an overwhelming recognition of the need for the income tax increase to address our community's capital needs.

We take great comfort from these conversations; they confirm that we all share affection for and a commitment to the long-term well-being of our community and that Upper Arlington is best served if we focus on the steps we must collectively take to protect our future.

As the MSC issue generated important conversations about the rezoning of publicly owned land, we've come to realize that it will be helpful to our community to engage in further dialogue about these issues as we move ahead.

Council and the administration look forward to that exchange of ideas so that we will all have the product of that effort to help establish a framework for any future decision-making.

In the meantime, however, passing the income tax increase is crucial to the future of Upper Arlington as we look to our next 100 years. We cannot afford to ignore our crumbling infrastructure, and we ask you to please join us this fall in supporting the income tax issue dedicated to capital improvements.

Don Leach and Debbie Johnson are president and vice president, respectively, of Upper Arlington City Council.

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