Upper Arlington News

Special council meeting

MSC rezoning rescinded, attention turns to tax hike

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At least for now, Upper Arlington officials will not move forward with plans to build professional offices on green space at the city's Municipal Services Center.

Upper Arlington City Council voted unanimously Monday, July 21, to rescind the rezoning of 5.36 acres at the northern edge of the MSC site, known as "The Point."

The move reversed council's 4-3 vote last month that seemingly paved the way for the city to select one of two proposals to construct professional office buildings ranging from 32,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet on an undeveloped portion of the property.

The turnabout came after City Manager Ted Staton and City Attorney Jeanine Hummer, two staunch proponents of the rezoning, announced July 17 they would recommend that council overturn its earlier vote.

According to Hummer, a lawsuit by Upper Arlington resident Kevin Rooney questioning the city's notification process for the rezoning as well as its procedures for moving forward with a vote despite procedural appeals might have taken a year to litigate and would be "unfair" to prospective developers.

"The legal matter remains alive," she said. "That procedural question is easily addressed by starting the process over."

Staton's office issued a press release July 17 that said a telephone survey conducted July 9-11 indicated there was "some confusion" among residents over the MSC rezoning. In the meantime, a group of residents called The Committee to Overturn the MSC Rezoning collected more than 3,000 signatures in an effort to place a referendum about the rezoning on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Staton said Monday council should strike the rezoning so local voters could turn their attentions to the city's Nov. 4 income tax increase from 2 percent to 2.5 percent to help fund capital improvement projects.

"My own preference is to take the time for the community to focus on the long-term financial issues," Staton said. "To have both these issues before voters at the same time would not be in our interests, I think."

In rescinding the rezoning, council members John C. Adams and David DeCapua, as well as President Don Leach and Vice President Debbie Johnson, reversed their prior votes. Councilmen Kip Greenhill, Mike Schadek and Erik Yassenoff all maintained their original votes in opposition to the measure.

"I was worried about the mixed message that would be out there," Johnson said. "One regret I have is this is just really bad timing. We should not have both these (income tax and referendum issues) on the ballot at the same time."

In stark contrast to previous meetings of council and the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning Commission to consider the rezoning, which drew close to 200 people, only about 35 turned out Monday.

Prior to council's vote, members heard from former BZAP member David Timmons, who said council should stand up to "the NIMBY (not in my backyard) referendum threat."

"I'm afraid that by caving in on this issue, council is just encouraging a furthering of these acts," Timmons said. "I say go to the ballot and fight it."

Opponents of the rezoning, many of whom reside in the MSC's neighboring Trouville condominium community, were pleased with Monday's outcome.

Rooney said it effectively accomplished the intent of his lawsuit, which was to slow a rush toward the rezoning approval and the potential initiation of a development project.

"We're bruised and bloodied out of this, but let's shake hands and see what everybody has to say as we move forward," he said.

Priscilla Mead, a former Upper Arlington mayor and current member of The Committee to Overturn the MSC Rezoning, said she was "relieved" by council's vote, and hopes city officials will hold public meetings to discuss how -- if at all -- public land should be developed.

"I appreciate council taking a tough step to start over," she said. "We'll continue to have public discussions about public land and the right developments.

"This time, we'll start with the right questions: What does the community consider public land and what does the community want on those lands?"

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