Upper Arlington News

City releases MSC rezoning survey results

By

Upper Arlington officials last week released results of a survey meant to gauge public support for a now-overturned rezoning of the city's Municipal Services Center.

Responses showed a varying degree of opposition to the currently defunct plan.

On July 21, Upper Arlington City Council unanimously overturned a previous 4-3 vote to rezone 5.36 acres of green space at the city's government headquarters, which would have allowed medical or professional offices to be developed on the site.

The telephone survey, conducted July 9-11 by Fallon Research & Communications Inc. at a cost of $8,000, included 300 homes.

Following a July 16 request, city officials told ThisWeek Upper Arlington News the survey results had not been compiled. The information was provided July 24.

The release followed recommendations from City Manager Ted Staton and City Attorney Jeanine Hummer for council to rescind the rezoning.

The 20-question survey twice asked respondents if they supported or opposed the plan to rezone the MSC land.

The first time, question No. 6, 42.6 percent of respondents said they opposed the rezoning, while 31.3 percent supported it and 26.1 percent said they were "unsure" or had no answer.

The second time followed a series of questions that polled residents on -- among other things -- whether they thought it was a good idea to lease vacant land to generate $1.5 million in income taxes over 10 years, if a professional office building at the MSC site was "the best way to use the land to benefit the community with minimal impact on the surrounding area," and if people would be more likely to support the rezoning knowing it had been reviewed by city planners and approved by council and the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning.

Question 16 asked, "Now that you've heard more about the idea of rezoning the land in front of the city's Municipal Services Center Complex, do you support or oppose the rezoning?"

This time, opposition remained about the same, but support for the idea jumped 10 percent: 42.1 percent responded they opposed the rezoning, 41.4 percent supported the rezoning and 16.5 percent were unsure or had no answer.

Council rescinded the rezoning after a group called The Committee to Overturn the MSC Rezoning collected more than 3,000 signatures as part of a petition to place a referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Four days before the vote, Staton publicly recommended council reverse the rezoning. He later said a referendum could "take focus away" from the city's Nov. 4 ballot initiative to raise the local income tax from 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

City officials have said the income tax increase would generate $3.5 million in additional annual revenue that will be applied to roadway projects and other infrastructure needs.

"If circumstances and the timing for bringing this issue forward had been different, I believe the right thing would have been to ultimately ask the community to vote on the rezoning as was being requested by the petitioners," Staton said July 25 via email. "We have an engaged and educated citizenry and that fact serves our community well when considering important issues such as this.

"The issue also brought forth the beginning of an important conversation relative to the rezoning of publicly owned land, which we hope to continue in the coming months."

Prior to council's vote July 21, Hummer pointed to pending litigation after Upper Arlington resident Kevin Rooney sought to challenge the city's notification process related to the rezoning.

Rooney also argued the city didn't follow proper procedure because it moved forward with approval of the rezoning despite notification and due process appeals filed with the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and with the city's administrative officials.

On July 25, Upper Arlington Community Affairs Director Emma Speight said households contacted for the MSC rezoning survey were selected randomly, but she couldn't say if residents were contacted throughout the city.

She also didn't know if residents were contacted in the Trouville condominium community, which neighbors the MSC and which had a large contingent of opponents to the rezoning.

"We do not have details of who was called or geographic locations, but the survey sampling was conducted in a way that it would obtain a good mix that was reflective of the community by location and other demographic data -- age, gender, etc.," Speight said via email.

Other results of the survey included:

* Respondents were almost evenly divided on whether a two-story medical or professional office at the MSC site would "hurt the character and appearance of the area," with 45.5 percent of respondents agreeing it would and 47.6 percent disagreeing.

* As to whether an office building at the site was the "best way to use the land to benefit the community with minimal impact on the surrounding area," 45.6 percent disagreed and 37.7 percent agreed.

* Asked if land should be left undeveloped, even if it meant taxes would be increased or city services reduced, 58.3 percent disagreed and 33.4 percent agreed.

* Among seven options given as the biggest reason respondents supported the rezoning, most people -- 36.8 percent -- said because it would give the city more revenue.

* Asked to name the biggest reason they opposed the rezoning, respondents were given 13 options. Most -- 15.9 percent -- answered the MSC site should "remain open space."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

"The survey

sampling was

conducted in a way that it would obtain a good mix that was reflective of the

community by

location and other demographic data."

-- EMMA SPEIGHT

community affairs director

Comments