While Powell voters delivered a decisive ballot-box defeat to two leaders of a movement against new downtown housing projects, the victors of Nov. 7's election say the result will not change the way they approach development.
In an eight-candidate race for four seats on Powell City Council, incumbents Brian Lorenz, Frank Bertone and Tom Counts earned new terms by securing 2,056, 1,611 and 1,549 votes, respectively, according to final, unofficial results from the Delaware County Board of Elections. Melissa Riggins, an attorney who voiced support for council during her campaign, also earned a term with 1,633 votes.
Jeffrey Gardiner and Christina Drummond received fewer than 1,200 votes each. David Ebersole and Sharon Valvona, who have helped lead legal and political efforts to block the development of new downtown housing complexes, finished with fewer than 620 votes each.
Lorenz said he viewed the vote not as an embrace of apartments and condos, but a rejection of the tactics and "uncooperative nature" of the leaders of what he referred to as an "antigrowth" campaign.
"I think the voters have had it with the antigrowth people," he said. "They're tired of being pushed around and misled."
Lorenz, who serves as the city's mayor, said his approach to reviewing new development proposals would not change based on the vote.
"I take every development on a case-by-case basis, (and) I would think that my peers do that as well," he said.
Development became a leading campaign issue as Ebersole and Valvona clashed with incumbents, especially in regards to the Center at Powell Crossing project.
About two months before the vote, council unanimously approved a $1.8 million settlement with the developer behind the proposed apartment and retail complex. CV Real Property sued the city in 2014 after voters passed a charter amendment blocking the development of the Center at Powell Crossing on land just west of the city's Municipal Building.
A federal judge last year ruled in the developer's favor and invalidated the charter amendment in its entirety.
Ebersole, whose brother, Brian Ebersole, helped lead the campaign for the charter amendment, previously called the settlement amount "extremely excessive." He also questioned council's decision to end a court battle he viewed as winnable.
Lorenz said council made the financially prudent move to "stop the bleeding" by settling. He said the city was poised to lose additional taxpayer money if the case continued.
Riggins sided with the incumbents during the campaign, stating council was put into a bad position by the residents who promoted the charter amendment. She said she thinks the election results prove city voters feel the same way.
"I think the voters showed that they were very much in support of the incumbents and understood what was actually going on," she said.
Riggins said the vote will not affect the way she approaches development proposals.
"My thoughts haven't changed regarding development," she said. "It's got to be smart. It's got to be well-planned."
Lorenz and Riggins agreed the vote also may show residents are feeling better about the city's traffic-congestion problem.
Lorenz said he sees the vote as an endorsement of the Keep Powell Moving initiative, which teamed city officials, consultants and residents in 2016 to devise traffic solutions.
"I think that they're supporting those initiatives that we're trying to implement through the Keep Powell Moving plan," he said.
Riggins said she thinks the vote shows residents are happy with recent decisions regarding traffic, and with good reason. She said the city's recent moves to ban left turns during evening rush hour at the Four Corners intersection of Liberty and Olentangy streets, extend Murphy Parkway and install a traffic signal at Grace Drive and Olentangy Street have paid off.
"I think every action council and the city have taken has made traffic so much better," she said. "I honestly don't think it's the issue it used to be."
Also on the ballot
Liberty and Orange township residents will see one new face each on their boards of trustees after last week's election.
In Liberty Township, newcomer Mike Gemperline and incumbent Shyra Eichhorn led the six-candidate race for two trustee seats.
Gemperline was the top vote-getter with 2,894 votes, while Eichhorn received 2,752 votes, according to final, unofficial results from the Delaware County Board of Elections.
The duo were trailed by Holly Adams with 2,631 votes, Bryan Newell with 2,003, Scott Lynch with 854 and Christopher Shear with 789.
In Orange Township, incumbent Debbie Taranto and newcomer Ryan Rivers won the three-candidate race for two seats, according to the board of elections. Taranto was the top-vote getter with 3,176, while Rivers earned 2,692 votes.
Incumbent Rob Quigley was ousted after taking 2,477 votes.
Liberty Township residents also voted to renew the department's 5.6-mill levy for another five years.
According to the county board of elections, the levy easily won with a vote of 5,225 to 1,763.
Delaware County Auditor George Kaitsa said the levy will raise just shy of $8 million per year and cost homeowners about $166 annually per $100,000 of their properties' market value.
Township fire Chief Tom O'Brien said residents currently pay about $2 more per $100,000 in property value than they paid for the department's services in 2003.
The township's population has grown by about 12,000 people in that same time period.