Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, the guest speaker at the Northwest Civic Association's June 6 annual meeting, said Columbus is staring a significant increase in population in the face.
By most estimates, Hardin said during his remarks, an additional 500,000 people are expected to make their home in Columbus over the next 25 to 30 years.
"The question now is not if we're going to grow," Hardin added. "It's how we're going to grow and what that growth will look like."
Hardin was appointed to City Council in October 2014 and was elected in a special election that same year to fulfill the unexpired term to which he was appointed. He was elected to a full four-year term in November 2017.
He said it is up to current residents to not only make provisions for accommodating that growth, but also to ensure that the city remains a place where people want to live.
"The city that we live in, I think, we can all say that we love," Hardin said. "The city that we live in was built and planned by people 20 years ago, 15 years ago."
Now those who live in the city have to build and plan for the next generations, Hardin said.
"I am not pessimistic about Columbus at all," Hardin sad. "We have a lot of indicators that point to us doing well."
Looking back on his six months as president of council and four years as a member, Hardin said he's enjoyed the experience.
"It is, I'd say, the only elected job I would ever do," he told civic association members.
"Governing is a participatory sport," Hardin said. "It doesn't happen from City Hall. It doesn't happen from downtown.
"It happens from working with civic associations, working with area commissions, working with churches and civic groups. If we're figuring it out from downtown, that's not going to be the best solution for this neighborhood."
Since it was a meeting of the Northwest Civic Association, the council president was naturally asked to provide his views on the "sheep farm," the 60-plus acre site currently on Ohio State University Airport property but scheduled to be sold for development.
The potential for adverse consequences from that development for current residents has some up in arms, but others have begun working with university and city officials, as well as others, to try to steer that development into less burdensome channels.
"I think the sheep farm is a perfect example of advocacy," Hardin said.
The property was "not on my radar" a year ago, he said, but many meetings later it's a $5 million potential investment for public and private entities that might include things such as a park, community center or library, all of which sheep-farm committee members have been seeking.
"The question is how do we get it done and where does it fall in big-city priorities," Hardin said.
Various opportunities for partnerships regarding the sheep-farm site have arisen in the past three or four months, he said.
"I don't have an announcement yet," Hardin said. "It certainly wouldn't be mine to make, anyway."
"Anything we can do as far as writing postcards or letter-writing ... we would love to do," trustee Kit Logsdon assured him.
On the sheep-farm front, NWCA President Nick Cipiti presented one of the more active advocates in the neighborhood with the Anna Mildred Henderson Award for community volunteering.
"He's been heavily involved in our sheep-farm project. He's been instrumental in coordinating neighbors, letter-writing campaigns.
"As you've heard, he's had meetings with city officials, with state legislators. He's put together PowerPoint presentations and handouts on behalf of the sheep farm and the Northwest Civic Association.
"On top of all that he's a great guy."
Roy Wentzel expressed surprised at receiving the honor.
"I'm kind of speechless," he said. "I never expected anything like this. I just do what I do."