Westerville leaders still are disagreeing and tweaking staff members' proposals for a new courtyard design at the Westerville Municipal Building.

Westerville leaders still are disagreeing and tweaking staff members' proposals for a new courtyard design at the Westerville Municipal Building.

As part of a renovation project worth more than $400,000, Westerville parks and recreation staff designed a new courtyard for city hall that aims to "create a civic space in the core of Uptown to provide a community gathering place," according to a memo from Parks Development Manager Laura Ball.

The new design features an "artistic screen" between the building and Jimmy V's restaurant next door, along with "vias," or walkways around either side of city hall that will act as pathways to and from the parking lot behind the building.

Westerville has been in the midst of planning and renovating the area for nearly two years, with much of the work already underway or completed, largely in the back of the building.

But despite city staff members being ready to request bids on the project, some City Council members still have concerns.

The idea of the screen between the buildings was perhaps the most controversial topic, with multiple council members in favor of scrapping the concept.

"I'm not sure what we need to screen," Councilman Mike Heyeck said. "It doesn't have value in this drawing. ... I don't think it looks attractive."

But Councilman Larry Jenkins, who helped work with designers, said it was an important part of the design.

"I specifically was trying to get away from a flat panel mounted on post kind of fence or screen," he said. "We asked the design group we were working with to come up with different things ... and the first attempts that came back were about three times the budget we had. So this ... is a little more fitting as a little more artistic element."

The large courtyard is set to be filled with grass, giving the city another green space in Uptown. But Councilman Tim Davey said he thought the idea was better in theory than in practice.

"Nine months out of the year, everyone would prefer brick," he said. "It's warmer and you don't have to worry about rain or things like that. ... I think there's only a short period of time out of the year that grass would make any sense."

Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi, however, said the grass was important.

"We need green space. Frankly, if we're 'a city within a park' and we put a pile of concrete or brick down, it just looks like any other blob of stuff."

Davey also said that he wasn't in favor of the project as a whole, at least not at the moment.

"I think there are other projects that are much more important than the courtyard," he said. "I would rather put this on the backburner. When we have money for an extravagance like this then we do it, but I think there are a lot more important things than this."

Last week, the designs passed the city's Uptown Review Board unanimously. Board member Dennis Blair said the board largely had only positives to say about the plans, and relayed that members of Heritage Ohio who were visiting said they liked the look of "non-traditional" seating.

"I think it's a nice maturation of what we saw before," he said.

City staff members are expected to tweak plans and return to council, and will begin accepting bids for the project soon.