Although he had previously hinted he might announce at his annual State of the City address whether he plans to run for re-election in November, Grandview Heights Mayor Ray DeGraw made no such pronouncement during his March 12 speech.
He did spend the first portion of the speech reviewing some of the major milestones of his long tenure as mayor and thanking department heads, City Council, administrative staff, community partners and volunteers who have and are contributing to the city’s success.
“What I’ve enjoyed most is coming in contact with all those people over the years,” DeGraw said. “I owe (them) a great deal of thanks.”
The state of the city is strong and Grandview is “financially stable,” he said during the address, held at the Grand Event Center at Grandview Yard.
“Our proximity has always been our strength,” DeGraw said. “The qualities we offer today are the same qualities this community had 30 years ago: family, closeness, schools and safety.”
“We’ve managed our growth and we’ve continued to plan,” he said. “We’ve looked at where to grow and we have been supported by the community.”
Over the last year, the city has been engaged with the community in a strategic-planning process.
The results of that effort are an updated community plan and a “civic spaces and places” plan addressing the city’s facilities and land use, to be presented at a community meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, in the commons at Edison Intermediate/Larson Middle School, 1240 Oakland Ave.
New components planned at Grandview Yard include 79 single-family homes and a 40,000-square-foot office building at Northwest and Goodale boulevards, as well as the Goddard School, which is now open, he said. Plans call for the Yard area to be expanded to the south in a joint development of Nationwide Realty Investors and Tri-W.
“What’s available on the east side of town, next to downtown, makes this area attractive to be successful,” DeGraw said. “If we were a mile away, if (the Yard area) was on the west side of town, it would never have happened. It’s located perfectly for this type of use and density.”
In all, 5,200 jobs have been created so far at the 100-acre development, DeGraw said.
The first phase of the Grandview Crossing project, which straddles the border with Columbus, also is set to rise later this year, he said. The mixed-use development along Dublin Road is expected to include a hotel, office space and residential and retail components in the 15 acres located in Grandview.
The city’s estimated general-fund revenue for this year is about $21 million, with about 71 percent coming from the city’s income tax, DeGraw said. About 12.5 percent of the city’s revenue comes from property taxes.
“We don’t need to increase our property tax, but we do need to keep it,” he said.
The property tax generates about $2.5 million a year, which is about the amount of funding needed to operate the service department, DeGraw said.
“We are not yet in a position to give up our property tax,” he said.
The city continues to invest in the community, with $850,000 budgeted this year for street improvements, he said. The city also is putting money into improving and maintaining its water lines and sanitary sewers, he said.
Since 2014, Grandview has spent about $17.85 million on street improvements in the area west of and outside of Grandview Yard, DeGraw said.
Community safety remains a priority, he said.
After the 2013 murder of Jennifer Cooke, which remains unsolved, the city trained its police officers on how to conduct more-efficient crime investigations, DeGraw said.
That has resulted in more crimes being solved and more criminals being arrested, he said.
A third detective and an additional officer on street patrol will be added this year, DeGraw said.
The mayor listed several challenges facing the city, including the impact of “the development around us” on the city’s edges and the service expectations of the younger residents who are moving into the community.
Traffic, parking and pedestrian safety will continue to be important issues as density increases, he said.
On a personal note, DeGraw, 70, said he has served the Grandview community for half his life, adding that realization “is remarkable to me when I think about it.”
He was appointed in August 1983 to the city’s board of zoning appeals and has served in one role or another ever since.
DeGraw first was elected to City Council in 1987 and served through 1995. After a stint on the planning commission, he ran again for council and won in 1999.
He defeated incumbent Colleen Sexton in 2003 for mayor, ran unopposed in 2007, defeated Councilman Steve Von Jasinski to gain a third term in 2011 and ran unopposed again in 2015.