The Nov. 5 election for the Ward 2 Grove City Council seat features three candidates.
Melissa J. Anderson, 42; Jeffrey E. Buskirk, 62; and Randy L. Holt, 61, are running to replace council member Jeff Davis, who is not seeking reelection.
Anderson, 42, is manager, global marketing creative services traffic and production at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. and owns a small business, Moonlit Cabins.
Buskirk, 62, is a self-employed lawyer with an office in Grove City.
Holt, 61, is executive director of global technology with JPMorgan Chase & Co.
ThisWeek Grove City Record asked the three Ward 2 candidates to respond to four questions regarding city matters.
What do you see as the top issue in Grove City and how would you address it as a council member?
Anderson: Grove City has had tremendous development for the past number of years and continues to approve projects, including the plan for Beulah Park, the Browns Farm project, and others. We need to take a holistic look at how the current development projects will impact our infrastructure. Residents have expressed concerns over traffic, flooding in our streets and homes and other infrastructure issues and we need to make sure we have these needs met. We need to provide transparency to our community on these projects and find opportunities to seek input from residents.
Buskirk: The top priority should be growth management. While having hospitals and additional shopping benefits our citizens, there is the cost of increased traffic. There is the further burden imposed upon our police force and fire department. Our green space is destroyed. Growth can be slowed with the demand for green space. I would like to see an aggressive approach for green space acquisition. Further, I believe that the city should make green space a focus with developers. If significant green space is a priority for development in our city, the cost of development becomes more expensive for the developers and the speed of growth slows.
Holt: The continued health safety, and welfare of residents and the improved delivery of city services as we grow are at the top of my list. Our residents are the reason we exist as a governing body and we need to meet these obligations to our residents. Everything from snow removal, senior services and traffic are included. We need to deliver and meet these obligations to our residents. As we grow, these services must grow and change as well. I hear about streets that may never get plowed in the winter. This is a health and safety issue for our elderly residents and the ability of our services to access these neighborhoods. Traffic is a major issue and needs to be a focus. I am frustrated with Stringtown Road traffic. I would obtain an expert review of Stringtown traffic with recommendations to consider. We must partner with developers and create situations where both the city and developer win. Too often I see adversarial relationships between these entities and things take too long to accomplish. In my opinion the city compromises too easily. We must improve our developer relationships and negotiation skills as development will only increase over the next 10 years.
What should be the city's approach to managing growth in the community and ensuring the character of Grove City is maintained?
Anderson: Small business is very important to our community and creates our character and small town charm. I want to make sure we are fostering and supporting our small businesses so they can continue to thrive and remain in our community. I will support efforts to foster the entrepreneurs and small business owners in our city. We also need to support the Parks and Rec programming that exists in our community as these activities support all ages of our residents from toddlers to seniors and are an important aspect of creating community and relationships among residents.
Buskirk: You cannot keep people from moving into your city. What you can do is pass legislation and building codes as necessary to get the development that fits into the local character. I would like to see the Town Center extended in all directions. This will assure that the character of old Grove City is maintained.
Holt: The face of residential growth has changed in the past 20 years. We need to plan and execute on all types of residential options which include custom homes, patio homes, condos, condominiums and apartments. We must recognize all these types of homes are necessary for our residents. Consider the new growth of our medical businesses recently. We must have housing options for all the employees. The availability of housing and a local workforce are key elements to support growth. The Beulah Park plan provides a great example of these various housing types. Not every development will be as large as Beulah, but the attributes, standards and ideals can be replicated in smaller developments. It is projected that more than 500,000 residential homes will be needed in the Columbus and surrounding suburbs by 2050. Grove City is a key location and I want us to get our fair share of this growth. To do so, we need to have good policies, planning expertise and the experience working with developers to assure Grove City maintains the "hometown" feel. We can do this by partnering with the developers, the planning commission, the mayor and city administrator.
What can and should the city do to ensure the right balance of residential and commercial development?
Anderson: Grove City has continued to approve a number of residential developments. We need to evaluate what commercial opportunities there are to create jobs in Grove City. It is important that residents have opportunities to live here, work here and play here. As a city, we need to make smart, economic decisions that can provide jobs for our residents.
Buskirk: In addition to the right balance between residential and commercial development, the balance must also include the proper green space. Without green space, areas can quickly become overcrowded and lose favor. As far as assuring the right balance of residential and commercial, this tends to occur naturally. Business will only develop where there is a need and potential for profit.
Holt: Balance is the key. We need residential growth to provide the employee base for new business who want to locate in the city. We need the commercial growth to provide the tax income and living wage jobs for our employees. Stagnation is not an option. Housing needs are changing for both young and old. Amazon is changing the retail business landscape. We have to change. I will research the percentage of land, tax base and employees vs. resident statistics as compared to comparable suburbs we believe are doing a good job on the balance. Then we can create objectives or metrics to move Grove City into the sweet spot of balance for residential and commercial development. The key is smart and planned growth with the city driving the direction and working closely with developers and businesses in a complimentary fashion so both parties achieve their desired results.
With the Beulah Park project now underway, what should be the city's vision for the Town Center and what steps should be taken to execute that vision?
Anderson: The Town Center is mostly comprised of small businesses. We need to continue to support the businesses there so that they can thrive and remain in the city. We also need to make decisions and provide opportunities for additional businesses to come to the Town Center area. Small business is a family's livelihood. Grove City recently implemented a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in the Town Center, giving it a trial period of one year. As a city, we should find ways for our small businesses to thrive. With that, we also need to continue to seek input from our businesses on what is working and what presents challenges in order to make successful decisions for the future. Dining opportunities, shopping and community activities bring people to the Town Center.
Buskirk: The city's vision should include a park at the old library site. Parks and trees enhance property values and create enjoyable locations for our current citizens. As the city develops and grows south, the appreciation for green space in the Town Center will only increase. At some point, the police department will outgrow its space and will need moved elsewhere. This (site), too, could be added to the park system. Alternatively, the (police) department (building) could be replaced with vintage turn of the century style buildings aligning the street.
Holt: I really enjoy our growing Town Center. I support continued growth of the Town Center and continued addition of more complimentary businesses. I grew up in Grove City and have lived in several other Columbus suburbs and several states over my career. I always enjoy the hometown feel of our downtown and the city. You can easily see other great examples of downtown development in our neighboring suburbs and we should model or implement many of the successful policies and practices. I believe we have a huge opportunity upon us with the Beulah project, Parade of Homes and the recent revamping of many homes located near the downtown area. Having a thriving downtown center creates a sense of community and personality for the city. I will work to support our Town Center growth and all the fantastic activities we have year-round.