Four of five candidates running in the Nov. 5 general election for three at-large seats for Dublin City Council shared their vision for their city's future when responding to questions posed by the ThisWeek Dublin Villager.
Incumbents Christina Alutto and Chris Amorose Groomes are being challenged by Sandi Allen, Andrew Keeler and Dr. Ajay Satyapriya for three council seats. Councilman Michael Keenan chose not to seek reelection.
Allen, Alutto, Groomes and Keeler submitted responses. Satyapriya did not respond before the Villager's deadline for submission but did reach out after this Q&A appeared in print and online. He did respond to The Columbus Dispatch's request for candidacy information, and his profile is available on the voters guide at ThisWeekNEWS.com/VotersGuide, where you'll find the direct link to his profile and other voter information.
The candidates' responses follow:
What do you see as the top priority in Dublin, and what will you do about it?
Allen: Dublin continues to strive to maintain a sustainable base of revenues balanced with top-notch services. I want to connect old and new development and encourage balanced growth through creating the right mix of corporate, retail and residential development to retain and attract top notch talent, grow revenues, and preserve services, parks and green space across our city.
Alutto: Dublin needs data informed economic development that works with the community plans our residents help construct. I will work with our residents and our businesses to help create an enticing experience where people and leaders want to put their resources and their businesses. Dublin's financial base has always relied on diversification and planning for future economic circumstances that may be driven by broad economic factors outside the city's influence. It is critical that we work to drive our economic growth with purposeful strategies informed by metrics, resident and business input, and market conditions.
Groomes: Dublin's top priority continues to be economic development. The top-notch services and high-quality events that Dublin residents enjoy are to a large extent made possible by the financial strength of our corporate community. As our infrastructure ages, and as our population rises, the demands on the city's revenue stream will grow. It's imperative that we continue to attract and maintain high-quality businesses to help fund the Irish Festival, the Fourth of July Celebration, and the construction and maintenance of our 60 parks and more than 100 miles of multi-use pathways. Economic development also helps fund essential services such as roadway maintenance, trash and yard waste removal, curbside chipper service, water and sewer infrastructure maintenance and our excellent police force. As a Dublin City Council member, I'll continue to develop relationships with the corporate community and engage in the dialogue for the attraction, expansion and retention of jobs to maintain the high standards Dublin residents have come to expect.
Keeler: In addition to protecting the identity and charm within the context of growth, and traffic concerns in old Dublin, creating affordable housing alternatives for those that would like to remain in Dublin is an issue I am passionate about. With a 99% approval rating, residents love Dublin, so let's figure out a way to keep them here. Most of the new condos built around Dublin are financially out of reach for the majority of our residents. The Forever Dublin Hub is a small step in the right direction, but a good bit more can be done here. If residents have one thing to complain about it's probably their property tax bill. While they recognize the value of the phenomenal education that Dublin City Schools provide, it doesn't make the bill any less burdensome. What most residents don't know is that the city only gets 2% of their property tax, and property taxes are controlled by Franklin County, not the city of Dublin. The City of Columbus has created Community Reinvestment Areas. These areas qualify for property tax abatements. Perhaps these could be a solution-tax breaks for specific housing developments for residents that coincidentally don't have children in schools.
How will you work to address parking concerns in growing and evolving areas such as the Bridge Street District and the Historic District?
Allen: The addition of multiple parking garages in both the Historic District and Bridge Street District have helped to alleviate lack of parking as more people are drawn to new developments in these areas. I am happy that parking is free in these garages, however I understand business and restaurant concerns over lack of turnover of street parking during peak business hours. I think a parking study is warranted to encourage turnover of street parking without adding additional human resources to regulate consumer behavior.
Alutto: Bridge Park and the Historic District both have parking concerns, although they may not be the same concerns. I will ensure holistic and shared methods to helping both districts design solutions that best fit their needs. Cutting edge technologies are now available that can provide data to help us work toward solutions that are tailored to the needs of both these critical areas. This is not a single dimension process. A deeper strategy that contemplates ride-share impacts, handicap access, valet and other mobility models will be considered. I will take a collaborative approach with residents and businesses to help define potential solutions where and when appropriate. My goal is to define the issues and work through them, together.
Groomes: The developer of Bridge Park has communicated to the city that they have enough parking for their current and future development. In fact, they recently received City Council approval to convert an entire level of a parking garage under construction to commercial space -- that's the Dublin North Market we're all looking forward to visiting. The construction of that market space allows it to be converted back to parking if that's needed someday. In Dublin's Historic District, the city recently constructed a new 550-space public parking garage, adjacent to the library. As a City Council member, I lobbied for multiple, smaller parking structures distributed throughout the district, but the number of spaces in the new garage are sufficient to meet the need in the historic district at this time. When and if additional parking demand is identified, I would once again push for appropriately scaled parking facilities in close proximity to where the spaces are needed.
Keeler: Traffic in old Dublin, or "West" Bridge Street has already improved with the new library garage coming on line. The good news is that there is still room in the Bridge Street District east of the current build out to accommodate additional parking in the future. And, once the pedestrian bridge opens it will allow visitors to park on one side of the river and walk to the other. Much of the on-street parking, on both sides of the river, is not limited by time. Limiting parking time to two or three hours would also help. I am not advocating for paid parking, either by meter or in the garages, simply time limits on the duration of parking on streets.
How will you address growing development in the U.S. Route 33 corridor, including areas outside Dublin's jurisdiction? What can be done to alleviate traffic and residential concerns while still balancing economic growth?
Allen: Dublin is part of the Logan Union Champaign Regional Planning Commission. It is imperative that we be working with neighboring communities to understand and be prepared for changes and developments going on around us. I would work to foster similar relationships with Madison and Delaware counties, given their immediate proximity to Franklin County. I feel the city of Dublin does a good job of bringing all affected players to the table when planning for future development and growth so all have a chance to voice concerns, share ideas and have those implemented to improve the overall project to something that can be a win-win for all. I am pleased by recent examples of projects where the city and businesses or developers have shared infrastructure costs so as not to burden taxpayers with the full burden of growth.
Alutto: During my first four years on Council the 33 corridor has seen remarkable growth. OU and the new OSU expansion are proving to be key factors in that area's development. However, this area is unique as there are other jurisdictions that have control over the land uses that lie outside Dublin's boundaries. I will work with our governmental neighbors to shore up relationships, enhance lines of communication and share ideas and strategies. Some of the most difficult negotiations we face are with our jurisdictional neighbors because we may have differing needs for our residents. Solutions rely on cooperation and understanding. Dublin should not pay for everything; it's my job to help balance our residents' needs and the financial commitments we make. I will continue to work with our neighbors on solutions that are beneficial and economically viable for all of us. It's not an easy equation but, with effort and commitment, solutions will be achieved.
Groomes: It's a complex question but as a Dublin City Council member and a Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) executive board member, I continually work with each of our adjacent jurisdictions to coordinate growth and land use in ways that benefit all parties. Part of the complexity of this coordination is understanding that each jurisdiction adjacent to the Route 33 Corridor expects to generate revenue from development. But since each jurisdiction generates revenue in a different way, the kind of development each prefers is as different as the funding models themselves. Dublin is primarily funded by a 2% income tax (61% of revenue) on workers -- thus it desires offices full of high wage earners. Jerome Township is funded by property tax (70%) and miscellaneous taxes (30%) and therefore wants the high property value from multifamily housing. Union County is funded through property tax (25%), sales tax (25%) and miscellaneous taxes (50%) and consequently wants high retail sales volume and high property values. Each entity, with their available funds, pursues development that will allow them to continue to meet the needs and wishes of their residents. Mutual respect and understanding are the path to success for all parties along the corridor.
Keeler: It begins with collaboration and partnership with our neighbors. Dublin has a great relationship with the city of Columbus, and creative solutions to traffic issues along the Sawmill Road corridor are currently underway. Creating the same sort of collaborative, cooperative relationship with Union County, Marysville and Jerome Township will be important in the planning for growth in the 33- corridor area. Hyland-Croy is at the epicenter of this development, and is ground zero in terms of the collaboration between the parties. I like to use the analogy that Dublin and Jerome Township are two houses sitting side by side. The occupants of the houses are the City Council and Township Trustees. While the houses themselves never change, the occupants do. City Councils turnover, as do townships. It's important that the two parties recognize that they each benefit from each other, and at times this requires compromise. This also means collaboration with residents as well, ensuring that the cty is listening to residents' concerns, evaluating all potential solutions, and making the decision that is best for the city and its residents overall.