Jerome Township trustee candidates shared their opinions about development and traffic in the township while responding to questions posed by the ThisWeek Dublin Villager.
Ken Gordon, Megan Sloat and Mark Spagnuolo are running for one seat on the three-member board of trustees. Trustee Ron Rhodes chose not to seek reelection.
Sloat and Spagnuolo submitted responses to the questions. Gordon did not respond to questions by The Villager's deadline for submissions.
The candidates' responses follow:
What do you see as the top priority in Jerome Township, and what will you do about it?
Sloat: My family and I moved to Jerome Township 14 years ago. We love the close community and slower paced environment. We have a scenic township in a desirable area that is experiencing inevitable growth. The No. 1 priority is to manage this development in a responsible way in order to preserve our unique attributes. The objective should not be rapid growth but instead well planned growth that enhances the appeal of our township and brings needed tax dollars and funding. I will approach development differently by evaluating how it can benefit our community. I want to reduce strain on infrastructure, support vital community services and increase recreational areas. I will listen to the input of residents and work to preserve their vision for this township. I will ask developers relevant questions to ensure that important issues are addressed. These include: supporting our fire/EMS services, maintaining safe roadways, preserving natural features and managing growth in the school districts. To accomplish this well rounded approach to growth, it is vital to gather information and maintain communication. I will work to coordinate input from school districts, fire division, Union County Engineer's office and residents to make new development work for everyone.
Spagnuolo: We need to come together as a community and work together. This is going to be difficult, especially with our current state of expanding development. We have many new residents moving into the township and that is putting a strain on a lot of people, both new and existing. We certainly do not want to build a community on animosity. Better communication, better participation and opportunities for residents to come together and discuss issues that concern them, and I would include developers as well. I definitely would like to facilitate this type of interaction with all of our residents. We can't have amenities without residents to support them. We can't have new roads without developers to build them. What I believe we need to do is all come together and better understand the needs facing everyone in the community. During my service as Zoning Inspector for the Township, I was able to turn around our relationships with our neighboring municipalities (Marysville and Dublin) and the county as well. It's going to take that kind of relationship building within the township to overcome many of these issues that face us today and will continue to face us in the future.
How will you work to address traffic concerns in growing and evolving areas?
Sloat: We need well planned, incremental development that will not overwhelm our infrastructure. The FedEx truck transportation facility approved by the Jerome Township Board of Zoning appeals in 2018 was a big step in the wrong direction. It will add approximately 4,500 average daily vehicle trips to roadways that many of us travel on every day. I worked extensively on the effort to oppose this facility because it will bring excessive noise and traffic to our township and it is not harmonious with the surrounding area. In the interest of public safety, Jerome Township should require a completed traffic study that has been reviewed by the Union County Engineer's office prior to the approval of a development. This should also include a written agreement establishing the developer's fair share contribution towards any necessary infrastructure improvements. This will be a more thorough approach in evaluating how a potential development will impact our roadways.
Spagnuolo: It's all about teamwork. We need to partner with ODOT, Union County, and the cities of Dublin and Marysville when it comes to road infrastructure. Many people don't understand that the road network within the township is a complex system managed by multiple government entities. There are township, county and state roads. We also have roads currently owned by developers that are under county management that will eventually be turned over to the township. My father is a city engineer; I grew up listening to many conversations about issues similar to those facing our township. I understand the system. I interact well with the planners and engineers in Marysville, Dublin, Union County and ODOT. Good governmental collaboration is what is going to make or break us when traffic solutions are needed in our area. I can't emphasize enough how important it is for the township to have a good relationship with the county and a trustee that understands the system. Similarly, we need a good relationship with neighboring Dublin, as we share a main highway interchange. When Dublin presents funding requests to the TRAC, it would be very beneficial for us to support these. These improvements benefit both our communities.
Do you believe working with neighboring municipalities, such as Dublin, is a necessary part of planning for development, and if so, what are the best ways to do it?
Sloat: Working with neighboring cities and townships is essential. We are already interconnected through our school districts and infrastructure. We will also be connected through the development of the US 33 Smart Mobility Corridor which will be a critical part of any future growth. We must be able to identify any potential areas of concern and find beneficial solutions. We can work together strategically and still maintain our desired independence as a township. Regular, face to face meetings are the best and most effective way to accomplish this efficiently. I am committed to the hard work and dedication that is necessary to achieve this objective.
Spagnuolo: Absolutely. One of the first comments I made when I joined the Jerome Planning & Zoning Commission, many years ago, was that we had to find a way to work better with our neighbors and peacefully coexist.I don't think we should operate in a vacuum, whether it's with our neighboring municipalities or residents. In fact, I spent a lot of time over the past three years getting the township more involved with the planners in both Dublin and Marysville and I was very successful at this. There were many LUC hearings I attended where I had good planning conversations with both Marysville and Dublin representatives. Those folks helped us a lot and I don't want to see us lose those connections. I also participated in the Hyland-Croy Corridor Committee, the Union County Housing Task Force Committee, various 33 Corridor groups, and more. When we come to the table to discuss issues, we need to have an open mind, a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to reach a common solution. That solution should be one that benefits everyone while at the same time allowing each of us to keep our own identity and promote our community's individual objectives.