Upper Arlington voters will select three City Council members Nov. 5 from a pool of five candidates.
Incumbents Carolyn Casper and Brendan King are seeking reelection against challengers Michaela Burriss, John Kulewicz and Angela Lanctot for three seats.
One of those seats is held by Sue Ralph, who chose not to seek reelection.
The candidates recently responded to questions posed by ThisWeek Upper Arlington News.
Question: Do you support raising local taxes for the construction and operation of a community center? Why or why not?
Burriss: I strongly support the goal of a community center in UA. I'm hopeful a proposal from the Community Center Feasibility Task Force will be creative and well-informed by significant community involvement.
We must, however, be highly cautious of a new tax burden on residents. With the recent school levy, and another levy for all-day kindergarten likely on the horizon, council must be strategic in making new, long-term community investments.
While very supportive, I will not cast a vote that drives UA toward being unaffordable for many existing community members.
If you work hard, save and do everything right, you should be able to retire with dignity in UA. Tax increases uniquely burden seniors and further perpetuate inequity to entry for students and young families. The task force will weigh this and many competing interests before presenting their plan to Council.
Even "Community Center+taxes" vs. "Community Center+no new taxes" will require public debate.
Revenue-generating events and facilities, private-public partnerships and environmental efficiency technology can help deter costs. I look forward to hearing from our residents as the process unfolds and will listen to them before making a decision on whether we've achieved the appropriate balance between cost and investment.
Casper: We do not have the report of the Feasibility Task Force and until I see what they propose, I can't say one way or the other if I would support raising taxes to construct or operate the center.
King: I believe that the time is right for Upper Arlington to study the feasibility of a community center, but I also stand behind the 2015 City Council resolution stating that a single tax dollar will not be spent for a community center without a communitywide vote.
As a parent in an active household with in-laws in the community as well, you cannot find a bigger supporter of additional multigenerational recreational options for our citizens, but I won't support a community center unless the community votes to approve it.
The community has discussed and voted on this issue several times before, but not in a long while.
Times change, our population changes, our current senior center has reached the end of its useful life and we need to take a look at the possibility. That's why we appointed a Community Center Task Force to get community input to help determine whether a community center is feasible, whether it is a need in the community and whether there would be community support for one.
Kulewicz: No realistic discussion of whether to build a community center can take place without public consideration of the potential need for taxpayer support. There may be circumstances under which partial taxpayer support of construction and/or operating expenses could make sense.
I do not, however, believe that there should be any tax increase for a community center without a vote of the people.
For me, support would depend upon five factors: the quality and scope of the proposed center (i.e., whether the practical value that it would add for our families and community on a day-to-day basis would be worth it); the budget (high quality but no frills, and what, if anything, it would cost to use the facility); the full use of all other resources at the city's disposal to pay for it; the proposed amount of any such tax; and fair allocation of any proposed tax-financing among us as taxpayers, especially in view of the recent lowering of federal and state taxes.
Lanctot: I would only support raising local taxes for a community center if properly voted on and approved by the community.
The vote on a community center should come after the plan has been thoroughly researched and vetted. The Community Center Feasibility Task Force formed by the city to investigate the feasibility of a community center will lead council and staff to make a recommendation on moving forward.
This process should include determining the features that would provide maximum utilization and benefit to the community as well as what options are available for location, funding and management.
Personally, I feel a community center would be a valuable asset to our community but would only support action if supported by residents.
Question: What is the biggest issue currently facing the city of Upper Arlington and what will you do as a City Council member to address it?
Casper: We have a new city manager and need to work with him to establish the priorities for the next year or so.
We need long-term planning supporting thoughtful economic development.
In conjunction with economic development, we need to do a city traffic study in anticipation of the large influx into our community in the near future. Hand in hand with that is our housing stock. We need to be very thoughtful and maintain the character of our neighborhoods while meeting the needs of the entire community.
These are several issues that go together. We must change to remain the same.
King: During the four years I have spent on City Council, the single most difficult recurring question that we deal with is balancing the development of our commercial corridors with the preservation of all of our incredibly special neighborhoods.
Adding to the complexity of this issue is the rising population of central Ohio and the increasing desirability of inner-ring suburbs like Upper Arlington.
We are lucky to live in a community that has wonderful homes and is attractive to developers. City Council must continue to review each development plan on an individual basis to determine the need and the residential impact. As thriving and walkable commercial spaces are created, we must make sure they integrate into our neighborhoods.
In my next term on City Council, I will remain committed to engaging the neighbors of the proposed developments so that they have an opportunity for dialogue with developers and with the city. This communication will let developers know that they must respect the characteristics that make Upper Arlington unique and, at the same time, I will work to help neighbors to find redevelopment that benefits the neighborhood and the overall community.
Kulewicz: The projected growth of central Ohio's population to 3 million people in the next decades will present great opportunities and challenges for Upper Arlington.
Our community will become increasingly attractive to new families and businesses due to the quality of our homes and schools and our proximity to OSU and downtown Columbus. At the same time, the anticipated upsurge will pose increased demands on our basic city services and the aesthetics that we love here.
Council can do its part by focusing intensively on continued steady improvement of fundamental municipal services; opportunities to protect and enhance our personal health, fitness and safety; and preserving and strengthening the essential character of our neighborhoods.
Lanctot: As a city, we need to balance preserving the cherished attributes of the past with the needs and challenges that will come in our future.
The issues involved include improving the aging infrastructure, ensuring purposeful development that respects the neighborhoods and nearby residents and meeting the needs of all generations for use of our parks and recreation.
These can be addressed by prioritizing that all residents can be heard and opinions respected while seeking to find common ground on highly charged issues. Specifically, I will verify that earmarked Issue 23 income is being properly utilized, in addition to the other resources, to maintain the roads, sewers, bridges and parks.
Furthermore, I will strive that every school has multiple safe routes to school and that all of our city facilities and retail areas can be easily and safely accessed by all modes of transportation.
Burriss: The rapid growth and population increases anticipated for our region will require change.
The most likely change is density, and developers are seizing the opportunity. Residents are not adverse to change. In fact, many welcome the commercial tax base that could alleviate the burden on their own finances.
They do, however, want to be a part of conversations around change earlier on. Our city must do a better job of communicating, being proactive in our approach to development and infrastructure, updating our zoning laws to re-examine the qualifications of "neighborhood compatibility" and allowing for more citizen review and feedback.
Additionally, it's becoming increasingly hard to enter and stay in UA. Other central Ohio suburbs are more diverse and less expensive.
An investment in UA is smart, significant and, for almost all of our families, long term. It's our responsibility to treasure that and promise to create and preserve opportunities that allow our residents to either downsize or start a life in Upper Arlington.
Council must be focused on not only maintaining property values but supporting growth that encourages housing variety so we can remain competitive and an intergenerational community.
Question: What, if anything, should the city do to ensure that future development -- particularly in places like the Lane Avenue corridor -- don't have a negative impact on surrounding neighborhoods?
King: As I detailed in my previous answer, in my first term as a member of council, the tug-of-war between neighborhoods and commercial development is the most difficult issue in Upper Arlington.
In order to develop our commercial spaces to meet the pressure that comes with being a desirable community -- population growth and rising density -- we must reach out to our residents to engage them and listen to what they want out of our commercial corridors.
I voted as a member of City Council to establish the Lane Avenue study to seek out residents and gather their vision for our city's Main Street. The early results of the study are showing that our residents have strong thoughts and a willingness to engage, which is exactly what council envisioned.
Council must learn from this process and continue to strive to improve our methods of outreach and information-gathering so that future development is a partnership between developers and residents. If we remain dedicated to seeking out and listening to our neighbors, we will have better development and stronger neighborhoods.
Kulewicz: Council can do its part in preserving the essential character of our neighborhoods by updating the development ordinances and zoning codes, if necessary, and giving extra careful scrutiny to any development proposal that would physically impact an existing residential area. We should always keep buffers and step-down areas between the specific commercial corridors of UA and our residential areas.
It is no less important that council keep an intensive focus on continued steady improvement of our fundamental municipal services.
The one thing that we cannot do is fail to innovate.
As one who has conducted most of his campaign by going door-to-door in every neighborhood, I have seen firsthand the wealth of talent, insight, creativity and commitment that abounds in our community, and the widespread commitment to maintenance of our neighborhoods. We have the solutions to the future in our midst.
Lanctot: Upper Arlington City Council has the obligation and the privilege to make decisions that best serve our residents and businesses.
A large part of this revolves around attracting and maintaining the ideal mix of commercial income through responsible development -- and largely redevelopment -- as areas are updated to meet the needs of today's residents.
It is impossible to please everyone, but it is possible to give all residents a voice in these decisions.
Our city has made great strides in enhancing communication and input from residents. Recent changes have included extensive community engagement regarding pending issues, through objective surveys, meetings, task forces, etc. Continuing these practices allows for a better result because council can benefit from the vast experience and perspective from many rather than a few, not to mention greater buy-in by residents.
This community engagement should continue and grow as the city will continue to face new challenges. This participation, coupled with professional and reliable resources, will allow city staff and council to make the appropriate recommendations concerning future development, traffic considerations and density.
Burriss: The best way to grow, while preserving what makes Upper Arlington a community of distinction is to proactively include residents and small-business owners in decision-making.
In 2017, I proposed neighborhood commissions as a vehicle to consistently have engagement between residents and developers, allowing for more dialogue prior to plan submissions to BZAP. I stand by this or other proposals that will, in a proactive way, strengthen development projects and ensure they align with what UA wants to see within the community.
Having spent four years with Small Business Majority, a national nonprofit small-business organization, I'm uniquely qualified and connected to central Ohio's entrepreneurial community. Because entrepreneurs present the greatest economic growth potential, not just in Upper Arlington but nationally, our existing small-business owners must also be at the table.
If you are empathetic and genuinely listening, you'll hear that our residents' main concerns with new development projects are traffic, noise, parking and safety -- not building density and aesthetics. With our community members integrated early on, we can develop responsibly and meet their needs. It's our job to enhance the quality of life for UA residents and make positive changes that keep us great.
Casper: We have completed the River Ridge/Kingsdale West study and have begun to engage the community in the Lane Avenue Corridor Study with the help of a firm who will help us engage the community in all discussions. As I stated in No. 2, we must have thoughtful economic development. Until very recently, there was no plan. The lack of a plan will result in haphazard development.
We need to decide what we want for the long term in that area and then begin. This will help us move successfully into this new century for our city.
We need a plan for the trip. We must maintain the character and services that make our city the sought-after place it is to both live and work. This can be completed successfully with a plan that includes all of the community.