If the idea of sticking up for your community before potential developers and Columbus City Council appeals to you, then here’s your chance.
At a special informational meeting held on April 5, members of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission (GHAC) announced there are four seats up for election on June 28 and they are seeking nominees.
“Last summer there were four seats open and only four people that competed in the elections,” said first year Commissioner Jennie Keplar. “I felt great about winning a seat, but I would have felt better if there was more competition.”
You do not have to be full of legal knowledge to be on an the commission, but you do have to meet certain qualifications. The candidate must be age 18 or older; they must be a resident of the incorporated areas of the city within the Greater Hilltop area; and each candidate must file a nominating petition for candidacy with the committee at least 30 days prior to the election date.
“I think a lot of people don’t want to be on the commission because they are intimidated by the big structure,” Keplar said. “It is a big deal, but it’s not a big deal and you shouldn’t let it affect whether you want to join it or not.”
Since 1981, there has been a huge population boom within the Greater Hilltop area. The 2005 Census stated that approximately 65,000 people lived in the area.
“I know we’ve had a huge Somali population boom, along with the Hispanic population and even the gay community is very active in the area,” Keplar said. “The Hilltop is becoming very diverse and I think the commission needs to grow and diversify with the need of the community.”
Keplar described area commissions as a liaison between the neighborhood and city council.
“Area commissions are very important. I was very young when the Hilltop one started, but I know city council used to base their judgments of zoning issues solely on what the business was providing. There wasn’t a whole lot of communication between the city and the communities so then you could see people opening bars in residential areas,” said Keplar.
That was back in the early 1980s, and things have changed since then. Now, area commissions primarily hear the issues related to zoning changed, variance requests, code enforcements and development within the community. After those requests are heard, their recommendations are sent to city staff and to the appropriate legislative offices.
“The commission is not an all governing power,” Keplar said. “We are representatives and we do try our hardest to represent the majority of the residents. We do not eliminate the rights of others to disagree with us and they have the right to go before city council and speak their minds.”
There are nine committees within the GHAC. They include the community relations committee, the government and legislative committee, human services and education committee and the parks and recreation committee.
While on the commission, you can volunteer for any committee, but do not have to be on all of them.
“It’s all about how much you can handle,” Keplar said.
Each committee has different meeting dates they should attend, but all are required to go to the GHAC meetings every first Tuesday of each month.
“Being on a commission is a serious time commitment,” she said. “It’s hard to find people that have the time to put into this, but we are all good servant to the community. It takes a lot of dedication, but it is a very rewarding experience.
At the meeting, the members passed out packets chock full of information on what is required of the candidate, and the rules that go along with the nomination. If you wish to learn more about the process or try to get on the ballot, there are informational packets and signature sheets available at the Hilltop Library located at 511 S. Hague Avenue, Columbus Ohio 43204.