By Christine Bryant
When Reynoldsburg voters head to the polls Nov. 7, they will vote on five proposed charter amendments that city officials say are long overdue.
The public reserves the right to collect signatures for a petition to change a section in the city’s charter, and every five years, the Reynoldsburg City Charter Review Commission meets to discuss any suggested amendments.
At the most recent convening of the bipartisan commission, members unanimously adopted five suggested amendments Joseph Bizjak, who served as the chairman, says will help make Reynoldsburg a better place to live and grow.
“Our charter has provisions that are out of date, as well as hampering the ability of city council and our citywide officeholders to accomplish what they must to ensure a safe, sustainable and successful Reynoldsburg,” he said.
After the commission adopted the amendment suggestions, Reynoldsburg City Council approved the addition of them to the November ballot. As the final step in the approval process, voters must now approve them with a simple majority.
“These provisions that the commission and council have worked to address have not been touched in decades and were designed for a city that had different needs than the city of Reynoldsburg we are familiar with today,” Bizjak said.
The amendments will help streamline government and promote a business-friendly environment, while still allowing public input and participation in the processes of the city, he said.
“It is time that the city and its residents be granted the opportunity to be innovative and develop a brighter future for Reynoldsburg, and these amendments are a brick in that foundation for a better tomorrow,” Bizjak said.
#21 Purchasing and Contracting
This change to the city’s charter would allow city council to set competitive bidding levels, as well as require that the purchase of supplies, materials, equipment and construction of public improvements for the city made through open, competitive bidding.
Bizjak said the amendment provides for council to have flexibility when it comes to bidding out contracts, but would still require two-thirds support of council and be subject to scrutiny in meetings where the public can comment, such as at city council meetings.
This amendment would grant city council the authority to establish its own manner of publicizing city meetings at a minimum of 10 days notice ahead of the meeting.
“As technology and access to information is changing, so must the means in which the city communicates with its residents,” Bizjak said.
While the city currently publishes notices in local newspapers, this amendment would allow the city to use alternatives, such as websites or social media.
“This also gives the city council the ability to find alternative, more cost-effective ways to publicize meetings while still reaching its residents, pending approval of the voters,” he said.
#23 Planning Commission
If approved, this amendment would reform the appointment process for the Planning Commission by removing partisan requirements, as well as requiring that the mayor makes a recommendation to council, followed by the concurring or rejection of the mayor’s appointment.
Currently, Planning Commission members are appointed in a partisan manner, with the appointments alternating between council and the mayor, Bizjak said. This process would be simplified and remove the requirements.
“Furthermore, the amendment seeks to more clearly define the scope and actions that the planning commission can take in the city and bring it more in line with 21st century local government practices,” he said.
#24 BZA Appeals
Much like the planning commission amendment, this removes partisan requirements on the Board of Zoning and Building Appeals to allow more opportunities for Reynoldsburg residents to serve, Bizjak said.
Currently, to serve on the board, members must be an elector of the city and then a member of a political party to fill the partisan positions, preferably with a background in zoning and building processes, he said. Board members also cannot be employees for the city.
Changes to this section of the charter also allow for the mayor to recommend a member and for council to concur or reject the candidate, and allows the board to make advisory recommendations to the council and Planning Commission on the areas it oversees.
#25 Zoning Measures
This amendment clarifies language in the zoning measures section of the charter in regards to which meetings involving zoning issues are publicized to Reynoldsburg’s residents, which zoning issues are to be heard, and the voting threshold that council must meet to either pass a measure by the Planning Commission or pass a measure that is different from what is recommended.
If voters approve, to pass the same measure as the commission recommends, council must have a majority in favor. To pass a different measure would require three-fourths support of council, Bizjak said.
“This amendment, if adopted by the voters, will allow new businesses and entrepreneurs to look at our zoning laws and actions, and not get bogged down by ambiguities or confusion in the law, thus streamlining the process,” he said. “As Reynoldsburg grows, this allows for changes to the zoning process to be made more efficiently.”