SWAC looks for new members

In 2004, local entities wanted to put a tire burning power plant in place of the trash burning power plant on Jackson Pike, located near Interstate 71.

When news of the plan hit the nearby community, residents rallied and started the Southwest Neighbors Protecting Our Environment organization and brought up the question of how can we have a bigger say in what goes in on our neighborhoods, and be the first to hear about it.

Some residents went through government channels, such as Columbus Council and other area commissions and formed a task force to try to get an area commission in the Southwest side of Columbus.

"I thought an area commission would be a good way to have better changes of getting our voices heart if we were a group," said Roy Bertossi, who has been a commissioner with the Southwest Area Commission since it was established in late 2004.

The commission is now looking for new members.

An area commission is appointed by the city of Columbus to be the voice of the area before zoning or developmental propositions move onto council chambers. The commission also hears local zoning issues, concerns, ideas and proposed developments within their commission boundaries.

"The biggest issue that is happening right now for us is the redevelopment, or rather proposed redevelopment of Cooper Stadium," said Bertossi.

At the last commission meeting on June 18, members of the commission were upset that Columbus and developers with Arshot Investment Corp. have not discussed plans to turn the old stadium into a motorsports complex complete with restaurants, a speedway, a drag strip and a go-kart track.

"We think there are other options that can be done with the stadium, but we would just like to talk with them about it," Bertossi said.

Bertossi said he became involved with the commission because he wanted to help the area in which he lives and hopes other people want to do the same.

Each year, area commissions hold elections, usually on a day where there is a public event with a large gathering. The Greater Hilltop Area Commission held theirs on their annual community Bean Dinner, and the Southwest Area Commission will be holding theirs on Aug. 5 during the Westbrook Eastfield Neighborhood Association’s National Night Out celebration.

The commission is looking for candidates who want to run for an elected seat, as there are currently three seats up for election.

"There are not a lot of requirements to be a commissioner," said Bertossi, who is the election coordinator. "You have to be 18 years or older, live, own property or work within the area."

The commission’s boundaries are the Scioto River (east), I-270 (south), the railroad tracks west of US 62 (west), Mound Street/Mt. Calvery Avenue/Renick Street/Columbus city line and Greenlawn Avenue (north).

Bertossi said the ideal candidate should be very committed, as the elected member will be serving on a three-year term.

"It is a volunteer position which means you won’t be getting paid, and you really have to put in time for the commission," he noted.

The meetings are held once a month (every third Wednesday), but members are asked to attend special meeting when they occur, such as a recent daytime meeting where commission members discussed adding a bus route with COTA. They are also encouraged to attend monthly meetings when the Southwest Area Plan is discussed.

"I would say the area plan is our commission’s biggest accomplishment to date," Bertossi said. "We got the city, Franklin County, Jackson Township and even Urbancrest to help with the development of the plan."

Regarding the area plan, Bertossi said it would be used as a guide for future developments of the area, such as the Frank Road corridor.

"Frank Road is an inter-mix of development that is not exactly compatible," he said.

"Behind residential areas is what looks like a semi-truck parking lot, there are commercial and industrial businesses going down Frank Road, and there are a number of businesses that are close to residential areas.

"It’s like there was no thought as to what is appropriate for the area."

The commission hopes the area plan will be able to set things in motion to making the area friendlier, safer and aesthetically pleasing.

"When you’re on a commission, you have to look at both sides of the issue, but the mainly thing is to have the area’s best interest at heart," Bertossi said.

He added that there has not been a lot of interest for becoming a candidate or voting for the election, but wants that to change this time around.

"Individuals who are interested in having their name appear on the ballot need to submit a statement as to why they should be elected," he said.

The statement has to be received by 5 p.m. on July 31. Candidate statements can be submitted to either election@columbusswac.org or to the Southwest Area Commission, P.O. Box 1364, Grove City, Ohio 43123.

As for voting in the election and the National Night Out celebration, both will be held on Aug. 5 between 6 and 8 p.m. The celebration will be at Finland Elementary School, located at 1835 Finland Ave.

"We would like to have more candidates and a stronger voter turnout this time," Bertossi said. "There were 18 or 19 people who voted last year, which was more people than the previous year."

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