By Sandi Latimer
Columbus City Council President Andrew Ginther learned firsthand what Westland area residents consider their main concerns.
Ginther visited the Westland Area Commission at its May 20 meeting, coming to the far west side after members sent a letter to the city saying they felt ignored.
“We’re going through a lot of transitions in Columbus,” Ginther said greeting his audience of commission members and a few area residents. “Some of you may have been disappointed that not much has happened on the west side. The next 20 years will be inspiring.”
Ginther even mentioned the work being done in Highland West where the recreation center is being remodeled and Neighborhood Pride will be visiting in July.
The council president was questioned about what the city is doing for development on the far west side.
“We’re west of I-270,” said Nancy Day-Achauer. “What are you doing for the Westland area?”
Then commissioners addressed their concerns. Top among those concerns was the need for a park, an issue commissioners have been pursuing for years.
“I’ve been driving by those 40 acres; 40 acres where we were promised a park,” said Ashley Hoye.
The city’s recreation and parks department had talked with commissioners about constructing a regional community center and said three locations were seeking centers, but the city could only build two.
After the city experienced a decline in revenue and won approval for an income tax increase, recreation plans changed to soccer fields on the site, but that was never developed.
“The city dropped the ball on the recreation center and park development,” said commission chairman Scott Taylor.
After the city stalled on recreation plans, Prairie Township won approval for a Joint Economic Development Zone which meant an increase in income tax for employees of businesses fronting Broad Street. Funds from that tax are channeled to Obetz and returned to the township since by law townships cannot levy taxes.
Jim Kennedy wanted to know why the city refused to handle those JEDZ funds, sending the township to Obetz for administrative work.
That money is being used for the township’s recreation center that is to open in June.
“We are fortunate the township is picking up the slack” in recreation opportunities, said David Van Order.
“But we still don’t have any playing fields,” Day-Achauer said.
Marian Hymer wanted to know if any council members or other city leaders lived in the area, to which Ginther replied that none did, and went on to support the at-large system for electing council members.
“I’m responsible to all of you,” Ginther said, adding that if members were elected by wards, they would only be responsible to people who live in that ward.
On another topic, Kennedy complained that the area’s master plan approved 21 years ago was never acted upon.
“We’ll have to dust off that plan and see what services we can offer,” Ginther said.
Lincoln Village North resident Donald Donofrio looked to the upcoming election in the city as a way of getting attention.
“With a new mayor and some council members, we’ll have the opportunity to reset the situation,” he said. “This will be an opportunity to let the new members know what is going on out here.”
Commissioners were grateful that the council president attended the meeting to listen to their concerns. After listening to commissioners, Ginther promised to visit more often, perhaps making annual visits.