Zoning, township-city relations, and the importance of the arts to a community's quality of life - these subjects and more were touched on at a candidates' luncheon in Perrysburg last week sponsored by the Perrysburg Area Chamber of Commerce.
All nine city and township candidates - seven vying for seats on Perrysburg City Council and two running for the Perrysburg Township Board of Trustees - attended the event at the Carranor Club.
In the city, incumbents Tom Mackin, Tim McCarthy, and Kevin Rantanen face opposition from challengers John Kevern, Joe Rutherford, Cal Smith, and Robert Young.
In the township, Trustee Craig LaHote is challenged by James Neu.
Written questions were submitted by the chamber's executive committee and the audience.
A chamber question addressed only to council candidates asked if zoning should be changed to accommodate business. Mr. Smith noted that the question seemed to stem from the situation at State Rt. 25 and Roachton Road, where developers seek rezoning at the southeast corner for a retail development that would include a Kroger store. The property is in the township, but residents hope the city will impose restrictions to reduce traffic.
"I believe we should try to accommodate a business as long as it fits in our plan," Mr. Smith said, adding that Kroger "has tried hard to accommodate us. We need to let the private sector take over and if it fits then I'm for it."
Mr. Kevern said the planned Kroger would be in "our commercial establishment corridor. I don't think there should be apartments out there."
Mr. McCarthy noted the city regularly works with companies and developers. "We can find a place for any business or economic opportunity to locate," he explained.
Mr. Rutherford, a member of the city's master plan review committee, observed that most complaints from residents are about too much asphalt and not enough trees. Rather than vistas of U.S. 20, they want more downtown, he continued.
Mr. Mackin observed that zoning is part of long-term planning. "It all goes back to planning where the community is going and where it wants to go."
The township candidates were asked if the township should be threatening the city with a lawsuit, as it has done over the development of a Wal-Mart on U.S. 20 in the township. The city required its own planning review and approval because it was supplying water and sewer service.
Mr. LaHote answered that the Wood County prosecutor called the city's action illegal. Mr. Neu agreed.
There was no disagreement on a question from the audience about whether the city's funding of the Perrysburg Area Arts Council was a good use of public resources. All of the council candidates said yes. Mr. Young, however, believed the financial support should be weighed against the level of public participation and evaluated on a yearly basis.
The township candidates were asked if their residents were free riders when it came to using such amenities as the Perrysburg City Pool and the Way Library, neither of which is supported by township taxes.
Mr. LaHote noted that township residents do pay to use the pool. Mr. Neu answered that representatives of both communities should "sit down together" and come up with a fair solution.