The Village of Sunbury has been on a roller coaster ride over the past decade, and during 2016 the impact of rapid commercial and residential development in eastern Delaware County came into sharp focus. The old saying that the only constant is change is truer than ever, and in the case of Sunbury that change is accelerating, perhaps faster than many folks would prefer.
Growth in eastern Delaware County is not going away. The growth bubble to the south that expanded Westerville and the Olentangy School District is expanding northward, and that growth bubble is not going to go around Sunbury and leave it untouched – it would be nice if it did, but that’s not the world we live in.
Many area folks like to get on social media and complain about growth, thinking that would make a difference, but members of Sunbury Village Council, the Village of Sunbury Planning & Zoning Commission, and village administrators have to take a more realistic approach. They understand that it’s not in their power to stop growth, but what they can do is meet growth at the village’s doorstep and control its impact on the village.
Last week, during a phone conversation, Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield called the growth facing Sunbury both a challenge and an opportunity.
“First of all, you can’t dwell on the past,” Hatfield said. “You have to embrace change and be as positive as you can because, in general, change is good. Change brings opportunities along with it, but those opportunities come with a cost, and that’s what concerns me.”
Hatfield said while the village has been preparing for change for many years, during the past three years the village began a concentrated effort to accommodate growth – residential and commercial.
“Planning was a big part of our activities during 2016,” Hatfield said. “We approved our new Village of Sunbury Comprehensive Master Plan, and the fact that we were all working together as a planning group made an effective document as we move into 2017.”
Hatfield said the village’s master plan is a living document; that village council members, members of the zoning commission, village administrators, and interested village residents and business leaders would continue to review the newly-crafted master plan and recommend revisions as the demands of growth become more apparent.
During the past two years the village expanded to the west with serial Type II Expedited Annexations; Pulte Homes bought out Dominion Homes and inherited the 700 plus home Sunbury Meadows development; and Pat Shively, et al, accelerated plans to develop NorthGate Commerce District at the Ohio Department of Transportation’s proposed I-71 southern interchange.
“This past year Pulte Homes moved to the east side of State Route 3, and when you look at the Price Property and the property on Golf Course Road, with those three developments the village is going to see the biggest jump in housing starts and house price points the village has ever seen,” Hatfield said. “We expect to post a new record in house starts in 2017.”
Hatfield also noted that construction started on Sunbury Christian Church; Vince Romanelli is exploring higher end multi-family units on Granville Street; Kroger Retail B is going in; and NorthGate Commerce Center’s plans to move forward accelerated.
NorthGate recently got a boost when ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council released $5 million in TRAC Tier II funds for I-71 southern interchange right of way acquisitions. As NorthGate develops a new roadway entirely within village limits will connect the core of Sunbury with NorthGate.
“Construction on the southern interchange should start in 2018,” Hatfield said. “We expect a JEDD (Joint Economic Development District) in the area in 2018. A JEDD will make for a great development without placing a burden on our community and our schools.”
Hatfield also said that Sunbury managed to travel through the recent recession without too many financial difficulties by belt-tightening.
“Financially, Sunbury is in great shape,” Hatfield said. “We’ve used a conservative approach as we’ve developed and executed our plans. Looking ahead at 2017, we’re fixing sidewalks on both sides of the 37 east hill when ODOT repaves State Route 37 through the village, we’re installing a storm sewer along Cherry Street, and creating a parking lot on the old Martindale property – we’ll be able to do all three of those projects without going into debt.”
Hatfield said 2016 was more than just working through growing pains and paving projects, it was also a yearlong birthday party.
“The village’s bicentennial year was a really big deal,” Hatfield said. “”There was no one single substantial event, but all of the smaller events throughout the year brought people together. Planning the bicentennial was truly a community event. The village, the Big Walnut Civic Association, the Sunbury/Big Walnut Chamber of Commerce, local churches, and a host of individuals all came together to celebrate our village’s past, present, and, looking ahead, our future. And that’s what makes Sunbury so special – the people.”
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.