During last Wednesday’s (March 1) Sunbury Village Council meeting, Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield said with Census 2020 on the horizon, and the Village of Sunbury is on the cusp of becoming the City of Sunbury, it’s time to start thinking about establishing a Sunbury Charter Commission.
Sunbury would have the option to apply for charter status following the first census after a population of 5,000 (city status) is reached. With current estimates of Sunbury’s population already exceeding 5,000, that status is going to happen during Census 2020.
Of course, there’s the option of Sunbury electing to continue to operate under the Ohio Revise Code (ORC) umbrella as a statutory city, but that would not be an ideal situation, considering the growth facing eastern Delaware County.
According to the website Ballotpedia: “A chartered city, county or municipality is one that possesses a unique set of laws that forms the legal foundation of its local system of government. The actual legal document that articulates these laws is called a charter. Charters stand in relationship to a county, city, village or town the same way that a state constitution does to a state or a federal constitution does to a nation. They define the powers and functions of elected officials as well as the organization and procedures of local government.”
Sunbury has been led down the charter path before. According to ORC, Sunbury Village Council members always have had two charter options. Place the issue of establishing a village charter on a ballot; or let the natural tide of residential growth bring the charter issue to the village at its own pace.
In July of 2006, Sunbury Village Council members approved an ordinance that offered village voters the option of establishing a 15-member charter commission that could have framed a document incorporating the village. That document would have defined every aspect of village government falling under that corporate umbrella.
In 2006, advocates of a charter form of government for Sunbury pointed out that a statutory form of government mandated by Ohio Revised Code is an inflexible, one-size-fits-all, generic solution to the problems of how to structure and operate the village; opponents of a charter simply wanted their quiet little village to remain just that for a few more years … a quiet little village.
Voters rejected that move towards forming a charter form of government during the November 2006 General Election, and Sunbury continues to fall under guidelines set for villages by ORC.
Last Wednesday, Hatfield said the village is planning to have a newsletter ready for distribution in April. That newsletter would include charter information.
“About May or June, we would like to have a couple of information sessions and recruit people willing to serve on a charter commission,” Hatfield said. “Members of that commission would then meet one or two times a month for 12 to 18 months.”
Hatfield said he would like to see a Sunbury Charter item on the November ballot. To be placed on the ballot, the village would need to file a petition with the Delaware County Board of Elections signed by at least 10 percent of registered voters who voted in the previous General Election.
One final note about how fast the Village of Sunbury is growing. During Census 2000 Sunbury’s population was 2,630; Census 2010 numbers placed Sunbury’s population at 4,389; Census 2020 numbers are only a few years away, the village already exceeds that magic 5,000 number, and the residential population growth in eastern Delaware County is just beginning to accelerate.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.