Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield has responded to some online criticism regarding the village’s handling of a proposed rezoning.
An audience full of Estates at Cheshire residents attended the Feb. 17 Sunbury Village Council meeting, concerned about the Northgate commerce district zoning-change application that was amended and approved by the Village Planning & Zoning Commission Feb. 15.
That zoning change request was on council’s agenda. The ordinance had had two readings by council before being tabled and sent back to the zoning commission.
Concerned about the conflict between the village and area residents objecting to the commercial development, and how those concerns are being played out on social media, Hatfield opened the Feb. 17 meeting with a statement, noting especially remarks some folks made on social media about his family.
“As the mayor, I have a responsibility to the residents of the village of Sunbury, a responsibility that I take very seriously,” Hatfield said. “I decided to run for mayor because I thought I could make a difference, and I’m confident all of the zoning board and council members feel the same way. As difficult as it may be personally, I will never resolve to play in the space of social media. It doesn’t do any good for the residents or for the village. This is especially difficult when untruths are spread, or when my family and children are brought into the discussion.
“Sunbury has spent much time and a lot of effort to ensure that we, the village, do what is best for the entire community — our neighbors, the schools, other political subdivisions and, most importantly, the residents of the village of Sunbury.”
Noting the concerns of the residents of the Estates at Cheshire, located in Berkshire Township, Hatfield said the buffer between the proposed commercial development and existing residential development was adjusted, pavement and building setbacks were extended, and a graduated building height standard set.
Also noting that a stub to the north is controlled by Delaware County in the Estates at Cheshire, Hatfield said the village would work with residents to prevent that stub from becoming a road in and out of the Northgate commerce center.
“This is an unusual set of circumstances,” Hatfield said. “I will never commit to something I cannot control. Delaware County has input with road access, and we will work with them also. We are committed to our partnership with the county.”
Hatfield also spoke about the positive impact that the Northgate New Community Authority would have on local schools.
“Sunbury wants to see people and developments pay their fair share for the impact their development places on the community,” Hatfield said. “All of Northgate will have a self-imposed tax that will support our schools, our fire department, and our library.”
Hatfield said that while he considers himself a Big Walnut resident, as an elected official of the village, he has a responsibility to make certain he is working to improve Sunbury.
“Every decision that we make is in support of the village of Sunbury,” Hatfield said. “Unfortunately, there is no staying the same. As much as I would like to see Sunbury stay the way that it is, I know realistically that’s not possible. We had a choice. We could either put our head in the sand and let happen what happens, or be involved and participate.”
Hatfield said there was no question in his mind that village elected and appointed officials are doing what they believe is right and best for all concerned as they address commercial growth.
“Sometimes what’s best for all is not always best for some,” Hatfield said. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t work tirelessly to do what we can, and I know that Sunbury has done that and will continue to do that.
“As for transparency, Sunbury has led the pack in recording all of our meetings, providing agendas, and making all material available on the website for residents” Hatfield added. “We proactively provide any and all material that people could want, and I can assure you that I will always treat people with dignity and respect.”
During the council meeting, village Solicitor David Brehm explained that the Northgate zoning change request that was remanded to the zoning commission was amended and approved by members of the zoning commission.
Council members scheduled a public hearing for the amended zoning change request immediately preceding the Wednesday, April 6, council meeting. Brehm said the ordinance would remain tabled until that public hearing.