Special to 1808Delaware

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance and ramifications of an announcement made in part by an open letter sent Wednesday to the citizens of Westerville.

In the letter, Monica Dupee, City Manager, shared:

“Dear Fellow Westerville Resident,

For more than 20 years, the northeast corner of Central Ohio has seen significant growth, with new retail, residential and commercial developments steadily springing up around us. Throughout all of this, Westerville has successfully preserved our history and high quality of life because our city has practiced careful, thoughtful planning to manage growth in a smart way. It’s one of the key reasons why Westerville has remained one of the most desirable places to live in Ohio.

The growth in our part of Central Ohio shows no signs of abating. In fact, it’s accelerating. 

Major new projects by Intel and other companies bring welcomed opportunities and prosperity. However, without continued careful planning and management, the growth that accompanies new development can have consequences like traffic congestion, over-stressed infrastructure and senseless sprawl. We must look ahead and continue to practice smart planning if we want to stay in control of our future.

That’s why we are excited to announce the City of Westerville and Harlem Township’s intent to merge.  

Like Westerville, Harlem Township’s residents value their hometown character and high quality of life. And, like Westerville, they see the growth coming all around them. Out of this shared set of values and concerns, conversations about a potential strategic partnership led to the idea of a merger and its benefits for both communities.

Mergers between communities are allowed under Ohio law in various ways, including if they are approved by both communities’ legislative bodies (Westerville’s City Council and the Harlem Township’s Board of Trustees) and also approved by a simple majority of each communities’ voters. With upcoming votes in the Westerville City Council and the Harlem Township Board of Trustees, our communities will develop a Merger Agreement under the law.

Throughout this process, residents of both communities will be kept informed and have the opportunity to have their voices heard. Answers to some questions that will immediately come to mind have been anticipated and can be found at www.westervilleharlem.org.

It’s important to note that no merger would impact either communities’ schools, since those are controlled by separate, independent school boards with their own borders, revenue and elected leaders. Other issues such as police and fire, parks and other city services will be thoroughly discussed and explored in joint conversations between the two communities’ leaders to see if a merger would be beneficial to residents. 

We know that talk of a merger will initially strike many people as a bold step. We believe it is, and we have been preparing for this moment. The time is right for this because Westerville is having a moment in growth, development and opportunity. And, we have always behaved with courage in times of change. From historic advocacy to our current vision, we have set a standard in local government. We don’t sit still.

We want to be the ones who control how change and development shape our community. That means thinking ahead, planning for different outcomes and giving our community every advantage to continue to be a place we want to live, work and raise a family, now and into the future.

You have the final say. 

In a few months, a Merger Agreement will be presented to the public. In November, you will have the chance to vote on the issue.

There will be many opportunities for engagement as well. Public meetings, listening sessions and other events will be published at www.westervilleharlem.org.

We look forward to the upcoming dialogue and are hopeful that, whatever the outcome, Westerville will continue to be a place where people come together to support each other.

Sincerely,

Monica Dupee, Westerville City Manager”

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay


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