ROSWELL, Ga. – The first candidate forum of the 2013 Roswell election was held Oct. 22 at City Hall, at the traditional Roswell Woman’s Club Forum.
All six City Council candidates were in attendance to field questions posed by the audience and moderator, Hatcher Hurd, executive editor of Appen Newspapers.
The discussion boiled down to essentially one question – are you in favor of the Unified Development Code or against?
Roswell is working on implementing the overhaul of its antiquated zoning rules, however many residents are upset at the many changes to zoning, potential for allowing more apartments and a perceived arrogance on the part of the city for not taking resident concerns into account.
Candidates include Post 4 incumbent Kent Igleheart and Harvey Smith, Post 5 incumbent Jerry Orlans and Eric Schumacher and Post 6 incumbent Nancy Diamond and Kendra Myers Cox. Each candidate was asked a series of questions about the important issues facing the city.
The election is Nov. 5.
“I fully support change and growth and redevelopment, but I want to make sure it’s done right or else we all pay the price,” said Kent Igleheart.
Igleheart advocated focusing on the city’s blighted and run-down areas rather than making sweeping, city-wide changes. A measured approach was best, he said.
“Let’s focus on specific places, strip shopping centers, the areas of Ga. 9 with used car lots and run down apartments,” he said. “Let’s focus on those spots.”
Harvey Smith, said the UDC will act as a template for the city’s redevelopment.
“This is a template that will allow other developers to come to Roswell,” Smith said.
Smith advocated working on public-private partnerships, such as the successful Roswell Business Alliance – now “Roswell Inc” – to help improve the city’s redevelopment process.
“That helps foster an atmosphere to bring developers in,” Smith said.
Eric Schumacher said he is running because he sees council as isolating itself from the people.
“I don’t feel the city is open to debate on topics truly important to us,” Schumacher said.
A case-in-point, he said was at the UDC meetings. When he asked a question about the plans, Schumacher said he was taken to another room for a one-on-one discussion with a staffer, rather than an open discussion.
“Change is good,” he said, “but a lot of people who moved here want that small town feel.”
Jerry Orlans, a 20-year veteran of the council, said redevelopment is already underway in parts of Roswell. A case-in-point is the Groveway Community, just south of Canton Street, which recently underwent a new form-based zoning that aims to create mixed-use developments in the area.
“This is a way to help redevelop [an area in need of redevelopment],” Orlans said. “In three, four, five years from now, you’ll see the Canton Street area expand.”
Nancy Diamond is seeking a second term and supports working on the UDC.
“We cannot have a healthy city without healthy business community,” Diamond said. “[But] having a conversation with 90,000 people takes time and it can be messy.”
Keeping Fulton County out of city affairs is important, she said, when asked why Roswell needs to be in the water business.
“It’s more than just us being in the water business,” she said. “We would be ceding control over to Fulton and we have a permit to draw from Big Creek, something that would not be available to us again. In simple math, it looks like a small number of people [served on Roswell water], but the autonomy and lack of dependence on the county is important.”
Kendra Myers Cox
Kendra Myers Cox fielded a question on whether Roswell should elect or appoint a municipal judge. While the city charter allows it, Roswell is now the only city in the state not to appoint its judge.
“We need to think about the ramifications and what it will mean [for Roswell],” Cox said. “When I look at elected judges, there is a concern that turns a judge into a politician. But if we move to an appointed system, that sets it up for cronyism.
“Roswell has a lot of challenges coming,” Cox said. “It’s growing very fast. We need to be measured and thoughtful in how we grow.”