Traffic, development ‘angst’ sullies survey results

ThisWeek News – July 23, 2014

Most Powell residents enjoy living here, but worry over two issues growing, says latest city questionnaire.

While 96 percent of residents consider Powell an “exceptional” or “better than average” place to live, not everything looked so sunny on a recent survey of city residents.

Concerns over traffic and development have led to “a level of angst not seen in previous surveys,” according to the firm that conducted the survey.

“Arguably, these two issues have caused what looks to be a small but discernible erosion of popular support for the city’s efforts to revitalize downtown, plan for the future and keep residents informed of important issues,” said Martin Saperstein, of Columbus-based Saperstein Associates.

Saperstein announced the results of his firm’s biennial survey of residents at Powell City Council’s July 15 meeting. The firm conducted the survey of more than 400 registered voters in the city between May 12-20.

The margin of error for the sample was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

About 35 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the city’s efforts to manage traffic. That’s down from 45 percent in 2010 and 2012 and 43 percent in 2008.

About 37 percent of this year’s respondents said they were dissatisfied with the city’s response to traffic issues, while 27 percent said they were very dissatisfied.

More residents said traffic should be among city officials’ “highest priorities” than in years past. About 56 percent of residents listed traffic as a top priority in this year’s survey, up more than 12 percentage points compared with each of the three previous surveys.

Saperstein said the public’s concerns regarding traffic may have been heightened by the construction project that closed state Route 750 at state Route 315 between March 17 and June 20. That project was expected to be finished in late May, but its completion was delayed twice.

Although the Ohio Department of Transportation oversaw the project, which took place outside city limits in Liberty Township, Saperstein said it still could have negatively affected residents’ views of the city.

“It places a burden on council to communicate that it’s not your problem,” he said.

About 25 percent of people surveyed said residential and commercial growth should be among city officials’ highest priorities. That had never been mentioned as a top priority by more than 16 percent of residents in the previous three surveys.

About 68 percent of residents said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the way the city has handled residential growth — down from 81 percent in 2012.

Nearly one of every five residents surveyed said the city should make limiting or stopping new multifamily housing developments a priority.

In other findings from the survey:

• About 80 percent of respondents agreed the city was “headed in the right direction.” That’s down 8 percent from 2012, but up slightly compared with results from 2008 and 2010.

• About 84 percent of residents said a greater variety of restaurants would make downtown Powell more appealing.

• More than 90 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or very satisfied with both the Powell Police Department and the Liberty Township Fire Department.

• About 93 percent of residents said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the city’s snow removal services.