If only one issue can be identified as the single most controversial in this year’s Roswell municipal elections, it would be the Unified Development Code.
“The litmus test will be the candidate’s position on the zoning, or UDC,” said Michael Nyden, a former city council candidate who is one of the organizers of Wednesday's Decision Roswell 2013 candidate debate.
“The rest of the issues will probably not impact the outcome in any race, and though important, pale in long term impact for our city and more importantly, our homeowners.”
But only half of the six candidates running for office will be participating.
“The reasons that were conveyed to me were scheduling conflicts,” said former Roswell city councilwoman Lori Henry, who spearheaded the organization of the debate.
“For the sake of the residents I hope that they are able to resolve their scheduling conflicts. I have never heard of a candidate declining the opportunity to inform and educate the residents of Roswell regarding their positions on the issues at hand.”
Two weeks' notice
Henry said invitations went out to all candidates on Oct. 10, less than two weeks prior to the debate.
Council incumbent Kent Igleheart and candidates Kendra Cox and Eric Schumacher will be at the event.
Post 6 incumbent Nancy Diamond cited a previous commitment that evening.
“Had I known a little sooner, I certainly would have it on the schedule. The other two debates were scheduled long ago. I remember hearing about the one at city hall in July,” she said.
Harvey Smith, who is challenging post 4 incumbent Kent Igleheart, said he was unable to rearrange his schedule to accommodate the event. “I’m not running from my opponent. It was the late invitation, nothing more, nothing less,” he said. “You’d think we would have gotten more advance notice.”
Councilman Jerry Orlans, who is the post 5 incumbent, said when he got the invitation to Decision Roswell 2013, he had already committed to “a fairly important and large meet-and-greet that same night.”
Orlans said he would keep his word to attend that event and wanted to apologize in advance to residents who come to Wednesday's debate.
“If they want to hear all of the candidates, there is another forum,” he said.
On Oct. 29, the inaugural RoswellNEXT candidate debate is at 7 p.m. at High Meadows School, 1055 Willeo Road, Roswell. The public is encouraged to submit questions at the www.roswellnext.org website.
The Decision Roswell debate is sponsored by an alliance of homeowners associations that includes Martin’s Landing, Horseshoe Bend, Sentinel on the River, Brookfield Country Club and Edenwilde.
Willow Springs withdraws sponsorship
One of the HOAs listed originally as a sponsor as since withdrawn. Willow Springs Civic Affairs Director Joe Piontek emailed Henry and Nyden with that decision after news broke that three candidates would not be at the debate.
“When my subdivision received notice of this debate on October 8, we naturally assumed all six candidates would have been contacted and a mutually agreeable date set. I was surprised to see their invitations only go out last Thursday,” Piontek wrote.
In a follow-up phone call to a reporter, Piontek said that without three of the candidates, the event “is not going to be a debate, it’s a monologue.”
UDC was catalyst for debate
Decision Roswell 2013 begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the multipurpose room at East Roswell Park. Questions were submitted by the HOAs and the final list of questions was shaped by the debate committee.
Nyden and Henry organized the event, with the UDC as the motivating factor, according to Nyden.
“The idea for the debate was based on Lori’s great idea to organize HOAs to raise questions, and my fear that the massive rezoning might be soft-pedaled in other forums,” he said.
Henry said her primary reason for pulling this debate together was to raise awareness of the upcoming elections.
“Secondly, [it was] to offer all the candidates to communicate their positions on the issues that are facing our city and neighborhoods. The UDC certainly tops the list,” she said.
“With the exception of the Women's Club ‘Forum’ the other debates and/or forums are being sponsored by special interest groups. I envisioned a true debate, inclusive of rebuttals, on the topics that are important to our residents.
“Call me crazy but I don't see a downside to communicating with our residents so that they can make good decisions in the voting booth.”
Debate organizers have a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ERPdebate, to keep people updated on the event.
“The response and interest has been greater, actually far greater, than we hoped for,” Nyden said in an email.
“Given the interest generated, we’ll keep trying to make sure that our homeowners, through their HOAs, get information on the candidates’ views on the issues that they select.”