Changes Suggested In Ridges Advisory Committee’s Structure

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Ohio University has proposed a change in state law regarding the structure of The Ridges Advisory Committee.

OU spokesman Katie Quaranta said an amendment was added to House Bill 59, the state budget bill.

“The purpose of the proposed changes is to update the committee’s reporting structure so that members are appointed by and advise the president,” Quaranta said. “This change is more reflective of the university’s operational structure.”

Quaranta said OU President Roderick McDavis discussed the proposed change with local leaders and asked for their feedback prior to its inclusion in the budget bill.

County Commissioner Charlie Adkins said he was one of the people asked to review the proposed changes and to comment. Adkins said he did not have any objections.

“It (the revised committee) gives people an opportunity to be at the table and have discussion, and that’s what we wanted all along, to have a dialogue,” Adkins said.

The original advisory committee was established in the 1988 legislation that transferred 668 acres of former mental health center property to the university, property now known as The Ridges. The committee has not met for many years, but the question of whether it should still be active was raised earlier this year by Ron Luce, executive director of the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, who was objecting to demolition of a building at The Ridges. McDavis and other OU officials met in March with local government leaders, after which it was announced that the committee would be re-established to give input as the university updates its master plan for The Ridges.

While the original 1988 legislation said that the OU Board of Trustees “shall” establish an advisory committee, the provision in the budget bill says the OU president “may” create an advisory committee.

Under the new language the role of the committee is to review the comprehensive plan for The Ridges and any updates, and to periodically review and comment on implementation of the land use plan.

The 1988 law specifically said the committee was to make recommendations on the land use plan and on any revisions. At that time, the original land use plan was being developed.

There are some differences in the make-up of the committee.

The new language requires the OU president or a designee to be on the committee and serve as chairman, a provision not in the 1988 law. The mayor of Athens, or a designee, is still a member.

The new language says the OU president (rather than the trustees) will appoint an Athens County commissioner and one to three Athens County residents with knowledge or experience in land use planning, preservation or economic development.

The 1988 law required inclusion of an Athens Twp. trustee and three or more Athens County residents with planning, preservation or economic development knowledge.