By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The Stillwater Chamber of Commerce invited residents to attend its City Council forum to ask questions of the prospective council candidates Friday morning.
Candidates for City Council Seat 2, Gina Noble and Philip Pina, as well as candidate for City Council Seat 1, Joe Weaver, attended the forum. The other candidate for City Council Seat 1, Micah LeFebvre, was not able to attend.
The moderator for the event was Government Affairs Committee Chairman Don Gable.
Among the topics posed to the candidates was their beliefs on incentivizing new companies in industry and retail.
Pina said his viewpoint had changed since joining the City Council less than a year ago.
“I personally, at this stage, do not believe in tax incentives,” he said. “But what I do believe in is partnerships.”
Pina said Stillwater has been burned by tax breaks.
Weaver said Stillwater is seeing growth and he hopes that 2013 will be a year of more exciting announcements.
“If we get the community to grow in a measured way, in a thoughtful way, that adds things to the community, then we’re going to be in a better position,” Weaver said.
“So, I’m certainly open to listening to what kind of package we might put together to attract an ASCO or any other business, whether it be retail or industry or whatever.”
However, Weaver said the city should consider certain criteria before doing so, including if it will provide quality jobs and help the community grow.
Noble said she looks to support existing and new businesses when it comes to incentives.
“If we’re going to incentivize, it needs to be planned and there needs to be a level playing field,” she said.
“I think we need to make sure that we’re looking to protect those who have already established a business here, who haven’t been incentivized when you’re looking to bring someone in.”
Another question given to the candidates was their vision for growth on the west side of Stillwater. Noble said the west side of town has unique opportunities.
“We have to consider infrastructure when we’re planning for probably any side of the city, but especially the west side,” Noble said.
“There’s plenty of opportunity for retail, shopping, entertainment and there’s lot of opportunities for more single-home families, for multi-families and I believe when you’re looking in the City of Stillwater, you have to look at all the infrastructure when you’re planning and you have to combine planned growth, economic development and infrastructure.”
Pina said that while water is an issue on the west side of town currently, he believes the city will have a handle on it by 2014.
He said the west side would be a great opportunity to speak about buffer zones.
“If we’re going to go into the west side, now is a perfect chance to begin to really plan how we’re going to do this,” he said.
“When I say buffer zones, let’s say we have a single-family here and we want to do multi-family over here. What should be put in between them to make sure one doesn’t bleed into the other and one does not believe the other has an advantage in terms of security or privacy?”
Weaver said growth will continue along State Highway 51 as residents approach I-35. However, the City Council should stay on top of it.
“It’s going to develop,” he said. “But we want to be mindful of the traffic. We want to be mindful of the intersections and access to the existing businesses that are out there. We want to make sure that as that develops out there, we can still maintain the accessibility and the traffic flow and all those sorts of things as it does develop out.”
A full transcript of each candidate’s response to the questions is available at www.stwnewspress.com.