Ross Twp. selects new trustee to fill vacated seat

The Ross Twp. trustees have selected Russ McGurrin, a vocal opponent of the proposed $350 million Burns Farm development, as the newest trustee because he is so engaged in the community.

Trustees Keith Ballauer and John Fisher gave the nod to McGurrin a week ago to fill the seat vacated by Jen Patterson. Patterson left office May 31 after just a year to devote more time to her family.

McGurrin was one of eight candidates vying for the spot and he will need to run in November to keep his seat. This was the third time he tried to get on the board, first when long-time trustee Tom Willsey died and again when Ellen Yordy retired after 19 years at the end of last year.

Ballauer told the Journal-News they chose McGurrin because he has remained very active in the community even though plans for the controversial $350 million Burns Farm development has been basically dormant for over a year.

“For me it was his involvement over the last couple years and just being a face in the crowd that he has an interest,” Ballauer said. “A few of the resumes I know them, some I didn’t, but I’d never seen them one township event, one trustees meeting, I think they were just answering an ad in the paper.”

Fisher said McGurrin was the best candidate because he is the most engaged in the community and its issues. He said he believes the three trustees will work well together.

“What made him stand out was his engagement with the community and that really stems from him knowing what’s going on, because he’s attending the majority of the meetings, he was very connected,” Fisher said. “He researches his issues and always approaches things with a good background on things.”

McGurrin, 60, told the Journal-News he wants residents to know “my philosophy of government is that the opinion of one person should never outweigh the will of the many.” He said the biggest challenge for Ross right now is growth.

“The most important challenges are the lack of growth and the potential of growth,” McGurrin said. “We need to bring in growth residentially and business-wise but it needs to be controlled responsible growth that is commensurate with the will of the people of Ross.”

McGurrin was a vocal opponent of the controversial Burns Farm development, a plan for the 350-acre farm tract at the corner of U.S. 27 and Ohio 128, that could have been developed with 339 mid-level and estate homes, senior cottages and assisted living,185 rental units and 124 units of “active adult housing.” A small portion, about 25 acres, could have held a hotel and neighborhood retail.

Developer Ron Coffman needed county commissioner approval for the creation of a New Community Authority to help finance the project and they denied it for a variety of reasons. Residents packed the commission chamber protesting the development.

McGurrin said he and others felt the township was forcing the project upon the residents and they didn’t have a say in the matter.

“To me rather than having one developer say here you go, here’s what we’re going to do, I think it would be nice to have multiple developers say here’s what we want to do what do you think,” McGurrin said. “I’m not against development I never have been, I was against that development.”

Ballauer said the Burns Farm is still in limbo as far as they know.

“We’re crickets. We know that he was looking for the extension on the purchase last year and that’s it. We don’t know anything more,” he said. “He’s not been back to the board of trustees to talk to us, we don’t know that he’s visited the county for anything. It is quiet on the home front and there is not a for sale sign on the property.”

McGurrin, who is married with two adult children, will be sworn in at the next trustee meeting. Both he and Fisher plan to run for re-election in November.

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