SUNBURY, Ohio (WCMH) – Word is getting out about the once sleepy stagecoach stop 30 miles North of Columbus. A proclamation sent from the Secretary of State’s office this month officially advanced Sunbury from a village to a city.
The 2010 Census reported the village’s population as 4,386. In 2020, the number jumped to 6,614; enough to clear the 5,000 population threshold for city status.
“Our secret’s out. We’re a great place to live and work. We’ve got pretty good access here to the Columbus metropolitan area,” said Sunbury City Administrator Steve Pyles
Pyles explained most who live in the city won’t notice many changes with the new title. Because council members anticipated the growth would be enough to achieve city status, they’ve been laying out a city charter for the past several years to minimize disruption to its operations.
Civil service, collective bargaining for city employees and maintenance to some state routes will be among the changes.
“With growth comes some prosperity, also comes some challenges. But I’d much rather be dealing with that dynamic,”said Pyles, pointing to issues of blight and declining property values facing communities with declining populations.
Sunbury’s town center highlights the intersection of old and new. The historic courthouse is surrounded by a New England style square, flanked on all sides by old and new construction.
The town was founded in 1816. On modern-day S Columbus St, the Myers Inn, originally built as a rest stop for stagecoach travelers at the intersection of the Old Walhonding Trail and the Delaware Newark Pike, is now a museum. Several statues honor figures like folklore hero Johnny Appleseed and esteemed Civil War Major General William Rosecrans.
When Tim Carver moved to Sunbury in 1968, it was still a small farming community.
“It was slow and quiet,” Carver said. “And people were good and nice.”
Carver believes it still holds its small town charm and values, but the 2021 city is a far cry from the 1968 village that first attracted him.
“Here we are. They finally found us,” he laughed.
Some neighbors said they would rather keep Sunbury a secret and preserve its small town atmosphere, but others recognize the benefits of growth and prosperity in the community.
“Of course, none of us old timers would like to see that. We’d like to see it how it was in 1968,” Carver said. “But that’s not gonna happen. And I think the quicker you accept that, the happier you’ll be.”
Pyles said undeveloped land is becoming more scarce in the Sunbury, with new construction popping up on the city’s West and Southwest sides. He anticipates the growth will continue for the foreseeable future and may even necessitate another highway exit from I-71.