Housing

FCC sticks with 3-story plan

Yellow Springs residents filled Council chambers at the Bryan Community Center for the March 24 meeting of the Yellow Springs Planning Commission, expecting a public hearing on the Friends Care Community’s proposal for use of the Barr property for moderately priced senior apartments. The hearing never happened, however, because it had not been advertised as required by law. Instead, Planning Commission Chair John Struewing opened the meeting to a community discussion. The public hearing will be held on April 14 and the materials will be available at the Bryan Center for public review prior to then.

Before the discussion started, commission member Bill Bebko announced that he would recuse himself from all discussions and votes regarding senior housing on the Barr property in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety due to his connection to the Yellow Springs Senior Center as a volunteer advisor. FCC’s plans include setting aside space on the property for the Senior Center, and their members are currently discussing their plans, including whether to renovate and stay in their current building or to build on the Barr property. Bebko left the room during the discussion.

The FCC’s architect, Mary Rogero, announced that, although the planning commission had directed the FCC to submit a two-story plan, the FCC had decided to stand by the revised design that they presented at the Feb. 11 meeting. That design calls for a three-story structure that has a double-loaded corridor (apartments on two sides of a hallway). That design is a revision of the previous plan, and was made in order to address neighbors’ concerns about the length of the originally planned building. A two-story plan would even further lengthen the footprint of the building, she said.

Rogero presented three drawings of the three-story plans the FCC had considered and one drawing of how a two-story building would look. The main difference between the FCC’s plan and existing zoning requirements is in the number of apartments allowed and the number of stories, she said. The FCC is asking for a three-story building with 30 apartments, with an allowance for an additional four apartments over a potential Senior Center, as opposed to 17 allowable under Residence C zoning and 20 under a PUD. Residence C allows for only two-and-a-half stories, whereas a PUD sets no limit.

“Number three is our final submission,” Rogero said. “We have tried to be responsive in all aspects of our conceptual plan except the three stories.”

Struewing and commission member Matt Reed, who had conducted a site visit of the Barr house since the last meeting, voiced their concerns that the house had been portrayed by FCC as “falling apart,” while they felt it is in “great shape.” They discussed the problems that would be faced in moving the house to another location, including cutting trees and moving wires in its path.

“This is a special planning area according to the comprehensive plan,” Struewing said, “and, therefore, it requires greater care regarding any changes.”

A number of villagers, including seniors and neighbors to the Barr property, voiced their concerns around the need for affordable senior housing close to the village’s downtown, density issues, and saving what some believe to be a significant historical house.

Bob Baldwin, who lamented the loss of such historic structures as the opera house, the Mills mansion and G. Stanley Hall, said that the FCC apartment plan is a “significant and needed project.” But, he said, he doesn’t want to see a “rush to judgment.” Baldwin said he felt the current design looks too institutional.

“The village deserves better,” he said.

The process should be slowed down, according to Lauren Miller, who said that she did not support the design because it was not compatible with the neighborhood and that she too was concerned about the historical issues.

Flo Lorenz proposed that the FCC project “trade places” with the Community Children’s Center, saying that she would like to see small children frolicking under the trees on the Barr property and using the house for a children’s center, and have senior apartments built on Corry Street where the Children’s Center currently sits, perhaps utilizing the neighboring village park.

At the close of the public discussion, Reed expressed his dismay at the lack of conciliation between the two sides and suggested that they try to compromise.

“This is the same proposal,” Struewing said. “Nothing has changed.”

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