Council considers revised land use plan
- Published: July 16, 2009
The often contentious issue of annexation sparked conflict between Council members during the July 6 meeting of Village Council.
At issue was the language in the Yellow Springs Comprehensive Plan, which was recently revised by Planning Commission. The plan, which is the land use plan for the village, is revised by the planners and submitted for Council approval every five to seven years.
Two of the nine newly-articulated “principles” of the plan, which were added by Planning Commission in this revision, seemed to Council President Judith Hempfling to narrow Council’s authority to turn down annexation requests. Specifically, one principle states that the Village should “direct” new development to areas already developed or within the Urban Service Area, while the other principle states the Village should “promote” development either in areas already developed or in the Urban Service Area.
By using the words “direct” and “promote,” the new principle seems to undermine the Village’s current flexibility in accepting or turning down annexation requests in the Urban Service Area, according to Hempfling. The Urban Service Area is the area outside current boundaries that can be served by gravity sewer (see map).
For the complete land use principles and Hempfling’s suggested changes, go online to www.yso.com and click on Council packet for the July 6 meeting.
“The purpose is not to be inviting development beyond the current borders at this point in time,” Hempfling said, adding that the plan is a “living document” that could be changed in time. According to Hempfling, Village Solicitor John Chambers has agreed that language recommended by Planning Commission “narrows our authority to say no.”
Her concern is heightened by the Urban Service Area’s adjacency to the Jacoby greenbelt, which has not yet been preserved. Development near the greenbelt seems likely to encourage development in it, she believes.
Hempfling’s request for a language change prompted strong opposition from Kathryn Van der Heiden, who offered various arguments for her disagreement.
“Are you afraid of growth…?” she said to Hempfling, stating that if the village remains “green and insular” it will also not be affordable to many people. Van der Heiden also stated that for Council to make changes to Planning Commission’s work is disrespectful and micro-managing. The planners had worked on the document for almost a year.
Council member Lori Askeland strongly disagreed that it is not Council’s role to revise the document.
“We are the elected body,” she said, regarding Council. “We are the ones who make policy.”
Council member John Booth stated his concern that the newly-stated principle could open the Village up to lawsuits if Council denied annexation requests.
Throughout the discussion, Van der Heiden became increasingly heated, finally leaving the room after stating, “You’re pissing me off.”
Van der Heiden’s behavior during the meeting was inappropriate, Askeland said.
When Van der Heiden returned, Council members agreed to revisit the language question at its next meeting on July 20.
Villager Jerry Sutton urged Council not to change the principle’s language, stating that he would “caution Council against absolutes and ‘never’ is an absolute,” referring to Hempfling’s suggested change that new development would never take place outside the Urban Service Area.
Rick Donahoe encouraged Council to respond to Hempfling’s concern and revise the language, given the significant amount of opposition to annexation in the village.
Before addressing that language change, Council made three other revisions to the plan. One change, which Hempfling proposed and Council approved 4–1, revises the wording of the principle that states that Council should provide a “range” of housing opportunities to village residents. In the revision, the principle is expanded to add the phrase, “paying particular attention to modest cost housing to ensure maintenance of income diversity in our town.”
Van der Heiden voted against the change, stating that the language is redundant and therefore not necessary.
Council unanimously approved two other changes that addressed principles of “staying small” and “tourism.” The “staying small” revision was proposed by Hempfling and the “tourism” revision by Karen Wintrow.
In other Council business:
• Council approved 3–2 a pay increase for Council members. The increase will not go into effect until the new Council is seated after the November election. Hempfling, Askeland and Booth voted for the raise and Van der Heiden and Wintrow voted against. The move will increase Council pay to $4,000 from $2,100 per year.
The increase is aimed at allowing more low or moderate income people to run for Council, according to Hempfling, who proposed the increase several weeks ago, citing the many hours that Council members give to the job. Currently, Council’s pay is at the low end of regional Council salaries, according to research by Village Manager Mark Cundiff. Council is also paid significantly less than members of school board and the Miami Township Trustees, who receive about $9,000 per year.
While she agrees that Council members deserve a raise, Wintrow said she could not vote for the measure in these difficult economic times.
• John Hempfling presented a petition to Council signed by 57 villagers that urges Council to allow the replacement of a bench on the west side of Xenia Avenue downtown, near the one that was removed a year ago.
That bench was removed by the local police and Tom’s Market employees last year after Tom’s Market owners requested the change, stating that the young people who congregated around the bench blocked the sidewalk and disturbed customers.
Those who signed the petition presented by Hempfling, who are mainly young people, asked that the bench be replaced in a location further away from Tom’s, with the sidewalk around it colored in such a way that would discourage the blocking of the sidewalk or driveway. A similar approach has proved successful for the bench installed near the Senior Center, the petition states.
Council members requested that the young people hold a mediated discussion with business owners affected by the proposed bench’s presence. The most important issue is safety, according to Van der Heiden, who said that twice a young person standing by the previous bench had darted in front of her car when she was entering the Tom’s Market parking lot.
• In a discussion on hiring a part-time economic development employee for the Village, Council members requested that Cundiff condense a long list of responsibilities for the new employee into a smaller number. Council has agreed to hire a part-time person, who will be called a coordinator of economic development rather than a director. Cundiff will present the revised list to Council at its next meeting.
• Villager Brad Myers made an impassioned plea to Council to enforce Village ordinances that require villagers to trim their trees and bushes so as not to be a nuisance for walkers and bikers. As someone who cannot drive due to an eye condition that has left him legally blind, Myers said that village sidewalks are hazardous for walkers, especially those with disabilities.
“It’s a shame what’s going on with the sidewalks,” he said.
Council members agreed to include in the next Village utility bill a notice requesting that property owners trim back foliage overhanging the sidewalks.
• Council unanimously approved a resolution, proposed by Sue Abendroth, that supports President Obama’s efforts toward health care reform.
• Visioning Task Force Chair Len Kramer reported that organizers of the upcoming visioning effort are sending letters to villagers who are members of two groups that seem under-represented in the visioning effort steering committee, asking if they would join the committee. Those groups are African Americans and parents of young children, he said. Organizers hope to have the steering committee in place by the end of July.
• Council unanimously approved a tax budget for 2009. The document is not an operating budget but a pro forma one that is required for the collection of the Village property tax levy, according to Village Finance Director Sharon Potter.
• Council unanimously approved the first reading of the vacation of an alley on High Street, per the request of a property owner. The alley is not being used as an alley at this time.