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From the Print

Village Council takes steps to assess local housing needs

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Village Council at its May 15 meeting signaled its support for undertaking a housing needs assessment, or HNA, to determine current and future housing needs in Yellow Springs.

Council member Marianne MacQueen presented a preliminary proposal for the HNA, which would be conducted by an outside firm and could cost the Village between $10,000 and $30,000. The study would look at a range of factors, potentially including current housing stock; current and projected future housing needs for rentals, affordable homes and market-rate homes; needs for special housing types, such as for seniors, the disabled, local workers, artists and entrepreneurs; and the impact of expanded housing on local taxes and utilities.

The last village-wide housing needs study was done in 1972 by the Yellow Springs League of Women Voters.

The immediate impetus for the HNA is Council’s interest in developing housing on the Village-owned Glass Farm. Such housing could help improve village affordability, Council members have previously said. A recent report by the Greene County Regional Planning Commission found that a variety of factors favor putting housing on the Glass Farm. The type and number of housing units developed on that property could be determined by the results of the HNA.

But the housing study would also furnish more comprehensive information for considering housing needs and opportunities in the village as a whole, according to MacQueen. The village has “a fair amount of undeveloped land and infill opportunities” and the HNA could help guide potential housing development in those areas, she added.

Council member Judith Hempfling said she would like to see more apartment buildings in the village to expand available housing and provide lower-cost rental options.

“One kind of housing the community has not been friendly toward is apartment buildings,” she said. “We should be considering them.”
The Glass Farm property would not be conducive to large apartment buildings because of the land’s soil type, MacQueen clarified in a follow-up interview last week.

Because apartments and other housing options could require zoning code changes, the HNA would also help Council determine “whether it’s critical to reconsider the zoning code” to accommodate the village’s housing needs, according to Council President Karen Wintrow.

Guiding the HNA are several overarching goals, which MacQueen put forward in the proposal she presented to Council. These include: ensuring community members have adequate, safe and affordable housing; spreading the burden of taxes and utilities to provide greater affordability; and endeavoring to meet the housing needs of existing and future village residents.

The affordable housing agency Home, Inc. has already provided several housing studies to Council, and more housing-related data is being sought from Antioch College, which has looked at village housing needs as groundwork for Antioch College Village, a proposed residential community on the campus. MacQueen and others have also approached Bowen Research, a real estate research firm in Columbus, for guidance on questions to ask as part of the HNA.

MacQueen, Wintrow and village staff will be meeting on June 1 with various stakeholder groups in the village, including the Senior Center, Friends Care, Home, Inc. and Antioch College. The HNA should be completed within six months, according to MacQueen.

The Glass Farm project would require at least a year of pre-development work and would take several years to complete, MacQueen said last week. There are about 30 acres of Village-owned land available for potential development. The total Glass Farm property is 44 acres, with just over eight being wetlands and six that will be used for a Village solar array.

In other Council May 15 business:
• Council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance that grants Tecumseh Land Trust, or TLT, a permanent conservation easement with a value of $48,500 on a portion of the Glass Farm. TLT is currently preserving about eight acres of wetlands and surrounding land for low-impact recreation, using funds from a Clean Ohio grant.

• Council unanimously passed the reading of a resolution that slightly amends the Enterprise Zone Agreement between the Village and DMS ink. Specifically, the amendment allows DMS ink to delay by one year the start of a planned expansion of its 888 Dayton St. facility. No other change has been made to the 2015 agreement, which grants DMS ink a 75 percent property tax abatement on new construction for the next 10 years. The abatement period, set for Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2029, remains the same; only the start date for construction has been delayed. The company expects to begin enlarging its facility this summer, about six months later than planned.

DMS ink has “met all other conditions in spades,” Village Manager Patti Bates noted, including meeting or exceeding the Enterprise Zone Agreement’s specified goals for total employment, new hires and payroll. According to Paul Newman of the Greene County Development Department, DMS ink currently employs 74 workers, with 24 new hires to-date and a total payroll of $1.5 million.

• Council member Judith Hempfling reported that the leaders of the Justice System Task Force, or JSTF, had met to discuss ways to better integrate their recommendations into police department practice. Among the ideas were to offer one recommendation at a time, with adequate time for discussion by Council; to designate one Council person and one JSTF member to shepherd each recommendation; to track all issues on a master document; and to consider and institutionalize the group’s recommendations as a whole, though with some changes occurring along the way.

Responding to another JSTF recommendation, Council unanimously approved paying $224 to Wright State University statistician Mike Bottomley to analyze selected Yellow Springs police data from 2010 to 2016 in terms of racial disparities. The analysis will provide the Village with “a starting point for looking at why disparities exist and what policy changes” can be made, according to JSTF member John Hempfling.

• Energy Board member Dan Rudolf presented to Council that group’s recommendation that the Village partner with Empower Gas and Electric to provide energy efficiency services to Yellow Springs residents. The company provides a web-based savings evaluator, a free on-site energy audit and quotes from certified partners to do energy-efficiency updates, including air sealing, insulation, LED lighting and smart thermostats. There would be no cost to the Village, though the Energy Board recommends that the Village set aside $10,000 for a rebate program to offer incentives for participation. Council directed Manager Bates to look into and evaluate the program.

The Village recently terminated its contract with a similar program, Efficiency Smart. That program cost the Village $40,000 annually for energy efficiency services to residents, but few villagers took part.

Council approved a second Energy Board recommendation that the Village accept two free electric car chargers from Tesla Motors to install at the Bryan Center. The new Tesla chargers would increase the number of electric car chargers in the Bryan Center parking lot to four. The chargers are designed to draw electric car users to the village, according to Energy Board member Rudolf. The Village covers the cost of the electricity, which ranges between $11 and $20 monthly.

• The Economic Sustainability Commission set a date of June 28 at 7 p.m. for its next community forum for citizen input into potential development of the CBE land. Meanwhile, the Village has been approached by a potential buyer for a portion of the land, Cresco Labs, a medical marijuana company based in Illinois.

• Council member MacQueen presented the Environmental Commission’s 2016 annual report. Projects now underway include conservation efforts on the Glass Farm wetlands area and a pesticide reduction initiative in the village, with an area of Gaunt Park currently being used to test alternatives to pesticides.

• Three local residents were sworn in as members of citizen boards/commissions: Cyndi Pauwels to the Justice System Task Force, Alan Brunsman to the Energy Board and Sammy Saber to the Economic Sustainability Commission.

• Council discussed plans to initiate an “affordability summit” that would bring together Miami Township officials, Yellow Springs school board members and Council members to discuss the impact of various levies on affordability in the community and seek better communication and coordination among the three entities.

• Council directed Manager Bates to apply for a Tree City program, which would allow Yellow Springs to become a designated Tree City. There is no cost to apply.

• Council briefly discussed a proposed smoking ban on all park grounds within the Village. If adopted, Yellow Springs would join a variety of Ohio communities with such a ban.

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Village Council takes steps to assess local housing needs

by Audrey Hackett