Sep
22
2017
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Village Council

Village Council — CBE engineering contract approved

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At its Aug. 21 regular meeting, Village Council unanimously approved a contract for engineering services on the Village-owned property known as the CBE on the western edge of Yellow Springs. The contract, with Heintz Engineering, will cost the Village up to $48,000.

The Village is seeking the services in support of a proposed medical marijuana facility on the land. In June, Council approved a request from Cresco Labs Ohio to purchase eight acres of the CBE for the building of a medical marijuana cultivation and processing operation. The sale will go through if the company is approved by the state as a medical marijuana provider. That decision could come in November.

TAX PASSES FIRST READING

On Aug. 21, Council passed the first reading of an ordinance imposing a 3 percent lodging tax, which will be levied on transient guests staying at all local lodging establishments of one or more rooms, including AirBnB properties. The vote was 3–0, with Marianne MacQueen and Karen Wintrow abstaining. The second reading will take place at Council’s Sept. 5 meeting. The tax is slated to take effect in January 2018, and could raise $40,000 per year for the Village’s general fund, according to Council Vice President Brian Housh on Tuesday, citing his own calculations.

Jim Hammond, owner of Mills Park Hotel, who along with hotel staff and supporters has voiced opposition to the tax, pointed out at Monday’s meeting that the tax would not apply to nearby properties in Miami Township, including the Springs Motel. Taxable establishments within the village include Mills Park Hotel, Arthur Morgan Bed & Breakfast, the Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center, Jailhouse Suites and local AirBnB rentals, of which more than 20 were listed on the AirBnB website this week.

But meanwhile, Cresco is moving ahead with planning and permitting for the operation in collaboration with local and county officials. As part of its agreement with the Village, the company has committed to paying for the construction of streets and utilities across the entire 35 acres of the CBE. The engineering contract Council approved Monday will result in a plan to guide the infrastructure construction.

Cresco, not the Village, will shoulder the actual cost of construction, Village Manager Patti Bates emphasized. The Village is paying for the engineering plan only.

“The Village is not going to pay to put [the infrastructure] in,” Bates said. “The Village will own it, and we agreed to do engineering for it.”

No work will be done until and unless Cresco is approved by the state, however. Approval is not guaranteed; 185 companies applied in June for one of 24 state cultivation licenses under Ohio’s new medical marijuana program, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. Cresco currently has three medical marijuana facilities in Illinois, where the company was founded, and was the top scorer in Illinois’ licensing application process several years ago.

“We won’t start construction. This will just do the design work,” Village Council President Karen Wintrow said, referring to the Heintz contract.

Council member Marianne MacQueen voiced concern about the Village committing funds to a project that might not move forward.

“Are we going to spend $48,000 when we don’t know if [the Cresco application] is going to get approved?” she asked, though she joined other Council members in voting to approve the contract.

If Cresco is not awarded a state license, the contingent sale of the eight-acre parcel would not go through. However, the Village would still receive $20,000 from the company under the terms of the sale agreement, and the money would partially offset the Village expenditure for engineering, according to Council member Judith Hempfling.

Citizen concerns

Two citizens raised concerns related to the Village assuming the cost of engineering services and undertaking planning for the whole CBE property.

“This goes against the referendum,” Chrissy Cruz said, referring to the 2014 referendum in which Yellow Springs voters rejected a proposed Village expenditure of nearly $1 million for infrastructure construction on the property, which was then owned by local group Community Resources, or CR. After about a decade of ownership and stalled plans for the CBE’s development, CR transferred the property back to the Village last summer in exchange for forgiveness of a $300,000 loan from the Village for its purchase.

“This is an end run around having the Village pay for infrastructure on the CBE,” she said. Cruz stated that she supported the Cresco facility, but believed the company should pay for all infrastructure costs.

Council member Hempfling countered that the Village, as the land’s owner and permit holder, required independent engineering.

“There is some cost we’re going have to bear to protect us,” she said.

A second citizen concern came from Dan Reyes, who questioned why the Village was seeking engineering for the whole site, rather than just the portion pertinent to Cresco.

“This locks in a great deal of what the Village will do in the future. We have one potential client [who is] not approved yet. … This seems to potentially reach forward too much,” he said.

After the CBE land was returned to the Village last summer, villagers weighed in with concerns and disparate visions about the property’s future. The Economic Sustainability Commission, or ESC, held two citizen forums last spring to discuss the land’s use, as well as gathering citizen feedback through an online survey and comment cards. The forums were sparsely attended, but of the 124 survey resondents, 59 percent wanted to see some form of economic development on the land, with 35 percent preferring greenspace/farmland, according to a recent ESC report on the survey results.

In follow-up interviews on Tuesday, several Village Council members said the input from citizens suggests many villagers want to see economic development on the land.

“There’s a leaning toward development,”  Council Vice President and ESC Council liaison Brian Housh said, while also acknowledging greenspace preservation as a village value.

Cresco officials approached the Village in May about locating a facility in Yellow Springs, and the sale agreement was made within one month, a timeline tied to the state’s license application deadline in late June. The deal was made prior to the second public forum on the CBE.

Though the Cresco deal was completed quickly, villagers have expressed broad support for the proposed facility, according to Hempfling on Tuesday.

“It has huge support in the Village,” she said. And that creates a mandate for Council to act in tandem with Cresco to prepare the property for their facility, she added.

“We need to do this or we’re giving up on the whole thing,” she said of moving ahead with engineering on the CBE.

Project details

According to Bates, the engineering plan would be useful to the Village even if the Cresco facility were to fall through. The Village’s proposed street configuration to accommodate Cresco “makes the best use of the property,” she said.

In a follow-up interview on Tuesday, Bates explained that the configuration consists of a street running north from the property’s Dayton-Yellow Springs Road entrance to the back of the CBE, where Cresco’s facility is slated to be located. The street will branch west to a proposed Cresco parking lot, and branch east to a second entrance on the East Enon Road side of the CBE. The remainder of the property will be divided into two plats owned by the Village.

Heintz Engineering will develop design specs for streets and utilities on the CBE, including water, sewer, electric, stormwater and conduits for future fiber. Gas lines, cable, electric, street lighting, landscaping and a property survey, as well as site design specific to the Cresco property, are not part of the work, according to the Heintz proposal.

Cresco already has its own construction company, RFC Contracting. That company will follow the specs developed by Heintz. The engineering plan should be done by November but certain tasks will be completed earlier to integrate with Cresco’s planning, according to Bates.

Though a similar engineering study was completed in 2009 for the CBE, the new plan is needed to accommodate Cresco’s location on the northwest of the property, she said Tuesday.

And Bates stressed at Monday’s meeting that the Village was moving ahead with the engineering based on Cresco’s willingness to pay for infrastructure construction across the whole site.

“Cresco is paying to build this. Why would we not want to take advantage of [their] paying for the entire infrastructure?” Bates said.

Utilities extension update

In a separate project involving the CBE site, Bates announced at the Aug. 21 meeting that the utilities extension to the CBE entrance on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road would be finished by the end of September. The contractor, Majors Enterprises, was hired last fall to lay Village sewer, stormwater and water lines to the CBE entrance. After a work stop and related delays, the construction resumed last week, Bates said.

The utilities extension does not involve construction on the CBE site itself, though the project was initially controversial among some villagers who preferred not to see development on the CBE land and others who didn’t want the Village to pay for CBE infrastructure costs.

The project is being substantially funded by a $270,000 grant from the Army Corps of Engineers that the Village and Community Resources originally secured in 2006. The Village is shouldering an additional $185,000 in project costs, including Army Corps project administration costs, according to previous News reports.

Other items from Council’s Aug. 21 meeting will be reported in next week’s News.

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Village Council — CBE engineering contract approved

by Audrey Hackett