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Council split on land plan

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At the June 1 meeting of Yellow Springs Village Council, Council members differed sharply on the appropriateness of Council making changes in the Village Comprehensive Land Use Plan at this time. The plan was recently revised by the Planning Commission and submitted to Council for approval.

“To my mind, we are micromanaging,” said Council Vice President Karen Wintrow, who expressed dismay that some Council members wanted to revise the plan at this point. Council should refrain from making changes because the Village visioning process will begin in the fall, and land use issues will be addressed at that time, she said.

“I’m satisfied that this is a document that will get us by,” until then, Wintrow said, stating that while the plan isn’t perfect, it’s good enough. Wintrow also expressed concern that making changes would entail lengthy Council discussions.

However, the visioning process does not supersede the democratic process, according to Lori Askeland, who said Council has the responsibility to weigh in on the plan regardless of the visioning effort, as well as to offer community members the opportunity to express their opinions.

“This is the democratic process and we are here to make policy. This is a key policy document,” Askeland said, adding that she was requesting only one more discussion on the plan. The June 1 meeting was the first time Council had discussed the revised plan, which is the Village’s main land use planning document.

A motion introduced by Kathryn Van der Heiden to pass the document without further discussion failed, 2–3, with Van der Heiden and Wintrow voting for the motion, and Askland, Judith Hempfling and John Booth voting against.

Council will further discuss the Comprehensive Plan at a July meeting.

Council and Planning Commission review the Comprehensive Plan every five to seven years, according to Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein, and the last review was in 2002.

The planning commission had originally revised the document more than a year ago and submitted the revision to Council. But Council members found the revised plan, which was presented for the first time in an outline rather than a narrative form, too confusing, so the plan was sent back to the planners. That effort has taken about a year, during which consultant John Eastman reinstated the narrative form, and the planners added a section on historical preservation. Aside from the addition of nine newly-stated land use principles, the current version retains the bulk of the 2002 plan, according to Planning Commission President John Struewing.

The plan can be accessed at in “Council Documents.”

Several sections of the plan were of concern to Hempfling, who stated that she would like to see the document more clearly address the need for affordable housing. Currently, the document does not address affordable housing as a specific need. One of the plan’s nine principles states that the Village should “make provisions for a range of housing opportunities, costs and choices that provide safe, quality housing for current and potential residents of all income levels.” The plan also suggests assessing available housing periodically.

Home, Inc. Executive Director Marianne MacQueen encouraged Council to incorporate in the plan language regarding affordable housing.

“We don’t need a survey for me to tell you we do not have enough affordable housing,” she said.

However, focusing on affordable housing in the plan is inappropriately specific, according to Wintrow, who said, “It feels that we’re focusing on one area of need and ignoring broader areas.”

Another area of concern, according to Hempfling, was language regarding the Village’s Urban Service Area, the land around the village where sewers can be gravity-fed. In a previous meeting, Hempfling had stated that the language seemed to invite development in those areas. Hempfling also suggested that the plan should be revised to highlight the need for green space preservation in the Jacoby green belt area.

But taking the time to address these concerns now is not necessary, and land use concerns should be saved for the visioning process, according to Van der Heiden, who stated that, “I’m really against changing anything substantially about land use until visioning. Otherwise, why are we spending $50,000?” she said, referring to the amount that Council has committed to the visioning process.

In other Council business:
• Council postponed a planned discussion on economic development until its next meeting on June 15, due to the length of the discussion around the Comprehensive Plan.

In a draft document, Village Manager Mark Cundiff presented a draft budget and responsibilities for an economic sustainability staff person. At issue is how best to use the $150,000, which the Village currently has in the 2009 budget earmarked for economic development, funded by the 2006 five-year property tax levy that allocated $50,000 yearly for that purpose. By 2011, the levy will have provided $250,000 for economic development.

Council members have been divided on the need for a paid staff person. According to Cundiff’s draft, a part-time (24 hours per week) employee would cost $115,660 initially, including wages of almost $50,000, benefits and operating expenses.

• Council was urged by Sue Abendroth to state its support for President Obama’s health care reform initiative.

“I am asking you to use your megaphone to speak for the ordinary citizens of this community whose right to basic health care is, I submit, no different than their right to breathe clean air or go to a public school or practice their religion or speak freely in the public square,” Abendroth wrote in a prepared statement.

Council members expressed appreciation to Abendroth for her proposal, and said they will address the issue at an upcoming meeting.

While Council does not often take positions on national issues, “Sue has made clear the link between this national issue and local interest,” Askeland said.

• Council heard from Village Water and Wastewater Superintendent Joe Bates, engineering consultant John Eastman and Ohio EPA representative Dan Cloyd about the possibility of conducting a pilot study in which potassium permanganate is added to the local water supply to reduce the problems with rusty water. The rust is a result of excessive manganese in the water, according to Bates.

Water treated with the potassium permanganate would not leave the plant, according to Eastman, who said there appears to be no health risk. The test would cost about $2,000, according to Bates.

Council members suggested that the group return to Council after they obtain more specific information regarding cost and safety. Van der Heiden stated that she wants community members to have a chance to weigh in on the issue.

• Council unanimously agreed to join the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce 2009 marketing campaign, at a cost of $2,400. Wintrow, who is the executive director of the chamber, recused herself from the discussion.

• Council unanimously agreed that Cundiff should begin discussions with Community Resources to find out if that group is interested in becoming the Village’s designated community improvement corporation, or CIC. If it does so, Community Resources would need to adhere to certain guidelines regarding transparency and composition of the group.

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