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Business park’s widened road elicits concern

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The Village of Yellow Springs is considering a plan to create a new entrance off Dayton-Yellow Springs Road directly into the Center for Business and Education (CBE), the new business park created by Community Resources on the west edge of the village. Though the authority to approve the intersection rests with the Greene County Engineer, Village Council will discuss the proposal when the park, which was annexed into the village in 2005, comes up for approval as a subdivision later this year.

As a first step toward the development of the 27-acre property behind the CBE’s first occupant, Antioch University McGregor, the location and type of entrance to the park has led some villagers to wonder how the new entrance, which includes a widening of the road, will affect Yellow Springs. These citizens also question whether the action supports the long-term goals of the village as a whole.

Decisions about where and how to build roads into the business park have implications for the future of the park and the village, according to villagers Rick Donahoe and Suzanne Patterson. Creating multiple, wide entryways to the commerce park could either presume or attract the types of commercial businesses that bring shoppers and foot traffic to the edge of town, they said in recent interviews. Supporting trade in the CBE both threatens to displace the downtown as the active center of the village and puts economic pressure on the adjacent agricultural properties to sell for more development. In short, it is the cyclic formula for sprawl, Donahoe said.

“This is obviously going to excite activity and inflate the property values there and make it harder to gather together our greenbelt,” he said. “It’s a catalyst for sprawl.”

Adding an intersection will require that Dayton-Yellow Springs Road be widened at a taper on both sides of the road from the current 24 feet to a maximum of 48 feet to accommodate a left–hand turn lane from the eastbound lane and a right turn lane from the westbound lane, with speed reduction signs both east and west of the intersection, Village Assistant Planner Ed Amrhein said. Dayton-Yellow Springs Road was not annexed into the Village with the CBE, therefore the road remains in the county, and approval to alter it rests with the county, Greene County Engineer Bob Geyer said this week.

While the Village originally anticipated annexing the entire strip of Dayton-Yellow Springs Road adjacent to the CBE and installing a much simpler entrance to the park, annexation of the right of way requires the approval of the anonymous property owner to the south of the road, who, according to Amrhein, has expressed opposition to allowing the annexation. The Village still intends to petition for part of the road to be annexed for greater control of the area, but the county standards requiring turn lanes and wider road width for the CBE entrance now seem prudent, Amrhein said last week. The higher standards raised the cost of the project, but the Village will be better off getting it right the first time rather than paying even more to redo the project if improvements are found necessary later, he said.

The Jacobs engineering firm hired by the Village recommended three road configurations that would provide maximum access to the property inside the park within the limited budget of CBE owner, Community Resources President Lisa Abel said last week. All three options use Dayton-Yellow Springs Road as an access road that connects through the park to an access point on East Enon Road, north of the current McGregor driveway. Village Planner Ed Amrhein is managing the development of the park in consultation with Community Resources. The Village has applied for a matching grant through the Department of Public Works to partially fund the new intersection installation, estimated to cost a total of $180,000, according to Amrhein.

The CBE is currently zoned mixed commerce, a district which according to the Village zoning code allows as principally permitted uses research and information technology businesses, administrative, institutional or professional offices, maintenance and storage garages and light manufacturing. But the mixed commerce district prohibits “retail stores, banks or other activities tending to create direct consumer traffic, such as barber or beauty shops, gift shops, grocery, hardware, clothing or drug stores, laundry service, dry cleaning, automobile service stations, garages or sales rooms, theaters, bowling alleys, amusement parks or other equivalent recreational uses, dwelling units, hotels, motels, nursing homes or child care establishments,” the code states.

According to Abel, the group does not anticipate changing the zoning for the CBE, and aims to stick to the types of businesses that are permitted in that district.

But if those are the only types of businesses the CBE will accept, Patterson asks, then why instead of using the McGregor entrance on East Enon Road, does the park need a second entrance directly off of Dayton-Yellow Springs Road? Also, she and Donahoe both fear that because Community Resources has worked so hard for almost eight years to develop the property, that they will be eager to accept any business that agrees to lease space, including those that stretch the conditions of the district.

In addition to his concerns about the potential for sprawl, Donahoe believes that the development of the business park should be part of the village-wide visioning process that is currently taking place. In fact, villagers should first get a chance to define their overall hopes for the future of the village, which would then be used to guide and define the decisions regarding the CBE, he said.

“This CBE area is of deep concern in the visioning process. Are we doing a visioning, or is this a mockery of the visioning process?” he said.

Community Resources purchased the 46-acre business park property in 2004 with an interest-free $300,000 loan from the Village Revolving Loan Fund and a $100,000 grant from Yellow Springs Community Foundation, which was to be repaid after the CBE began operating, likely in 2011. Over $1 million in grants from the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers will fund the installation of roads, water and utility lines within the park, once the layout is approved by the Village. But as a first step, Community Resources board member Jerry Sutton said, the property owners have a right to initiate an access road into the park, which it currently does not have. The current road into McGregor off of East Enon is and will remain a privately owned driveway for the school.

Amrhein agreed that the proposal for the access point is mostly the decision of Community Resources. The county engineer must approve the design of the new entrance from Dayton-Yellow Springs Road using the safety and engineering criteria from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, including a study of the kind and volume of traffic to and from the CBE, Geyer asserted.

“Any property owner has a right to request access to a public right of way,” Amrhein said.

The CBE will then proceed with further approval processes as it moves through the development stage. The approval of the CBE as a subdivision of the Village must be approved through public hearing by Village Planning Commission and Village Council, which could occur sometime this spring, Amrhein said. During that stage, the Village would approve the placement of the roadways and infrastructure within the CBE, which would remain a maintenance responsibility of the Village and Miami Township. The proposal to annex part of Dayton-Yellow Springs Road will also get a public review.

Once the Village has installed the main infrastructure at the CBE, Community Resources plans to partner with a developer to gauge the market and determine appropriate lot sizes for its clients, Abel said. The Village will evaluate the appropriateness of the businesses that apply for space based on the zoning restrictions, which Community Resources as property owner may tighten but may not make more flexible than it already is, Amrhein said.

“The discretion available to the Village is limited by the zoning regulations,” he said, referring to approval of the subdivision by its setbacks, drainage and building height and bulk parameters, as well as its tenants’ use of property. If a design meets the requirements of the zoning code, the Village must approve it, he said.

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