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Green space funds go to Jacoby farm preservation

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At their March 1 meeting, members of Yellow Springs Village Council unanimously approved contributing to the preservation of two farm properties, one of which includes the headwaters of the Jacoby Creek and is the first farm preserved within the Jacoby greenbelt.

“Protecting the Jacoby headwaters has been a goal of the village for 20 or 30 years,” said Council Vice-President Lori Askeland. “This is a very important piece of land.”

Council unanimously passed a resolution that approves using up to $191,950 of the Village greenbelt fund for the municipal contribution to a matching grant for conservation easements, as had been requested by Tecumseh Land Trust. The farms to be conserved are the 171-acre Semler farm on Snypp Road, which contains the Jacoby Creek headwaters, and the 225-acre Fulton farm on East Enon Road.

While TLT had originally requested $211,950 from Council, the TLT board has approved using $20,000 from its 1 Percent for Green Space program for the match, according to TLT Director Krista Magaw at the meeting, so the Village contribution is less. The funds will be submitted this month to a grant funding round of the Farm and Ranch Protection Program, or FRPP. The federal program, if it approves the submission, will provide 50 percent of the easement costs compared to 20 percent from the municipality. Both the Semler and Fulton families have agreed to donate the remaining 30 percent of the cost of the easements, according to Magaw.

The Fulton farm is valued at $3,000 per acre and the Semler farm at $2,250 per acre.

Currently, the greenbelt fund has $239,000. After this action, the fund will have about $47,000 remaining.

The Semler property is especially significant because, if the easement is granted, it will be the first actual Jacoby greenbelt property to be protected with a conservation easement. While Village leaders have for decades identified the Jacoby area on the western edge of town as especially susceptible to development and therefore important for preservation, farm owners in that area have not until now indicated readiness to conserve the land with easements, nor has the Village had the funds to contribute to easement grants. According to Magaw in previous Council meetings, other Jacoby landowners may be open to conservation efforts in the near future.

While the Fulton property is not in the Jacoby greenbelt, it is significant because it’s the only piece of unprotected land in a block of protected farmland on the town’s northwest side, including the Whitehall and Stockwell farms. While the Miami Township Trustees identified land in that area as a priority for preservation with their own greenbelt fund, that fund is currently depleted, and they were not able to contribute to the Fulton easement, Magaw said.

The Trustees have in recent years annually contributed up to $103,000 from estate tax revenues to their greenbelt fund for farmland conservation. With that money, they have contributed to the purchase of five conservation easements, according to Magaw, who in a previous meeting urged Council to establish its own regular procedure for contributing to the Village greenbelt fund, so that TLT could plan ahead with local Jacoby greenbelt land owners.

At Monday’s meeting, Council member Karen Wintrow repeated her concern that Council work with the Trustees to identify an overall strategy for farmland preservation, since Council is limited financially in what it can do alone.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Council President Judith Hempfling repeated her concern that preserving green space should go hand in hand with working to create more affordable housing within Village borders.

In other Council business:

• Council unanimously directed staff to write a resolution to approve a dog park to be located at a currently underused segment of Gaunt Park near the water towers, and encouraged the two Yellow Springs High School students who proposed the dog park to move ahead with their plans. Council will vote on the resolution at its March 15 meeting.

While several Talus Drive residents who live near the proposed park site expressed concerns, Council members stated that they would move ahead.

“When something is new, people get nervous,” said Hempfling. “I personally feel this will be an asset to the village, and if there are problems, we’ll reconsider it. Let’s go ahead and try it.”

YSHS seniors Lucas Donnell and Marlee Layh had last month come to Council with the proposal for a dog park as their senior projects, which they said they believed would benefit the community. However, their original plan to locate the park in Ellis Park met with resistance from some villagers who value that park because it is quiet and underused.

At Council’s last meeting, Village Manager Mark Cundiff proposed several alternative sites, including a section of Gaunt Park near the water towers. The location seemed reasonable because Gaunt already has parking and the park as a whole is already lively, although this particular segment is rarely used.

According to the plan submitted at the March 1 meeting, the entry and small-dog area would be a roughly 4,800 square-foot area on the southern edge of the park near the towers, and the large dog area, to be located under the towers, would be about 78,000 square feet. To separate the dog park from the tower site, a new 8-foot chain link fence would be installed, and the small dog and entry areas would be fenced with a rail fence with wire mesh.

The students estimate the cost to be about $2,250, which they plan to raise in private donations. However, Village staff would provide maintenance.

Three residents of Talus Drive whose homes abut Gaunt Park expressed concerns about the new dog site, including added noise to the neighborhood.

“We’re in a quiet space, and that’s why we chose to live there,” said Jeff Kohler.

Jane Scott stated her concerns that children play in the water tower area, especially during pool breaks, and that if dogs got loose from the park, there could be safety problems. She also questioned the cost of increased maintenance for Village employees who will have a greater challenge mowing the new enclosed areas.

However, several others stated that noise should not be a problem with a dog park. According to dog owner Joan Edwards, dogs mainly bark at each other when they are separated, not when they’re together. Because there’s already noise at Gaunt Park from the swimming pool and games, sounds from the dog park should not be a problem, Council members said.

Council members emphasized that it’s worth taking a chance on the dog park, since many villagers seem interested in having one in town, although the issue will be revisited if there are problems.

• Other items of March 1 Council business will be covered in next week’s News.

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