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Green space funds proposed

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To preserve the Jacoby Greenbelt on the western edge of Yellow Springs, Village Council should have sufficient greenbelt funds to act quickly when landowners are ready to sell, according to Tecumseh Land Trust Executive Director Krista Magaw at Council’s Oct. 14 meeting.

“Preparedness is everything,” Magaw said of green space preservation. And to facilitate preparedness, she said, “It’s helpful to get into a regular cycle” of contributing to the Village’s greenbelt fund.

At the meeting Magaw suggested that Council use estate tax revenues to annually build up its greenbelt fund. The issue was discussion only, in preparation for Council’s upcoming 2011 budget work sessions, which will take place in November.

Village leaders envisioned a greenbelt around Yellow Springs in the late 1960s, a vision that was unusual for its time. Since then, much of the Village’s north and eastern border has been preserved with easements. However, the Jacoby Greenbelt, on the town’s western edge, is considered the most vulnerable to future development and is mainly not yet protected, Magaw has stated.

For many years Council regularly contributed to its greenbelt fund, which at its peak in 1999 provided about $300,000 to the $1 million required to purchase easements to preserve Whitehall Farm. After the fund was largely depleted by the Whitehall effort, several Councils cut back fund contributions due to financial constraints. The current Council has begun building the fund up again, with a goal of about $250,000, the amount Magaw has recommended as optimal should Jacoby Greenbelt owners decide to sell. That amount could leverage about $1 million in state and federal grants, she has said.

Currently, the Village greenbelt fund has about $239,000, but about $192,000 of that amount has been committed to purchasing easements for the Fulton and Semler farms, which are awaiting federal approval. The federal government provides 50 percent of the easement cost. The Semler property, which includes the Jacoby Creek headwaters, is the first actual Jacoby Greenbelt property to be protected.

Magaw suggested that Council regularly commit the first $50,000 of its estate tax revenues to the greenbelt fund, and use the next $50,000 for other Village needs. Then any estate tax revenues above $100,000 could also be used for the greenbelt fund. Because estate tax revenues are irregular, they cannot be part of regular budget allocations, according to Lori Askeland.

For the past several years the Miami Township Trustees have followed a similar strategy, committing the first $103,000 of Township estate tax revenues to green space preservation. Using that strategy, the Township has been able to preserve about seven properties, according to Magaw. The Trustees prioritize farmland on the eastern side of the township, which is less expensive than Jacoby Greenbelt properties on the village’s western edge, she said.

If all as-yet-unprotected properties in the Jacoby Greenbelt were preserved, the price would be about $3.5 million, according to Magaw, who said Jacoby property owners are currently “either silent or not quite there yet” regarding purchasing easements for their farms. TLT is respectful of property owners’ rights to sell their land, Magaw emphasized, although she said many landowners have an investment in their land and want to see it preserved.

The amount proposed for green space preservation is about 3 percent of the general fund budget, according to Council President Judith Hempfling. “In the balance of all the things we fund, this is a very good use of 3 percent of the budget,” Hempfling said.

In other Council business:

• A community forum on fluoride in the Village water supply will be held Saturday, Nov. 13, from 2–4 p.m. at the Bryan Community Center gym. Pro- and anti-fluoride experts will make presentations, followed by questions and answers.

• Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to amend the Village’s sidewalk policy, shifting the financial responsibility for repairs from property owners to the Village, similar to road repairs. However, the ordinance makes clear that property owners are still responsible for keeping the sidewalks in front of their home clean and free of debris. The vote was 4–0, with Karen Wintrow absent due to health reasons.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that authorizes the manager to solicit Requests for Proposals, or RFPs, for cleaning services for the Village Train Station and Bryan Center.

• Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that accepts a sewer easement from Morris Bean company outside the village. The project is partially funded by federal grants, with the remainder of the funding from Morris Bean, and no Village funds are used in the project, Village Manager Mark Cundiff said.

• Council members continued to review the Village’s six 2010 overarching principles in preparation for determining Council’s 2011 goals. Council members examined the action steps associated with each principle to identify which had been accomplished and which should be carried over into a new year.

• Council’s next meeting will be Monday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers, Bryan Center.

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