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Council approves initial step towards affordable housing

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Fluoride forum set

A forum discussing fluoride in Village water will be held Saturday, Nov. 13, 2–4:30 p.m. in the Bryan Center gym. Panelists include Kathleen Theissen, from the NRC Committee on Fluoride in Drinking Water, Kevin Schlueter, a biochemist and toxicologist for YSI and Mary White, professor and director of the Division of Medical Humanities at Wright State University. The panel will be moderated by Meg Carver.

At their Nov. 1 meeting, members of Village Council unanimously approved taking a step toward creating the first Village-sponsored affordable housing project in the past several decades. The project, proposed by Council President Judith Hempfling and Vice-President Lori Askeland, is for the construction of four moderately-priced single family homes on a half-acre of Village-owned property on Cemetery Street.

Citing the village’s aging population, rising home prices and declining number of young families, Hempfling emphasized the need for Council to be proactive in attracting young people to the village, both for the health of the schools and for Village income and property tax.

“We see this as a first step in addressing this critical community need,”she said.

The vote allows Hempfling to enter into a memorandum of agreement, or MOA, with Home, Inc., the community land trust organization, to develop a plan for the project, using a land trust model. Council members emphasized that Monday’s vote does not signal the approval of a plan, since the plan is not yet developed. After the plan is developed, it will return to Council for approval. Council will also at a later stage decide whether Home, Inc. will be the developer and determine how to transfer the Village land, including whether to gift it, to sell at market price or to sell at a discounted price.

The affordable housing issue attracted a larger number of villagers than usual to the meeting, with about an equal number speaking for the proposal as speaking against it.

It’s entirely appropriate for a municipality to be a developer of affordable housing, according to villager and Dayton attorney Ellis Jacobs, who cited his experience working with the city of Dayton.

“It’s routine for a city to use its resources to support affordable housing,” he said.

Kate LeVesconte also stated support for Council-supported affordable housing, as long as the homes are well built and energy-efficient.

Pat Brown expressed support for the land trust model, noting that as Council moves ahead to make regular allocations to the Village green space fund (a separate issue at the Council meeting), it’s important to address affordable housing.

“If you do that [commit money to green space] and do not do this, we will continue to have less diversity,” she said.

However, Becky Cambell stated that she “questions the sanity” of Council choosing to not put houses on land preserved for green space, while using Village-owned land for housing.

Gina Lloyd, who lives across from the proposed development on Cemetery Street, also opposed the project, which she described as too crowded.

“It’s in my neighborhood and I have to live with it, to look over and see four houses crammed in,” she said.

Saying that she “can appreciate how you hate to see your neighborhood change,” Hempfling said that Council is choosing to increase housing density inside the village rather than “spreading into the countryside.”

Council has not yet established the need for affordable housing in the village, according to Sue Abendroth, who said, “In Yellow Springs, people of moderate means can live here if they want.” Abendroth urged Council to first complete a housing survey before moving ahead with the project.

“If you don’t know what we have, then you don’t know what we need,” she said.

But surveys aren’t necessary, according to Vickie Hennessy, who stated that in the recent visioning project, “affordable housing was voted number one as something we need. It’s a known that we need it.”

Council member Karen Wintrow expressed some discomfort about the proposal, including that Council is working with Home, Inc. on developing a plan in what could be a conflict of interest for Home, Inc., since the land trust organization has a vested interest in being chosen as the developer of the project, a concern raised by Linda Rudawski. However, Wintrow ultimately voted in favor of the MOA, stating in an e-mail that while she still has concerns, she is interested to see what plan will be developed.

For other items of Council’s Nov. 1 business, see next week’s paper.

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