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Green space funding approved

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At their Nov. 1 meeting, members of Village Council unanimously approved a motion to allocate a significant portion of Village estate tax revenues each year to the greenbelt fund, in order to provide regular funding for green space preservation.

The action precedes an upcoming Council discussion of the 2011 Village budget. Council will hold a workshop on the general fund on Monday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. and one on remaining funds on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 9 a.m. at the Bryan Center. Council will vote on the Village budget at a meeting following those workshops.

The action allocates the first $50,000 in Village estate tax revenues received annually to the Village greenbelt fund, up to a cap of $250,000. Additional estate tax revenues will go to other Village needs. Because estate tax revenues are irregular, they are not generally reserved for specific uses. Estate tax revenues vary considerably year to year, from tens of thousands in revenue to more than $100,000.

The $250,000 cap, which can be leveraged with federal funds to about $1 million, would allow the Village to respond quickly should landowners in the Jacoby Green Belt on the town’s western edge be ready to preserve their land with conservation easements, according to Krista Magaw, executive director of Tecumseh Land Trust.

“We need to keep the farmland together, and to be ready,” said Jim Clem, a local farmer.

While Village leaders envisioned a greenbelt surrounding Yellow Springs decades ago, and while the eastern and northern sides of the village are largely protected, the Jacoby Green Belt on the town’s western edge is not yet protected. Due to its proximity to Fairborn and I-675, the land is considered vulnerable to development.

At Council’s Oct. 18 meeting, Magaw had requested that Council allocate the first $50,000 of estate tax revenues, plus any estate tax proceeds over $100,000, to greenbelt protection. For several years, the Miami Township Trustees have reserved the first $103,000 of their estate tax proceeds to their green space fund, which has enabled them to help conserve seven farm properties, Magaw said.

After the 1999 Council largely depleted its greenbelt fund with a $300,000 contribution to help save Whitehall Farm, subsequent Councils did not make green space preservation a priority, so that the fund remained depleted. This Council worked to build the fund back up again and amassed about $232,000, $192,000 of which was promised last spring to preserve the Semler and Fulton farms, with the Semler farm the first in the Jacoby Green Belt to be preserved.

Villager Sue Abendroth stated her concern that Council is committing estate tax funds to green space when it has not yet discussed next year’s budget.

The amount being approved for green space preservation is relatively small, about 1.8 percent of the total Village general fund budget, according to Council President Judith Hempfling.

“We’re balancing a lot of different priorities in the budget,” she said. “I feel comfortable with this.”

In other Council business:

• Water Department Superintendent Joe Bates and villager Ellis Jacobs reported on the results of testing for fertilizer run-off in Village water last spring. At the suggestion of Jacobs, the Village tested for the presence of atrazine and other chemicals present in fertilizer, to see if there were spikes of the compounds in Village water during planting season. The presence of agricultural chemicals in municipal water has been found in some Ohio municipalities.

The tests resulted in largely good news, according to Jacobs, who said that most agricultural compounds were not present in Village water and those that were present appeared in what seems to be trace amounts. Spikes of the compounds were not found. While the amounts were far below the legal limits allowed by the EPA, there is still a lack of scientific consensus regarding the long-term effects of the compounds, Jacobs said.

• Council tabled a second reading of a new sidewalk policy. The policy shifts the financial responsibility for Village sidewalk repairs from property owners to the Village. Council has stated that doing so aligns with the Village goal of maintaining a walkable village; however, in the revised policy, sidewalk maintenance remains the responsibility of property owners.

But property owners do not all take care of their sidewalks nor keep them safe for walkers, according to villager Barbara Mann. Mann encouraged Council to further revise the new policy so that the Village maintains the sidewalks, just as it does the streets.

Council members voted 4–1 to table the sidewalk policy change until further review, with Rick Walkey voting against tabling the policy.

• Lisa Abel, president of Community Resources, gave an update on that group’s activities and on the Center for Business and Education, or CBE. The CBE is in its final engineering design stage, and anticipates being completed and ready for tenants in early 2012. Currently, Community Resources is seeking a partner to help with marketing the local industrial park.

Abel emphasized that certain kinds of businesses are not permitted at the CBE under the current zoning, including retail, warehouses, trucking facilities and residential. Businesses allowed under the current light industrial zoning include data processing and software development, professional offices, research and development, and light manufacturing.

Rick Donahoe stated his concern that zoning can change, and at some future point retail businesses could be allowed, undermining downtown businesses.

Citizens need to remain vigilant to make sure the current zoning does not change, Hempfling said.

“I think there’s a huge commitment in the village and with Community Resources that there is not something happening there that would hurt downtown,” she said of the CBE.

• The public forum on the fluoridation of Village water will take place on Saturday, Nov. 13, from 2–4 p.m. at the John Bryan gym. The event will feature an expert from each side of the topic, which has been controversial in the village, plus Wright State medical ethicist Mary White.

• Council agreed to table a discussion on a housing needs assessment because Council members had not had time to review a proposal recently received from Woolpert Associates.

• Council continued its review of 2010 Village goals, in preparation for determining 2011 goals.

• Council’s next meeting will be Monday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. at Council Chambers at the Bryan Center.

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