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Barr project concept OKd

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At their Oct. 3 meeting, Village Council members voted unanimously to approve the first stage of the Home, Inc./Buckeye Community Hope Foundation proposal for affordable senior housing on the Barr property downtown.

“This is an absolute need of the community,” Council member Lori Askeland said. “And this site is perfect for this use.”

Council’s vote covered only the project’s density and use. If the project wins federal funding, it will return to Village Planning Commission and Council in April for a final, more detailed approval process. The process involves two stages due to the complexity of financing the project, and the developers’ need for Council’s general support to increase their chances for federal funding.

At Council’s last meeting, the issue became contentious as Karen Wintrow objected to what she perceived as an unclear and misleading process. While Planning Commission had requested that Council only vote on the project’s use and density at this stage, Wintrow felt Council was being asked to give approval, without sufficient notice, of a more detailed design.

The confusion was cleared up at the Oct. 3 meeting, as Village Manager Mark Cundiff, who had been absent at the last meeting, clarified that Council was voting only on density and use, and that further specifics will be addressed at the later time.

According to Home, Inc. Director Emily Seibel, at the later date, “Council will have the freedom to change many things, barring a re-design of the building arbitrarily.”

The risk involved in making possible changes to the project at a later date are borne by the developer, Seibel said, stating, “We are willing to assume that risk.”

About 25 villagers attended the meeting, and most speakers expressed support for the project.

“This town has the chance to do something important and progressive” in pursuing the senior housing, according to Board President Mary White of Friends Care Community, which owns the Barr land.

A rapidly aging community, Yellow Springs not only needs to address the needs of its current senior community in a difficult economy, but those who will become seniors soon, and this project will do so, White said.

As a driver for the Senior Center, Vickie Hennessy said she frequently drives elders from their homes in other parts of the village to downtown.

“These are vital, active people who can’t walk that far,” she said. “If they lived here, we’d be opening up their world.”

An informal survey of local seniors has so far identified 24 who are interested in the proposed apartments, according to Suzanne Patterson, who emphasized that seniors remain active in the community through volunteer work.

“We are a viable part of the community and we deserve your fullest support,” she said.

Steve Hetzler spoke against the project, stating that the historic Barr property should be preserved, and that the senior housing “will make traffic terrible downtown.”

The Home, Inc./Buckeye Foundation proposal calls for the construction of a two-story building with 33 apartments for seniors who meet income requirements. See page 9 for other Oct. 3 Council business.

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