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Streetscape to be implemented in two stages

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At their Sept. 4 meeting, members of Village Council voted unanimously to move ahead with a gradual process for improving the downtown streetscape. The initial phase of the project, planned for this fall, is aimed at fixing the sidewalks deemed most dangerous and removing the street trees causing the most sidewalk damage. About five street trees on the east side of Xenia Avenue will be cut down and replaced with new trees, overhead electric lines will be buried, and new streetlights will be installed on Dayton Street, completing a long delayed project there.
“The goal is to maintain shade and some presence of trees, and when the new trees get bigger, to put the rest in,” Council President Judith Hempfling said.

Council plans to wait for the new trees to grow before moving on to the next stage, and estimates that the second phase will take place in a few years.

The two-step streetscape process is the compromise solution following a several months-long community dialogue around the issue. Council had planned to replace subpar sidewalks downtown as part of a village-wide project, and in June new Village Manager Laura Curliss suggested a more holistic approach that included removing all street trees on that side of the street, burying power lines and replacing street lights with new models, based on a design by local landscape architect Roger Beal. However, many villagers protested what they perceived as an overly aggressive approach to the streetscape redesign, while others urged Council to move ahead with sidewalk repair and the replacement of aging trees.

At Council’s last meeting, Council voted down making all the changes at the same time and asked Curliss to return this meeting with a slowed-down approach to the redesign, while still addressing the immediate safety issues.
At the Sept. 4 meeting, Curliss said she had “spent a lot of time with the contractor” to find a compromise approach.
“It’s not ideal, but it makes sense regarding which sections are priorities,” Curliss said.

Basically, the immediate sidewalk repair will begin at both ends of the 200 block of Xenia Avenue and work toward the middle. One area of repair will extend from the intersection of Glen Street and Xenia Avenue to the northern edge of the Sunrise Café, and work will include excavating the current sidewalk, removing an existing streetlight and installing a new junction box for a new streetlight, pouring new sidewalks and new curbs. The work in this area will include needed sewer repair.

In the area in front of Dino’s Cappucino’s the existing sidewalk concrete will be removed, a tree will be removed, and a new sidewalk will be poured and streetlight and flagpole holes will be installed. From Corry Street to The Winds Cafe, three street trees will be removed, the existing sidewalk excavated, a new sidewalk poured, the electric conduit installed, a junction box for a new streetlight installed and one current light removed, and several new tree pits will be installed.

In the bare ground area in front of the Emporium, a missing section of concrete in front of the business will be replaced. The sidewalk will also be replaced in front of Dunphy Real Estate, and a tree removed at that spot, where conduit will be installed, a junction box for a new streetlight installed, and new concrete poured.

All together, five street trees will be removed during the first phase of the ­project.

While the Village intends the first-phase work to be completed this fall, it’s unclear if that will be possible due to the contractor’s other work commitments, according to Curliss. While Council members originally attempted to define when exactly the second phase of the project will take place, they agreed that it will depend on the growth of new trees, so that at this point the timing is unknown.

The cost of the project, which will be contracted to Lamont Excavating, will not exceed $62,500, according to Curliss. Council also approved a resolution that authorizes Curliss to purchase new streetlights from Brooks Associates to be used to complete a Dayton Street project and for future use on Xenia Avenue. The cost of the lights will not exceed $80,000 for up to 20 poles, according to a memo from Curliss.

While the streetscape redesign prompted considerable public comment during the past two meetings, few people addressed the topic at the Sept. 4 meeting. Dino Pallotta of Dino’s Cappucino’s urged Council to move ahead with repairing dangerous sidewalks, and JT Laurence encouraged Council to refrain from cutting down any street trees.
In other Council business:

• Council took a second vote on an ordinance to ban fracking and injection well drilling in the village, but the vote was not the final vote on the ordinance, as had been planned. Rather, according to Council Clerk Judy Kintner, a procedural snafu invalidated Council’s initial vote on the ordinance, so this vote was a second first reading. Council will take its final vote on the ordinance at its next meeting.

The vote was 3–2, with Hempfling, Walkey and Askeland for and Wintrow and Simms opposed.

The ordinance, which would ban fracking and injection wells from Yellow Springs, includes a citizens’ bill of rights to clean water and air. It would be the first such ordinance in Ohio.

Former Village Solicitor John Chambers had recommended that Council vote against the ordinance, which was proposed by a group of citizens, because it conflicts with state law. The ordinance presumes that the municipality has the authority to ban the drilling industry practices, while a 2004 state law gives that authority solely to the state.
That conflict with state law is why he voted against the ordinance, according to Simms. And Wintrow stated that she opposes the ordinance because it seems to her “anti-business,” and only useful as a political statement. “That’s not the way I operate,” she said. “I operate on a more collaborative basis.”

Wintrow also said she’d been approached by Planning Commission head Matt Reed, who asked why Council was moving so fast on this ordinance.

“I want to consider starting over and having a more balanced discussion,” Wintrow said.

Walkey said he does not consider himself “anti-business,” and that “there are many different kinds of businesses and we embrace most of them, but not if they don’t have our best interests” as a community in mind.

Askeland said she currently supports the ordinance partly due to her sense that, while she supports most businesses, “large businesses are out of control.” However, Askeland said she will be listening to others’ opinions before voting again next time.

• Curliss introduced new Yellow Springs police officer Thomas Sexton to the community.

• Council approved a resolution appointing Christopher Conard of Coolidge Wall in Dayton as the Village solicitor, replacing longtime solicitor John Chambers, who announced at the last meeting that he is moving to Florida.

• Council reviewed a proposal from Curliss fixing a schedule for determining the 2013 Village budget. According to the schedule, the 2013 budget will be completed by the first of the year.

• Council heard from Ken Collier, executive director of the Greene County Area Transportation System, that a new Greene CATS bus route will provide daily service from Yellow Springs to Xenia and Fairborn, with a bus available every 90 minutes. The cost of a ride would be 50 cents, or 25 cents for seniors and the disabled, and the service is for everyone. The specific schedule and pick-up spots will be announced within a few months, he said.

• Curliss announced that Council will hold two special meetings with Planning Commission focused on the revised zoning code. The meetings will be Thursday, Sept. 6 and Tuesday, Sept. 25.


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