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Village OKs bidding on lot

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The Railroad Street property where the grain elevator once stood is going to auction this week, and the Village of Yellow Springs will be among the bidders. At their meeting on Monday, Village Council members voted 4–0 to authorize Village Manager Laura Curliss to bid on the property at the corner of Railroad and Dayton streets. The auction takes place on site Thursday, Oct. 18, at 2 p.m.

Area resident Matthew Arnovitz owns the property and has tried to develop it with architect Ted Donnell, who owns the parcel directly north of it, with his wife and Village Council member Karen Wintrow. Wintrow recused herself from the discussion and vote regarding the decision, which Council President Judith Hempfling and members Lori Askeland, Gerry Simms and Rick Walkey voted in favor of.

Council held a public hearing on the matter during the meeting and several villagers urged the Village to use caution when mixing public funds and processes with the private real estate market. Villager Richard Lapedes hoped Council would build in safeguards or backup options for the property in case the community rejected their plans for it.

“Does the Village have defined criteria to dispose of the property if you were pilloried for not doing something [with it]?” he said. “How can you hold yourself innocent for not doing what’s in the best interest of the commmunity?”

Local real estate appraiser Ron Stickelman went further, urging Council to reconsider its decision, saying that the market is trustworthy, and the reason the property has sat on the market for several years says something about its value.

“The market is very efficient, it knows what the land is worth. I’m concerned as a resident that we could overpay,” he said. “Why, when there’s willing buyers who are looking out for the economic interests of the village, why would the Village jump in and get involved?” Stickelman also enjoined Council to identify an “exit strategy” to enable it to release the property if it becomes a burden.

After meeting in executive session to discuss the issue, Council voted to go ahead with the bid and then decided that the cash would be taken from the Village electric fund, monies which can be used for economic development, Hempfling said on Tuesday. The move relieves the Village’s general fund from having to carry the burden, she said. According to this month’s Village budget, the Village electric fund is projected to finish out the year with $2.8 million in reserves.

Though the price for the .727-acre Railroad Street property is yet to be determined, another parcel in the downtown, the 1.6-acre Barr property, sold last month for $379,000, according to the Greene County auditor.

If the Village buys the land, Hempfling said, its most immediate use would be a parking lot. Council had not intended to buy the property before it went up for auction last month, and currently has no set plans for its use. But Council members consider the parcel valuable because it is adjacent to the Village-owned Bryan Center property and it is one of the few vacant properties in the central business district, Curliss and Hempfling said this week. Hempfling added that the property is also contiguous with another parcel with a house that currently has no access to a public right of way. If the Village controlled the property, the Village could at least resolve that matter for the private residence to the east of it.

“The village has not bought property under this Council, but it’s not unusual [for a municipality] to buy property when it furthers the goals of the community,” Hempfling said during Monday’s meeting.


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