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Council examines ‘busking’

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At their July 7 meeting, Village Council members continued an earlier discussion on how best to balance the needs of buskers and business owners in a way that doesn’t put a damper on what many villagers see as a source of downtown uniqueness.

“Our goal is not to limit the things we all love about Yellow Springs,” said Council member Brian Housh.

The issue was discussion only, and Housh said he would take the conversation to this week’s Public Arts Commission meeting.

Since warm weather brought out local musicians and tourists downtown, there’s been a steady stream of complaints from several business owners who see the street musicians as a nuisance, according to Housh, with concerns regarding both the musicians’ noise levels and the amount of time they play. Council member Marianne MacQueen said that on a recent weekend when she was downtown, an acoustic saxophone was played so loudly in front of Tom’s Market that she couldn’t have a conversation across the street.

“When we can’t talk to each other because of the noise, it’s a nuisance,” she said.

Yellow Springs Pottery cooperative member Janet Murie spoke of the the difficulties that both the potters and their customers face when buskers perform for long periods right outside the store on Xenia Avenue.

“A little bit of music is a great thing, but three to five hours is exhausting,” Murie said.

Housh suggested that the Village could follow the example of Portland, Ore., where the city created a Street Musicians Agreement. The agreement, which is a community guideline only and not enforceable by law, specifies that buskers will change their location every hour and space themselves about a block apart. They also agree to comply with the city’s noise control ordinance, which says noise should not be audible more than 100 feet away.

Housh said he especially appreciates the self-regulating spirit of the Portland agreement, and would like to see similar cooperation from local musicians and business owners.

However, musician Will Cook, who regularly plays in front of Tom’s Market for several hours at a time, said that he opposes any regulation, and that expecting local buskers to change locations hourly makes no sense, given the smallness of downtown. And the main problem, he said, is between only a few business owners and a specific musician, who might benefit from engaging in mediation.

Musician Tony Powers said he also opposes regulation.

“The street life in Yellow Springs is the lifeblood of the community. To cut that off is dangerous.”

The level of noise is the most significant issue, according to several villagers who spoke. As a short-term solution, new Village Manager Patti Bates said she will research noise decibal meters and bring that information to the Public Arts Commission’s meeting this week. But something does need to be done to lessen the current conflict, Housh said.

“We want to work toward everyone getting along but we need a more short-term solution,” he said.

In other Village Council business:

• Council President Karen Wintrow swore in new Manager Bates, who was on her first day on the job. Interim Manager Kent Bristol wrote in his report that he is available to advise Bates on whatever basis she chooses for the next several weeks, but will be out of town for several weeks in August.

• Bristol thanked Council for the “opportunity to come back and work for a while. It was a good experience.”

• Council heard a presentation from two representatives of the enviromental engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer regarding water plant options. Council has for several years discussed the need to replace the Village’s aging water plant, and Council President KarenWintrow at a recent meeting stated that she would like Council to make the decision soon regarding how to move ahead.

Village water is “off the charts,” in terms of hardness, according to Brent Casey of Hazen and Sawyer, who emphasized that “hard water is not a health issue.” However, hard water is “significantly more corrosive” than softer water, and leads to clogged pipes and appliances and increased costs for heating water. About two thirds of villagers have home softening units, according to a Yellow Springs News survey, which indicates that many villagers find the municipal water not desireable. Softening costs villagers about $220 to $380 a year, Casey said. And that amount of water softening in the village has likely led to an increase in the sodium level in local drinking water, he said.

In a later discussion, Bristol stated that Council’s most difficult decision will be whether or not to include water softening capability in the new plant. At a recent meeting with large Village water users, including YSI/Xylem and Antioch College, Bristol became convinced that the Village should provide softer water, he said, and Bates also said she recommends softening water, due to the corrosive effect that hard water has on Village infrastructure. 

Council will continue the conversation at an upcoming meeting. Council also unanimously approved a resolution that allows the Village manager to issue a Request For Qualifications for a water plant consultant.

•  In a related issue, Bristol reported that repairing the recent filter malfunction at the Village water plant revealed more significant problems with the plant. Consequently, the repairs will be more costly than anticipated, with a total cost of $61,700 rather than $28,400.

• Council unanimously approved the first reading of a a personnel policy manual for Village employees.

• Council unanimously approved extending the Village’s contract with Rumpke for a year.

• Council unanimously approved the 2015 tax budget, which is a housekeeping item required by the county, according to Village Finance Director Melissa Vanzant, who said she will return to Council later in the year with a more detailed budget for next year.

• Nick Boutis expressed concerns about a bicycle race planned for July 19 that will require closing Corry Street in front of the Glen entrance. The road closing is an inconvenience to Glen visitors and especially to those in a wedding party planned for that day, according to Boutis, who asked the Village to in the future include him in discussions about road closings that could affect the Glen.

• Joan Edwards asked Council to consider making the temporary ban on the use of pesticides and herbicides by Village employees, initiated a year ago after a overuse of a herbicide at the Gaunt Park pool, a permanent ban.

Council’s next regular meeting will be Monday, July 21, at 7 p.m.

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