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CBE land to return to Village

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The 35-acre parcel of land at the center of the controversial Center for Business and Education, or CBE, will soon be returned to the Village, according to a representative from Community Resources.

“We think it’s the right time for the Village to take over the property and explore opportunities,” Sarah Wildman of Community Resouces said at Council’s July 5 meeting.

Council members expressed appreciation for the land transfer, and for the efforts of Community Resources toward enhancing economic development in Yellow Springs.

“We appreciate all the work Community Resources has done over the years and we appreciate that the land is coming back to the Village,” Council President Karen Wintrow said.

According to Village Solicitor Chris Conard, it should take about 60 days to complete the legal work necessary for the land transfer. Council members did not discuss possible uses of the land at the meeting.

The property is located on the western edge of Yellow Springs, adjacent to Antioch University Midwest near the intersection of East Enon Road and Dayton-Yellow Springs Road. It was the proposed site of the CBE, a commerce park envisioned by Community Resources members as attracting new business to the village, or providing room for existing businesses to expand. Formed in 1998 to promote local economic development, the group soon focused on the creation of a commerce park due to a lack of space within Village limits for business development.

In 2003 Village Council approved an agreement with CR that included a $300,000 no-interest loan to the group, in order to purchase the land (CR also gifted 11 acres to Antioch University for the construction of AU Midwest). The money for the loan came from the Village Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund, which had previously been used to aid local start-ups. The EDRLF has been largely inactive since that time, due to a lack of funds.

Between 2006 and 2008 Community Resources secured two grants for constructing CBE infrastructure, from the Ohio Department of Transportation, or ODOT, and the Army Corps of Engineers, or ACOE.

However, project delays caused ODOT to rescind its grant, and soon after the CBE became controversial when Community Resources asked Council to fill the funding gap for the project. While Council was divided in its support for the project, it moved ahead to approve a bond issuance of almost $1 million in response to the CR request.

However, public oppostition grew, as some villagers expressed concern that the construction of a commerce park was not a viable economic development strategy and others stated that the project was not an appropriate use of public funds. When a Village referendum was held in November 2014, the CBE project was defeated two to one by local voters.

Since then, Community Resources has declined in membership, although the group held onto the land until now. In a News story a year ago, CR leaders did not indicate intentions to turn the land back to the Village.

Last week CR leaders did not return phone calls seeking comment on the group’s change of direction.

The group purchased the land for about $400,000 — with an additional $100,000 grant from the Community Foundation  on top of the $300,000 from the Village — and its value has increased since then, according to an appraisal provided by Community Resources. The appraisal estimates current value at about $650,000, although that amount includes an extension of Village utilities to the property.

The Village could extend utilities to the property in a more limited way than that intended by Community Resources, Village Manager Patti Bates said at the meeting. The project, estimated at about $270,000, could still be funded by the ACOE grant. However, because the ACOE is in the process of cleaning up its books and thus could take back the grant if not used, the project should move ahead soon, she said. The project would involve extending water, sewer and storm sewer utilities from the insection of East Enon Road and Dayton Yellow Springs Road to the turn lane into the CBE property. Such an extension would make the property more attractive to development, Bates said in an email this week.

Council will continue discussion on the ACOE grant at its next meeting, and Conard will begin work on the legal issues associated with the transfer.

In other Council July 5 business:

• Council unanimously approved the Village 2017 tax budget as prepared by Assistant Manager Melissa Vanzant. The tax budget is required by Greene County each year at this time to justify Village property taxes. The official budget process for the Village’s 2017 budget will begin in the fall.

The proposed tax budget projects the Village general fund, the barometer of the Village’s fiscal health, to end 2017 with a surplus of $2,096,692, which is almost twice the recommended minimum surplus of $1,076,826.

“It’s obvious how well the Village is looking financially since Patti [Bates} and the current staff came on,” President Karen Wintrow stated, applauding Bates for her fiscal restraint and Vanzant for the clarity of her financial reports.

• Council had a preliminary discussion regarding the need to identify consistent criteria for the funding of Village government groups and commissions. The discussion will continue at Council’s July 18 meeting.

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, July 18, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers.

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