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Council OKs CBE land timeline

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Village Council hopes to move ahead soon with extending infrastructure to the property formerly intended for the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, in order to make the land more attractive for development.

“It’s time to close this issue,” said Council member Gerry Simms at Council’s July 18 meeting. “Anything we decide to do with the land except keeping it a cornfield, we’ll need to extend utilities. We have the grant, let’s go ahead with it.”

At the meeting, the majority of Council verbally expressed approval for a timeline for the project created by Village Manager Patti Bates, Assistant Manager Melissa Vanzant and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger. According to the timeline, at its next meeting on Aug. 15, Council will vote on a resolution to accept an Army Corps of Engineers grant to fund a limited infrastructure project extending utilities to the CBE. On the same date, Council would also vote on a resolution to accept the transfer of the property from the local economic development group, Community Resources.

The timeline shows Council moving ahead with a request for proposals, or RFP, for the infrastructure project in early September, then in early October awarding a contract for the work, to be started in mid-October. The timeline also identifies December as a time to market the property.

The infrastructure project would be a limited version of the extension of utilities to the CBE originally intended by Community Resources. While CR intended to construct infrastructure throughout the property, the limited version would extend sewer and water from the intersection of East Enon and Dayton-Yellow Springs Road to the turn lane that leads into the property. It would be paid for by the ACOE grant that the Village was awarded almost 10 years ago for the project.

Leaders of Community Resources, which currently owns the 35-acre property on the town’s western edge, indicated in July their interest in transferring the land to the Village. The land was purchased in 2004 with a $300,000 no-interest loan, along with $100,000 from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, with the intent of creating a commerce park, the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, on the site in order to provide space for commercial expansion or development. The group also obtained federal and state grants to fund infrastructure construction; however, delays led to one grant being rescinded. After Community Resources requested that Village Council fill in the funding gap, the question of whether to construct the CBE went to a referendum in 2014 and was defeated.

Since then, Community Resources has held on to the property. However, according to the timeline, beginning early in 2016 Village staff began talking with CR to discuss the possibility of applying for a SiteOhio certification for the property. The SiteOhio program gathers information on potential commercial development sites in order to promote marketing of the sites, according to the program website.

At Council’s July 18 meeting, Council member Judith Hempfling urged Council to postpone the vote on moving ahead with the infrastructure project so that citizens could have time to discuss it, especially given the controversial nature of the CBE.

“It’s always better to have those discussions up front,” she said.

However, other Council members said that villagers could have come to the July 18 meeting to discuss the project if they were interested, and that there is also plenty of time for discussion in the months ahead.

Marianne MacQueen emphasized the need for adequate discussion before moving ahead with marketing the project.

Rick Donahoe, who did attend the meeting to discuss the CBE property, urged Council to not move ahead.

“Accepting the grant is taking us in a direction we don’t want to go,” Donahoe said. “The results of the referendum said convincingly that villagers don’t want to fund the infrastructure or to develop the land.”

Part of the motivation for moving ahead is that Community Resources would like to see the property developed in a timely fashion, Wintrow said.

In an interview on Tuesday, Wintrow emphasized that there is no land available for commercial development for new or expanding businesses in the village, and that if Council decides to move ahead with the CBE property, “it gives the Village the opportunity to design a project that fits Village needs and values.”

Council will vote on a resolution to accept ownership of the CBE property, along with accepting the ACOE grant and approval of the limited infrastructure project, at its Aug. 15 meeting. Council’s regularly scheduled Aug. 1 meeting is canceled.

In other Council business:

• Council unanimously approved the second and final reading of an ordinance that will allow Morris Bean to have a single tap-in to the Village sanitary sewer system for the company’s sanitary waste. The action is the culmination of more than two decades of discussions between the Village and Morris Bean, which lies just outside Village limits and is close to the Village wellfield. Council members supported the move due to concerns about the potential for contamination to local water from the company, which has been cited by the Ohio EPA for its faulty sanitary sewer system. Even if the company constructed a new system, the risk would remain, according to Hempfling.

“Common sense says we don’t want a mound sewer system just above our wellhead, even if it’s new,” she said.

However, at recent meetings, some villagers opposed the tap-in because Morris Bean would be allowed to use Village utilities without being annexed into the Village, which is the customary action. If annexed, Morris Bean would pay income tax to the Village. While the company won’t be annexed, it will pay for all expenses associated with the tap-in, along with a higher-than-normal fee for use.

Village Solicitor Chris Conard said the agreement included new lanaguage on how annexation would be triggered should the company be sold to a different entity.

• Council unanimously approved an RFP for a feasibility study for a municipal fiber optic network in the Village. The study should cost about $50,000 to $60,000 and the funds would come from the general fund, according to Bates.

• Council continued an earlier discussion on how best to fund Village commissions and events, with an emphasis on finding a consistent practice. The discussion will continue at Council’s next meeting.


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