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Next steps on CBE land

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Village Council at its Oct. 3 meeting again took up the subject of the proposed utilities extension to the entrance of the CBE land. The discussion lacked the contention of the past several meetings, with just one citizen in attendance on the issue. Council appeared ready to move ahead on the utilities extension, while also committing to some form of public discussion to clarify citizens’ ideas and concerns regarding the broader question of the land’s development.

“I think we need places for people to say their fears and what they want,” said Council member Marianne MacQueen.

Council tentatively agreed to organize a future work session on the issue, which could include members of the planning board, economic sustainability commission, Miami Township trustees and school board. The work session would be a public meeting with no votes taken.

Council had previously discussed holding a charrette, or public planning session, toward a plan for the land’s use. But Council members seemed less inclined during Monday’s meeting to take that step. Several Council members highlighted the need to respond to business demand rather than develop a detailed plan in advance.

“I don’t know that we can make a plan. If we get infrastructure there, we can consider opportunities,” said Council President Karen Wintrow.

Regarding villagers’ inclusion in this process, Village solicitor Chris Conard stressed that any development opportunities that arose would entail “layers of public input” in front of both the planning board and Village Council.

However, a group of citizens seeking more public discussion upfront will hold an open forum about CBE land uses and zoning next Wednesday, Oct. 12, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Bryan Center Rooms A & B.

The forum’s organizers are part of a previously announced moratorium effort to temporarily stop development on the CBE land to allow for more public input. The group continues to gather signatures “in a symbolic effort to indicate the villagers’ right to be stakeholders in the project on Village-owned land,” according to group member Dawn Johnson in an email this week.

Utilities extension vote to come

On the matter of the utilities extension to the entrance of the 35-acre parcel, Council agreed to vote at its next meeting on a resolution authorizing Village Manager Patti Bates to solicit bids on the project. That resolution has been tabled for the past month amid considerable public debate about the project and, more broadly, future development of the CBE land.

“We’re ready to bring it back,” said Council Vice President Brian Housh, referring to the resolution.

All Council members have previously said they support extending water, sewer and stormwater infrastructure to the CBE land’s entrance.

If the infrastructure project goes forward, it will be substantially funded by a grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or ACOE, originally secured in 2006 but largely unutilized since then. Village staff rescoped the grant and resubmitted it to the ACOE last year; the agency signed off on the rescoped project last week, according to Assistant Village Manager/Finance Director Melissa Vanzant at Monday’s meeting.

Vanzant clarified this week that under the new grant agreement, the Village would be reimbursed for 75 percent of the total project cost of $458,472.47, minus an estimated $71,115.28 in ACOE administrative costs. That means the Village stands to receive $272,738.08 in ACOE funds for the project. The balance of costs — over $185,000, including ACOE administrative costs — will be shouldered by the -Village.

The Village has already spent approximately $128,000 for design and construction work over the 10 years of the grant, Vanzant said this week. It has only been reimbursed for a small portion of that, about $13,000. The Village is eligible to receive approximately $81,000 in reimbursement from the ACOE for work already performed, she said.

Ownership of the CBE land is in the process of being transferred to the Village. The transfer agreement with the land’s current owner, local economic development group Community Resources, is still under review by that group, according to Bates this week.

Linking to greenbelt goals

While the utilities extension seems likely to move ahead, the future of the CBE land will remain the focus of discussion and debate, and will likely be linked to discussion of the Village’s greenbelt preservation goals.

At Monday’s meeting, Council heard from Krista Magaw, executive director of the Tecumseh Land Trust, or TLT, regarding the impact of potential development of the CBE land on the Jacoby greenbelt’s western portion. While much of Yellow Springs’ perimeter is buffered by preserved land, its western edge is not. Magaw had been asked by Council to address citizen concerns that the development of the CBE land could jeopardize Village and TLT efforts to secure the Jacoby greenbelt to the west.

Magaw said she did not believe such development would make Jacoby greenbelt land more expensive to acquire in the immediate future, though she advised Council to seek the opinion of an appraiser. Rather, she emphasized the need to have funds available to purchase any western land parcels that may come up for sale.

“The biggest challenge for the greenbelt is having the money in the right timeframe,” Magaw told Council.

She described the Village’s current annual appropriations to the green space fund ($25,000 in recent years) as “probably adequate” for conservation easements, but insufficient for land purchases. Conservation of the western portion of the Jacoby greenbelt could require land purchases in the future, she said.

Sales of Village land, including any potential sales of CBE land for development, could provide a “potential source of revenue” for this purpose, Magaw added. The Village could “connect development and green space” through such sales, she said.

Council member Judith Hempfling asked Magaw to follow up with land value information for greenbelt lands west of the village.

“It would be helpful to figure out what we would need to be ready” for potential purchases, Hempfling said.

Other items from Council’s Oct. 3 meeting, including discussion of the enterprise, capital fund and special revenue budgets, will be covered in next week’s paper.

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