Village Council acts on CBE project
- Published: October 27, 2016
Village Council moved ahead with plans to extend infrastructure to the property known as the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, at its regular meeting Monday, Oct. 17. At the same time, Council committed to increasing the greenspace fund to protect the Jacoby greenbelt just west of the CBE, and had a preliminary discussion regarding a Council-led community process to discuss potential CBE uses.
At the meeting Council unanimously approved a resolution that tasks Village Manager Patti Bates with seeking bids for the infrastructure project, which will extend Village utilities from the intersection of Dayton-Yellow Springs Road and East Enon Road to the CBE entrance, and be paid for by a federal grant. At the meeting Bates said work on the project will probably begin in early spring.
Council had tabled the CBE infrastructure project in mid September, after several villagers protested what they saw as Council moving ahead too quickly with a project similar to one that villagers had voted on, and soundly defeated, two years ago. The villagers, and Council members Judith Hempfling and Marianne MacQueen, also called for more citizen input on an issue that had once been controversial, and remains so for some. However, at Monday’s meeting, no villagers voiced opposition to the current project.
Council felt ready to move ahead with the project following its discussion last meeting with Tecumseh Land Trust director Krista Magaw, according to Council President Karen Wintrow on Monday night. Magaw had been asked if the project might raise land prices on the Jacoby greenbelt area west of the CBE, thus making preservation of that land, which is a longstanding Village goal, more difficult. Magaw had responded that while it’s impossible to predict the future, it seems unlikely that the project would have a significant impact on land prices.
Hempfling has repeatedly stated that she supports the CBE utilities extension if linked with renewed Council commitment to the preservation of the Jacoby greenbelt. At Monday’s meeting, Council members agreed that they would soon move ahead with increasing money in the Village greenspace fund so that the Village is ready to act if Jacoby farmland becomes available. According to Wintrow, Council’s first step will be meeting with Magaw in an upcoming executive session to determine the amount needed to purchase a potential piece of land, after which discussions will take place in public meetings.
Council also agreed to move ahead with efforts to engage the community in a visioning effort regarding possible uses of the CBE land. Initially, the citizen engagement will be modeled on that used a year ago for community forums on issues regarding the police department, according to Council Vice President Brian Housh. During the forums, after citizens heard presentations they were divided into smaller groups for discussion, facilitated by members of Village mediation. Ideas from the small groups were later presented to the large group as well.
Council members expressed approval of the model, and the Economic Sustainability Commission, or ESC, will present Council with a proposal for the community event at a November Council meeting, according to Housh, who is the Council liaison to the ESC. And MacQueen urged Council to widen the opportunities for citizen engagement to those beyond attending a single meeting.
“What kind of venues can we have so as many people as possible can participate?” she said.
Villager Dan Reyes also encouraged Council to look toward area professionals with expertise in architecture and planning, including universities, for help in a visioning process.
“We should consider seeking help that’s outside the box we’ve been in,” he said.
However, the initial visioning event is only the first step of a process, according to Wintrow, who said there will be time for different approaches at a later date.
Two years ago, villagers voted in a referendum against the Village spending about $1 million to fund infrastructure throughout the 35-acre CBE area, which at that time was owned by Communty Resources, or CR. The economic development group had for more than 10 years envisioned the land as a commerce park, but frequent delays hampered the project, which came to a halt after the 2014 referendum. However, last summer CR announced that it planned to transfer the land to the Village in exchange for forgiveness of the Village loan used to purchase the property. At Monday’s meeting, Bates stated that the transfer is not quite complete, as the Village is waiting for several documents.
Council in the past several months has emphasized that it has no specific plans for the CBE property, and that it planned to engage citizens in a planning process. However, the majority of Council members stated that extension of utilities to the CBE entrance is necessary regardless of specific plans for the property. The current project is reduced in scope compared to CR’s original plan to extend utilities throughout the CBE property, and will be funded by a grant from the Army Corps of Engineers that was secured about 10 years ago.
Other items of Council’s Oct. 17 business will be covered in next week’s paper.