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Villagers discuss CBE land use

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A wind farm. A business incubator with tech lofts. Greenspace. Small condos for single parents. A solar farm.

These were the suggestions put forward on Thursday, March 2, at a meeting aimed at getting community input regarding the future use of the land formerly known as the Center for Business and Education, or CBE. The meeting was the first step in a process aimed at bringing villagers into the conversation on how best to use the land, according to Council member Brian Housh this week.

“We want to make sure we have as much feedback from the community as possible, to factor in when decisions about the land are made,” Housh said.

The meeting was lightly attended with about 10 villagers present, along with all members of Village Council and five members of the Village Economic Sustainability Commission, which had sponsored the event. The purpose of the ESC is to identify opportunities and strategies for economic development for Yellow Springs, according to ESC member Saul Greenberg at the beginning of the meeting.

“This is a brainstorming session. Anything goes,” Greenberg said. Other ESC members present were Dean Palotta, Susan Jennings, Lucianna Lieff and Henry Myers.

Participants were asked to respond to three questions: What community values do you think the CBE should reflect? What community needs do you see the land fulfilling? What would you like to see or not see on the land?

Along with feedback from participants at Thursday’s meeting, the group has received about 50 responses from the same questions on SurveyMonkey, and about 30 from boxes at various spots around town. Those who still wish to weigh in are encouraged to go to SurveyMonkey at www.
surveymonkey.com/r/Z383K53 or to email a Council member.

Villagers still have time to make their preferences known, Housh emphasized.

“I don’t see anything happening on the CBE land anytime soon,” he said in an interview this week, stating the planning process would probably take several months. Recently, Council renewed a lease with Clem Farms for farming the land, so it will remain in agricultural use for this year.

After collating input received so far, the ESC will present the results to Council at the end of April, according to Housh, and a second community meeting will take place in May.

The 35-acre parcel of land on the Village’s western edge adjacent to Antioch University Midwest, the land is the former site of the proposed Center for Business and Education, a business park proposed in 2003 by Community Resources, a local economic development group. However, the project suffered from long delays and in a 2014 referendum, villagers voted two to one against using Village money to develop the project. A year ago, Community Resources gave the land to the Village in return for forgiveness of the $300,000 Village loan that had been used to purchase it in 2004.

In response to what values those present wanted the land to reflect, participants identified the conservation of green space, inclusive decision-making, and a reduced carbon footprint as priorities.

“I recoil at the thought of more foundation going in,” said Ken Odiorne.

Some disagreed on the best use of the space, with Don Hollister suggesting that it be used to house local businesses that need to grow.

“We need a place for homegrown businesses to expand,” he said. I know three that moved out of town” due to lack of available space.

However, the visual power of the land as a gateway the western edge of town should be considered, according to Bill Firestone.

“I don’t want to see a business park. It’s our western gateway,” he said. “The space should tell people visually who we are as a community.”

Putting a wind farm on the space could provide that visual statement, and also allow for other uses, as space below the wind turbines would be available, according to Robert Conard.

“The advantage of a wind farm is that the ground underneath is available for other uses,” he said. “It creates something iconic as you enter the village.”

Regarding the question of what Village needs could be met with the land, Henry Myers suggested housing, with 10 percent small condos for single parent families.

While the land is currently under a covenant that restricts retail or housing from being placed on the property, the covernant could be changed if villagers and Council agree on changing it, Village Manager Patti Bates said.

According to Dale Hotaling, the land should stay “beautiful farmland.” Several others agreed.
“The land sets the tempo for the town,” Dawn Johnson said. “It’s the transition zone from an agricultural area to a small town.”

But the land should also be used to address economic needs in the village, according to School Superintendent Mario Basora, who encouraged a use that strengthens the “financial viability for the community.”

And organizers need to be careful when they seek a land use that conforms with “village values,” according to Wayne Gulden.

“I get nervous when I hear about community values,” he said. “We all have different values.”

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