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Different visions for CBE land in Yellow Springs

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Villagers remain divided in their vision for the 35 acres of land on the western edge of Yellow Springs known as the CBE, according to survey results presented at Village Council’s April 17 meeting by members of the Economic Sustainability Commission, or ESC.

Nearly half of the 124 villagers who offered input to the ESC this spring favor some form of economic development on the land. Almost a third think the land should be kept as greenspace or farmland. Other broad uses mentioned were housing and energy, such as wind or solar farms.

Making the village more affordable and expanding the tax base are two key priorities, but so is preserving greenspace and the rural character of Yellow Springs.

There appears to be greater consensus around what villagers don’t want to see on the land, according to the survey results. Most residents don’t want chain or big box stores or retail establishments that would compete with downtown Yellow Springs. And those who favor economic development don’t want heavy industry, preferring light manufacturing, high-tech businesses and health care.

Council charged the ESC late last year with gathering community input about potential uses of the CBE land, which returned to Village ownership last summer. The group held a public forum on March 2 that was lightly attended, drawing just 14 citizens. Feedback was also collected via comment boxes around town, which garnered another 15 responses, and through an online survey, by far the most popular way to offer input, with 95 responses gathered between mid-January and the end of March.

In all cases, villagers were asked three open-ended questions: What community values should inform the use of the land? What community needs could the property serve? What would you like to see and/or not see on this property?

The process “has produced a lot of rich information,” according to ESC Chair Saul Greenberg at Council’s April 17 meeting. Sammy Saber, a local resident and prospective ESC member who analyzed the data and helped write the group’s report, said the third question, concerning what villagers wanted to see or not see on the property, drew the most feedback, with proposals ranging from affordable housing to a solar field to a business incubator to a pet park. Specific comments from the online and paper surveys, as well as summary comments from the public meeting, are included as part of the report.

The ESC report can be accessed online at; click on the Council packet for April 17.

A second public meeting regarding uses of the CBE land previously scheduled for April 27 is being rescheduled for a later date, still to be determined. The second meeting will be more educational in intent, according to Greenberg, with a focus on the covenants, or permitted and prohibited uses, that currently apply to the land, as well as the history of local business and its relationship to the local tax base.

At the April 17 meeting, Village Council member Marianne MacQueen urged the ESC to present information on the latter topic. “I would like to see education around the rise and fall of local business and the impact on local taxes,” she said.

Citizen Dan Reyes spoke during the meeting, stressing the opportunity that the CBE land provided for “true and broad democratic decision-making,” with citizen involvement in determining the land’s use.

According to Council Vice President Brian Housh, the Council liaison to the ESC, the survey results showed broad consensus on Yellow Springs values. The challenge now is to “delve into what’s going to deliver on that,” he said.

The 35-acre parcel on Dayton-Yellow Springs Road was previously owned by Community Resources, or CR, a citizen group, which had sought for years to develop a commerce park on the property. Controversy over that proposal came to a head in 2014, when villagers voted overwhelmingly against the use of public funds for the project. CR returned the land to the Village last summer, and Village leaders voted last fall to use an existing federal grant to extend basic utilities to the edge of the property. Work on the utilities extension is ongoing, according to Village Manager Patti Bates in an email this week.

Meanwhile, with the Village interest in developing housing on Glass Farm and local nonprofit Community Solutions’ recent purchase of a portion of the former Arnovitz farm for preservation and alternative agriculture, the context of the CBE land has changed, according to Greenberg.

“It’s new and different now,” he said of the total picture of other projects surrounding the CBE land, which could influence villagers’ vision for the property.

Greenberg also presented Council with highlights from the ESC’s first annual report since the organization was revived a year ago. According to that report, the group is working to bring back the revolving loan fund, or RLF, which currently has a balance of about $30,000 and has been inactive for several years, having been largely depleted by the Village’s $300,000 loan to CR for purchase of the CBE land.

Greenberg said the ESC is moving toward defining a process to allow local businesses in need of capital for improvements or expansions to apply for loans from the RLF. As one aspect of that process, the group is exploring a relationship with the YS Federal Credit Union, which could manage the RLF on a volunteer basis. The group’s proposed RLF process will be presented to Council at a future meeting. The ESC is also looking for ways to replenish the fund, such as through applying in 2018 to the USDA Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program.

In other April 17 Council business:

• Council voted unanimously to pass the second and final reading of a revised ordinance that eliminates a minimum land requirement per dwelling unit in moderate and high density residential districts. The change allows for greater infill density, according to Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger in an email this week.

• Council voted to pass the first reading of a revised ordinance regarding invasive plants and weeds on private property in the village. The vote was 4–1, with Judith Hempfling voting no. The revised ordinance refines and expands the list of invasives property owners are required to remove from their property, as well as those plants they are encouraged to avoid or remove. And it changes the maximum height of grass and weeds on private property from 12 inches to nine inches.

Council also discussed several issues related to the new ordinance, including the need to provide educational materials identifying the invasives, as well as concerns over how the ordinance would be enforced. Manager Bates clarified that the Village responds to private lawn management issues based on complaints. Local citizen Dan Reyes voiced concerns that the revised ordinance was the wrong approach for resolving “neighborly disputes” and could result in Yellow Springs looking like “a suburb anywhere.”

• Council unanimously passed a resolution declaring April 27, 2017, “Coretta Scott King Day” in Yellow Springs.

• Council member Judith Hempfling provided an update on Council’s previous discussion of Airbnb and other short-term rentals in the village. She said the discussion had been taken off Council’s agenda pending examination of another aspect of the problem, the impact on local affordability and the stock of starter homes, and would be brought back at a later date.

• During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, villager Kate Anderson Carrigan urged the Village to increase police presence downtown on the weekends to enforce local parking laws, citing the difficulties local residents faced in finding parking. Also during citizen comment, Rick Sanders, who lives on East Enon Road adjacent to Glass Farm, said he was surprised by a recent clearing of trees on that property. He asked how he could track progress on Glass Farm projects, which include a solar array and a potential housing development. Manager Bates said the Village would be keeping adjacent property owners informed by letter.

• In her manager’s report, Bates noted that the Village planned to contribute just under $65,000 for a permanent conservation easement held by Tecumseh Land Trust to protect Jacoby Creek on the former Arnovitz land recently purchased by Community Solutions. The Village contribution represents almost 60 percent of the total cost of the easement, and could be reimbursed by the Nature Conservancy at a later date. The remainder of the $200,000 Council previously voted to commit to greenspace preservation on the former Arnovitz property will stay in the Village greenspace fund, according to Bates at the meeting.

• Council agreed to spend $700 to purchase additional bike lights for distribution to local schoolchildren, continuing an existing program to promote kid-visibility.

• Council discussed the agenda for its April 24 retreat at Antioch University Midwest, with a focus on 2017 goals and other topics.

The next regular meeting of Village Council will be held on Monday, May 1, at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers.

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