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Village Council

Jobs, business first choice for CBE land

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Most villagers who weighed in on the topic would like to see the land known as the Center for Business and Education, or CBE, used in a way that promotes local economic development.

“People want to see the land used for economic development, to increase the tax base and make Yellow Springs more affordable,” said Sammy Saber, a member of the Village Economic Sustainability Commission, or ESC, at a meeting on the CBE sponsored by that group on Thursday, June 29. The sparsely attended meeting was the second of two meetings aimed at engaging the community in the future of the 35-acre CBE land on the western edge of Yellow Springs. Originally purchased by Community Resources largely with Village money, the land was returned to the Village last summer when Community Resources exchanged the land in return for forgiveness of the loan used to buy it.

Since that time,Village Council charged the ESC with engaging the community in finding ways to move forward with developing the land. Toward that end, the group distributed boxes in prominent places in town and launched an online survey that asked villagers three questions: What community values should inform the use of the property currently known as the CBE? What community needs could this property serve? What would you like to see/or not see on this property?

In total, 124 individuals took part in answering the survey or filling out cards, along with 14 others who attended the previous public forum, held in March. According to a document distributed at the June 29 meeting, 59 percent of respondents want to see economic development on the land, 35 percent prefer greenspace/farmland, 15 percent would like the land used for energy production, and 13 percent prefer housing.

“We preach affordability, so the property should be used to help provide jobs,” wrote one respondent. “Jobs that are clean, pay a living wage, jobs where residents can walk to work. The Village should use the CBE to support our local entrepreneurs who want to expand.”

Ultimately, the land might be used for more than one purpose, ESC members said.

“There may not be just one use of the land,” said Saber, who analyzed the data. Recently, Council approved a request from Cresco Labs Ohio to purchase eight acres of the land for a cultivation and processing facility for medical marijuana. The purchase will go through if the company is approved by the state as a medical marijuana provider.

Along with conveying the results of citizen preferences, ESC members also clarified the current restrictions on use of the CBE, as identified in the CBE covenant, a legal document filed with the Greene County Recorders Office in March 2006. And those restrictions align with the preferences stated by villagers.

Specifically, the covenant does not allow retail use of the property, other than that related to its primary use. It also bans fast food restaurants, gas stations or residential use other than hotels, along with an assortment of other restrictions. And in their responses, villagers strongly stated that the land should not be used for retail or in a way that competes with downtown Yellow Springs.

“The rules already in place match up well with what the village wants to see done with the CBE,” Saber said.

The preferences expressed recently by villagers regarding CBE use also line up with priorities identified in the 2010 visioning process, according to Village Council member Brian Housh, the Council ESC liaison.

“Many things we heard a couple of months ago are the same things people said seven or eight years ago,” Housh said, citing as examples villagers’ desire for “jobs and taxes to address affordability.”

Regarding economic development, the respondants also described the kind of economic development they’d like to see on the CBE land. Their first choice is light industry, that is, businesses that have little impact on the environment and produce little waste, with the second choice technology companies.

Currently, the Village-owned CBE land is rented out for farming. After paying property taxes on the land, the Village nets about $1,250 yearly in profit.

That amount makes clear that agricultural use does not compete with creating new business in terms of bringing revenues to the Village, according to ESC member Dean Pallotta.

“The potential on the business side is huge,” Pallotta said, stating that the Village will get “more bang for its buck” if it locates new business on the CBE land.

And while some worry that developing the CBE land would break up the Jacoby greenbelt, the CBE land has never been considered part of the greenbelt, which is slightly west of the land, according to Housh.

New houses in village

Village Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger, providing context for competing needs in the village, addressed the recent building activity in town, and opportunities for additional housing.

Considerable building has taken place in recent years as villagers have taken advantage of the 2013 loosening of the Village zoning code, according to Swinger, who said permits for about 50 new homes have been approved in that time.

“We’ve had a big increase in infill since the 2013 rollback of zoning restrictions,” she said.

In a followup email this week, Swinger said that since the beginning of 2015, the zoning office has issued permits for 20 detached single-family units, four single-family attached units, one two-family unit and six accessory dwellings, a total of 32 new units. Not all have been built to date, she said, but the assumption is that they will be.

According to Swinger, the villager has more land available for building new homes. She identified about 50 acres of empty lots currently in the Village, including 20 acres at the Village-owned Glass Farm, 20 acres off Wright Street and space off Southgate Drive.

However, most of that land is privately owned and currently not for sale, according to Home, Inc. Executive Director Emily Seibel.

Budget in black

Village Assistant Managter Melissa Dodd, also providing context, presented a report on the current status of Village finances.

Revenues for the Village general fund, which funds most Village services other than utilities, currently sit at about $3 million per year, Dodd said, with $2 million of that total coming from the Village income tax and $1 million from Village property tax.

Village revenues are currently sufficient to cover expenses, according to Dodd, and this year’s budget, along with the forecasted budget for next year, is in the black. While the Village went through several years of deficit spending following the loss of local industry about 15 years ago, followed by the recession, the financial situation has stabilized since then due to slow but steady growth in Village income tax revenue.

However, much of that stability is linked to the Village property tax, which brings in about $750,000 yearly. Passed by only a single vote as a one-time tax in 2006, the levy has been renewed twice by wide margins since then.

The Village also continues to lose state funding, according to Dodd.

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