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Council eyes option for smaller, denser housing

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Recently Village Council considered a new zoning category for small homes that encourage community.

“This is a clustering of smaller units centered around open space that lends itself to a sense of community, of people living closer together,” Village Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger said to Council at its July 17 meeting, in her presentation on Pocket Neighborhood Developments, or PNDs.

Planning Commission has been discussing adding the PND to the current Village zoning code “as a way to provide housing density,” Swinger said. “It’s another tool in the housing development tool box.”

The PND would provide villagers another way to develop infill lots, which Village government has encouraged in recent years as a way to increase density, following community support for more infill expressed during the 2010 visioning effort and the 2013 update in the Village zoning code. The new housing option is especially aimed at a perceived need among older villagers, according to Swinger. 

“PND zoning is a good way to address our aging population by giving boomers a chance to downsize,” according to the document presented to Council.

Council members expressed general support for the PND, but the topic was discussed only at this meeting. Council plans to vote on legislation adding PNDs to the zoning code at its Aug. 21 meeting.

Council asked the planners to revisit the PND topic before that time to clarify whether the planners would allow homes in a PND to be used for short-term rentals such as Airbnbs.

  The new zoning would also fit with Village government’s emphasis on environmental sustainability, according to the document presented by Swinger.

“There is less environmental impact because there is a reduction in roadways and hard surface areas, and more increased pedestrian pathways to connect,” the document states.

Planning Commission is recommending that PNDs be approved as a conditional use in all three current residential districts, A, B and C. The planners recommend that up to six homes per acre be allowed in Residence A, up to eight in Residence B, and up to 14 in Residence C, with two-family attached dwellings allowed in R-B and R-C. The homes would be constructed on a single lot under the control of a homeowners association, or HOA, although the homes would be individually owned. Up to 50 percent of the PND could be rental units.

There are several differences between the PND and another multi-home zoning option, the Planned Unit Development, or PUD, according to Swinger. While a PUD requires a minimum of five acres, the PND is smaller, and can be located on a lot of any size under five acres as long as the zoning requirements are met. A PUD is “spot zoning” that requires the approval of Planning Commission, while the PND would be conditionally allowed in all three residential districts. 

Recently, Home Inc. has announced its plan to develop a pocket neighborhood, Glen Cottages, on Xenia Avenue on the south end of town.

In other Council July 17 business:

• Former village resident Elizabeth Voigt, a housing consultant, presented Council with suggestions regarding  the Village’s upcoming housing assessment. Council has approved moving ahead with the assessment, though it’s in preliminary stages.

Overall, Voigt recommended that the housing assessment be thorough, including data on past and current trends, along with data on regional housing.    

“Having a backwards look helps you understand the trajectory you’re on,” she said.

Voigt also suggested that the assessment “needs to be grounded in community,” with significant effort made to reach out to community groups and include diverse input from citizens.

Council member Marianne MacQueen, who has advocated that the Village move ahead on a housing assessment, stated that she will bring to an upcoming meeting the names of villagers for a housing task force. 

• Council unanimously approved a proposal from Council member Brian Housh for a Complete Streets Policy Workshop on Aug. 24. 

The half-day workshop for Village staff, Council members and stakeholders, would introduce participants to the Complete Streets concept and its possible local ramifications. Complete Streets is a national movement in which government bodies address transportation needs in the context of all forms of transportation, including walking and biking, according to Housh in a recent interview. Yellow Springs recently was one of seven Ohio municipalities awarded a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation to assist with technical help for a Complete Streets  planning process.

A second step in the process will be the formation of a policy group to work on the effort. In addition, a community forum will take place, although the date has not yet been set. 

• Steve McQueen of the Village Human Rights Commission, or HRC, gave that group’s annual report.

The HRC in 2016 supported 14 local groups in community-building efforts and events, including Village block parties, Kwaanza, Girls Night Out and Boys Night Out, funds for the McKinney School eighth-grade trip, Ninja self-defense classes and the Month of Consent series of events, according to McQueen.

“We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do,” he said.

• Council and Village staff had an initial discussion on increasing fees for tapping into Village utilities, which is a one-time fee for new construction. Currently, the Village charges an amount for water tap-ins that doesn’t cover material and labor costs, according to Village Manager Patti Bates., and Council had asked staff to bring forward information comparing local fees to tap-in costs from area communities.

  Based on these figures, staff is recommending that the Village’s current water tap-in fee of $375 for an average home be increased to $600. It is also suggesting that the Village begin charging $250 for tapping into Village electrical services, where currently there is no fee. 

Council requested that staff assemble additional information comparing current Village tap-in fees to those of other communities. The discussion will continue at Council’s Aug. 21 meeting.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that authorizes the Village to enter into a contract with Arbor Care to perform the village’s annual tree trimming and clearing in the vicinity of electrical lines. The effort will take place in Section 4 of the village, which is north of Dayton Street.

According to the resolution, Arbor Care was the lowest bidder for the job, and will be paid $92,000 for the work.

• According to Police Chief Brian Carlson, local police recently assisted the Miami Township Fire Rescue squad with an overdose victim. 

The police are planning several future events to increase interaction between officers and the community, Carlson said.

• Council met in executive session following the regular meeting on the topic of potential litigation.

 The first Council meeting in August has been canceled. Council’s next regular meeting will take place Monday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. at Council chambers. It will be preceded by an executive session at 6 p.m. on the topic of personnel.

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