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Village Council— Housing study takes shape

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Who lives in Yellow Springs? How much do local residents spend on housing? What kinds of housing options are available and do these options meet the needs of residents? What land is available for development? What housing trends are affecting housing costs and quality? What housing problems do local residents face?

By the end of the year, the Village may have answers to these and related questions, thanks to a planned housing needs assessment, or HNA, to be conducted by an outside firm.

At its Aug. 21 regular meeting, Village Council gave the green light to Village Manager Patti Bates to issue a request for proposal, or RFP, for the local housing study. Bates did so last week, with a deadline of Sept. 11 for proposals by responding firms. The goal is to have results before the end of December, Bates said at the meeting.

The purpose of the HNA is to provide an in-depth picture of the housing needs and trends affecting Yellow Springs and the surrounding area, according to the RFP. The study would involve a combination of census data, housing-related data provided by the Village and regional agencies and qualitative input from local residents. It is the first comprehensive local housing study in more than 40 years (the previous study was undertaken by the Yellow Springs League of Women Voters in 1972). The information from the HNA will be used by Council to set priorities for local housing development, including planning for housing on the Village-owned Glass Farm property.

The current study will likely cost the Village between $15,000 and $30,000, according to Council member Marianne MacQueen this week. To partially offset the expense, the Village has received a $1,000 grant from Xylem/YSI and has applied for a grant from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

Related to the HNA, Council discussed the role of citizen volunteers in different aspects of the housing study. MacQueen recommended forming a manager’s housing advisory board, to consist of eight to 10 citizens coordinated by the Village manager. The advisory board would potentially gather and review housing data in collaboration with the HNA consultant, and make recommendations to Council regarding housing strategy based on study results. The work of the group could take up to two years, according to MacQueen’s written proposal on the subject.

But Council member Judith Hempfling strongly disagreed with the advisory board idea, stating her view that Council needed to take a greater leadership role in addressing affordable housing in the village.

“I am very opposed to this proposal,” she said. “[Council members] need to meet what I see and many see as a crisis around affordable housing.”

Hempfling urged Council to “make affordable housing the central focus of our work on housing needs,” proposing that a discussion of the issue be added to Council’s agenda one meeting a month.

But one citizen in attendance, Becky Campbell, voiced her opposition to gearing the study to affordable housing issues. “I hope you will do the housing assessment for the community, not just Home, Inc.,” she said, referring to the local affordable housing nonprofit.

Hempfling clarified that she did not oppose the HNA or the use of citizens to help gather qualitative data, just the specific proposal to create a Village manager’s housing advisory board. Hempfling suggested using existing citizen groups, such as the Human Relations Commission, or HRC, to help with data gathering, rather than forming a separate advisory board.

Council members expressed broad support for involving citizens in collecting qualitative data on local housing needs and issues to inform the HNA.

“I see the value of using community expertise,” Council Vice President Brian Housh said.

Home, Inc. Executive Director Emily Siebel also voiced her support for citizen involvement. “I urge you to think about qualitative data and community engagement,” she said.

While agreeing on the idea of engaging community groups in data collection, Council did not decide on a specific plan for doing so. Hempfling and MacQueen agreed to further discuss the advisory board idea and return to Council’s next regular meeting, Sept. 5, with a modified proposal for citizen involvement.

In other items of Council’s Aug. 21 business:

• Police Chief Brian Carlson introduced a proposal to add two corporal positions — a rank between officers and sergeants — to the Yellow Springs police department. The change would increase the number of supervisors on the force, and provide more opportunities for advancement in the local department, potentially improving officer retention, according to a written report Carlson presented to Council.

The plan is not to hire additional officers, but promote existing officers to the position, according to Sgt. Joshuah Knapp this week. Promotion of an officer into a corporal position would cost the department about $2,317 per individual.

The current proposal takes the place of a previous proposal last winter to add a third sergeant to the department. That proposal was put on hold after the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop incident and subsequent independent investigation of the events. The department presently has two sergeants; the addition of two corporals would provide supervisors on all shifts, according to Carlson’s report.

Council will consider legislation regarding the proposed new positions on Sept. 5.

• Council unanimously approved a resolution accepting the annexation of about 1.7 acres of land from Miami Township into Yellow Springs. The parcel in question is located behind the lots that face North High Street and Fairfield Pike and is completely surrounded by annexed Village property. The annexation will not expand village boundaries.

• Council continued a previous discussion regarding changes to Village planning and zoning codes to allow for Pocket Neighborhood Developments, or PNDs, a type of planned community that consists of clustering smaller dwellings around a common open space. Several Council members stressed the need for flexibility in the Village planning and zoning codes to accommodate a variety of potential developers’ approaches to the PNDs. Legislation on the proposed pocket neighborhoods will be considered at a later date.

• Tecumseh Land Trust Executive Director Krista Magaw asked Council to provide a letter of “partner support” as part of TLT’s forthcoming five-year grant proposal to the Regional Conservation Program, which could make up to $1.8 million in federal funds available for preservation on the Jacoby Creek properties on the western edge of Yellow Springs. The “partner support” would consist of a commitment of $200,000 in Village greenspace funds toward the potential future purchase of conservation easements in the Jacoby Greenbelt. According to Magaw, the commitment would help TLT leverage as much as $3.4 million in federal, state and private funds for conservation efforts in the greenbelt area over a span of about five years. Council will consider legislation on the funding commitment on Sept. 5.

• Village Manager Patti Bates addressed recent brown water incidents in the village, clarifying that the flushing of accumulated manganese out of local pipes, which causes the brown water, will continue as the water treatment plant nears completion. The plant is expected to go on line by Thanksgiving, Bates said.

The new plant will remove manganese from local water, unlike the current plant. But brown water incidents may continue for several years, until the manganese is completely flushed out of local pipes, Bates cautioned.

• During the citizen concerns portion of the meeting, Maiya Thornton Hodge and Ri Molnár addressed Council regarding their proposal that the Village purchase the Union School House building, which is currently for sale, and develop it into affordable live/work spaces for artists, particularly younger artists and artists of color. In response, several Council members stated they did not see the Village purchasing the building at this time, but encouraged the women to seek out other potential investors.

• Also during citizen concerns, Dayton Street resident Christine Johnson addressed Council regarding the speed and volume of vehicles along Dayton Street. Chief Carlson said he would monitor early-morning traffic on the road.

• Council’s next regular meeting will take place Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers. It will be preceded by an executive session at 6 p.m for the purpose of evaluating a public employee and the discussion of potential litigation.

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