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Village Council — ‘Pocket’ neighborhoods pass

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At its Sept. 18 meeting, Village Council  gave final approval to a new development tool that allows smaller, denser housing in Yellow Springs.

“This is a relatively new concept that has become popular around the country,” Council President Karen Wintrow said regarding the newly approved Pocket Neighborhood Development, or PND, housing option. 

The Council vote was unanimous for the second readings of nine ordinances involved in the PND zoning change, with Brian Housh, Marianne MacQueen, Gerry Simms and Karen Wintrow voting in favor. Judith Hempfling was absent due to the recent death of her father.

Signs defaced

At Council’s Sept. 18 meeting, Council Vice President Brian Housh suggested that the Village rename one of its streets, following repeated acts of vandalism on street signs.

“I don’t see how we can continue to justify replacing these signs,” he said.

Housh referred to signs on Whiteman Street, which have been defaced twice in the past month, presumably because the name can be read “White man.” The vandalism likely is linked to the “times we’re in,” Housh said, referring to the national conversation around white supremacy and the removal of statues of Confederate war heroes.

However, rather than renaming the street, which was named after Gen. Benjamin Whiteman, the defacement might be an opportunity to engage the village in a communitywide discussion regarding racial and social justice, said Jennifer Berman of Antioch College, who was attending Council to publicize an upcoming workshop on restorative justice.

“This could be a great case study for restorative justice,” she said, suggesting that the situation could provide senior projects for high school students who might interview villagers on the topic.

Some Council members were intrigued by Berman’s suggestion.

“I like the idea of using this as a teachable moment for the community,” said Marianne MacQueen, who said she will talk with school staff regarding the proposal.

Council’s action makes the PND a conditional use for all three Village residential areas. Under a PND, the most dense residential area, Residence C, could have up to 12 units per acre, Residence B could have up to eight units per acre and the least dense area, Residence A, could have up to six per acre. 

The Village Planning Commission has been working on the zoning change for almost a year, according to Village Manager Patti Bates, who thanked the planners and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger for their work on the project. The change followed the 2011 villagewide visioning effort and 2013 zoning code changes, both of which emphasized the local desire for infill development in Yellow Springs. 

The new zoning tool could be especially useful for local seniors, Swinger had said at an earlier meeting, because the PND’s dense layout and smaller homes encourage both downsizing and community.

There are several differences between the PND and the Planned Unit Development, or PUD, zoning option, which also allows for multi-family housing. The main difference is size, with five acres required for a PUD development, while the PND is slated for areas under five acres. And the process for PND approval will likely be less complicated than that for a PUD.

Home, Inc., has recently discussed with Council its plans for a PND, Glen Cottages, to be located at 1133 Xenia Ave.

In other Council Sept. 18 business:

• Council unanimously approved a resolution that allows Manager Bates to enter into a contract for a Yellow Springs housing needs assessment with Bowen National Research of Columbus, Ohio.

The assessment will help Council “determine the path forward on housing needs,” according to Bates. Council member Marianne MacQueen has been the main advocate for the assessment, as a step toward determining local housing needs, and potentially developing more affordable housing in town.

“I’m excited about this,” MacQueen said, stating that she and Wintrow have been discussing the need for such an assessment for almost a decade.

The Bowen firm submitted the lowest bid of the three applicants for the project, and also had the best references, according to Bates, especially regarding its community engagement process. The Village is contracting to pay $24,900 for the assessment.

According to the firm’s proposal, it conducts about 500 studies per year of “a variety of real estate development alternatives,” using detailed analyses of demographics, economics and rental housing supply. Bowen has previously conducted 20 studies within Greene County, and four within Yellow Springs, mainly for private sector developers, according to the proposal.

• Council unanimously approved supplemental appropriations for the 2017 budget in the total amount of $16,205. The appropriations included an increase of $120,400 in the general fund budget and a reduction of $73,900 in enterprise funds. The reduction in the water fund was a line item that had been overbudgeted based on previous years’ expenses, according to a document from Finance Director and Assistant Manager Melissa Dodd. The increase in the general fund included about $60,000 in legal fees above the Village’s retainer agreement with Solicitor Chris Conard.

• Council reviewed figures provided by Bates regarding proposed increases in the Village’s current tap-in fees for utilities. At a previous meeting, Council had asked Bates to provide comparisons with other communities of the same size.

The fee increases would only affect new homes built in town, Bates said, and reflect the staff time and materials involved.

Regarding water tap-in, Village staff recommends that the Village increase its current rate of $375 to $600. In comparisons with 11 other area communities, fees ranged from $125 in Sidney to $4,100 in Waynesville. 

Staff recommends that the Village increase its sewer system tap-in fee from no charge to $750. In the 11 other communities cited, sewer tap-ins ranged from $100 in Sidney to $700 in Farmersville to $4,300 in Waynesville.

Village staff recommends that the Village charge $250 for electricity tap-in, compared with currently having no charge. This figure compares with Jackson Center’s charge of $150 and no charge in Shelby and Arcanum.

Council will vote on the tap-in increases at its Oct. 2 meeting.

• In her manager’s report, Bates reported that construction of the new Village solar array on the Glass Farm should be completed by the second week of October, if not sooner.

• Bates’ report also stated that the Dayton-Yellow Springs construction project near the entrance of the CBE is nearing completion.

• Police Chief Brian Carlson reported that during the week of Sept. 25 the local department is hosting a Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT. After the completion of the event, all Yellow Springs officers but one will have completed the 40-hour training, he said.

• Jennifer Berman, of Antioch College, and Jalyn Roe, of Community Empowerment Organization, or CEO, announced to Council the upcoming restorative justice symposium, “Healing Harms in Today’s Troubled World,” to be held at Antioch College. The event will take place Oct. 27–29.

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