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Village Council

Support for housing’s next steps

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At Village Council’s May 7 meeting, Council gave verbal approval to the  Housing Advisory Group to move ahead with efforts to address local housing needs.

“We’ve been here before, but it seems more serious now. Whatever affordability is, we’re feeling it more,” Council member Kevin Stokes said. “There’s a sense of urgency. We have a greater appetite for doing what needs to be done.”

Stokes and Council member Lisa Kreeger expressed their support for the housing effort. Council President Brian Housh and Judith Hempfling were absent.

The discussion came in response to a request from Council Vice President Marianne MacQueen, who sought Council approval before asking the Housing Advisory Group to take next steps to address local housing needs. Those steps include recommending to Council a vision statement along with housing goals and strategies. Council would then give final approval.

“There’s a lot that Village government can’t do,” regarding housing, MacQueen said. “But there’s a lot that it can do.”

What Village government can do is to provide vision and strategies, along with collaborating with other entities and incentivizing developers to address local needs, she said.

MacQueen also presented to Council a summary of last month’s series of community conversations around local housing, which summarized results from the recent Housing Needs Assessment and provided opportunities for villagers to share priorities and concerns around the issue.

“In general, there was strong concern that the Village is becoming older, whiter, richer and less diverse,” MacQueen wrote in her summary. “Concerns were expressed that we are becoming a gentrified bedroom community with fewer children to attend our schools because young families cannot afford to live here.”

Housing priorities that emerged from the meetings included providing more downsizing opportunities for seniors, and more affordable rentals, MacQueen said.

Villager Matthew Kirk encouraged Village government to be bold in moving ahead with housing. According to the Housing Needs Assessment, Yellow Springs in the next five years could absorb up to 500 new housing units.

“I don’t think there are small steps that can change this,” he said. “What if you put out a RFP [Request for Proposal] that says, “We’re open for business, we want to build 500 homes. The challenge is how to take a serious bite of the apple.”

MacQueen will return to Council with recommendations from the Housing Advisory Group. That group consists of Council liaisons MacQueen and Judith Hempfling, Village Manager Patti Bates, Village Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger, Chamber of Commerce Director Karen Wintrow, Kevin McGruder and Liz Voight.

In other Council May 7 business:

• Council member Lisa Kreeger said she is putting on hold her previous recommendation for a tiered system for utility payments, along with an inclusion of 50 kilowatt hours in each household’s basic charge. Both were elements of an attempt to reduce utility costs for low-income villagers, as one aspect of addressing affordability.

However, according to Kreeger, since she made the recommendation in April, new information has emerged regarding upcoming Village electrical capital needs that are estimated to cost about $2 million. Especially, the Village needs to add a third electrical circuit to accommodate new development, such as the new Cresco business in the Center for Business and Education or future housing on the Glass Farm, according to Superintendent of Electric Johnnie Burns.

Council needs to have a conversation regarding those electric system needs before moving ahead with a tiered payment system, Kreeger said. She and Stokes agreed to meet to discuss next steps.

• Council approved an employment agreement for Colleen Harris as the new Village finance director, replacing Melissa Dodd, who left the position last month. Harris has served as finance director for New Carlisle for 15 years, according to Manager Bates. She will start part time immediately, and full time in June. According to the agreement, her starting salary is $72,000.

Dodd had also served as Village assistant manager. According to Bates in an email this week, that position is remaining vacant at this time.

• Council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance that establishes Christmas Eve Day as an additional holiday for Village employees.

• Council unanimously approved the creation of a Glass Farm Conservation Area Management Committee, to oversee maintenance of the conservation  area of the Village-owned land.

• Prior to its regular meeting, Council met in executive session to discuss the discipline of a public employee.

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, May 21, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers. Council will discuss Tobacco 21, a proposal from Greene County Public Health to ban the selling of tobacco products to those under 21, along with a proposal from the Justice System Task Force regarding recommendations for Mayor’s Court, among other topics.

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