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Village Council — Senior apartments vetted

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Questions about the impact of a proposed apartment building on Village infrastructure, area traffic and local seniors were addressed at Village Council’s final meeting of the year on Dec. 17.

As previously reported, Council gave initial approval to the project, a 54-unit affordable senior apartment building between Herman and Marshall streets. This article further details the discussion. 

Council will consider legislation to rezone the property this month. The first of two readings of a rezoning ordinance is set for Jan. 7.

Home, Inc. and its development partner, St. Mary Development Corporation of Dayton, applied for the Planned Unit Development, or PUD, zoning because the project exceeds the density and height restrictions, among other deviations. In the end, in several unanimous 4–0 votes Council approved the project’s requested zoning code deviations and affirmed it met the standards and conditions of PUD zoning. Council member Kineta Sanford recused herself from discussion and voting, stating that she has a conflict of interest since she works at Home, Inc.

Before voting to move the project ahead, Council heard more information from Village staff, developers and citizens.

In response to a question from Council member Kevin Stokes about whether Village infrastructure could accommodate the building, Village Public Works Director Johnnie Burns said that it could, with some infrastructure improvements.

“I think we can but we will have to do some improvements and move things to prioritize to get ready for this development,” Burns said.

At the meeting, developers confirmed their commitments of $53,000 for an electric transformer and other Village infrastructure construction costs and $27,000 for a sewer re-lining project on Herman Street, with the potential for increases of up to 15 percent of both of those figures.

Home, Inc.’s director Emily Seibel also discussed their process for accepting applications for the units, which they said is aimed to give local seniors priority while staying within fair housing guidelines. 

“As soon as the project is approved seniors can join our interest list,” Seibel explained. Then, in 2021, once the building is within 120 days of being complete, Home, Inc. will notify those on the list, after which the applications will be reviewed “on a first-come, first-served basis,” she said. 

Six citizens spoke during an open comment period, most in support of the apartments. However, Jillian Ewalt, whose family lives in the neighborhood, spoke in opposition to the current plan.

Ewalt, who has a young child, said that although she sees there is a need for affordable senior housing in the village, she also believes it’s important to think about the impact on the neighborhood from the project, which she said  “engenders anxiety for traffic and safety.”

“I don’t want my evening walks and free-spirited play to be obscured or deterred all together due to heavy traffic,” she said.

Ewalt added that there are “long-term, community-wide implications for this kind of development.”  

“Please don’t drive young families in this neighborhood out,” she said.

Mitzie Miller asked several questions, including whether parking is allowed on adjacent streets. She also cited the challenges a Springfield independent and assisted living facility had with guest parking.

Richard Lapedes framed his comments by saying that the Village has been wrestling with affordable housing for more than a decade yet hasn’t been able to find a better alternative. Although it may be disruptive to the neighborhood, he believes on the balance the project will have a positive impact.

“Will it be disruptive to some neighbors … in their neighborhood? Probably. Will it bring more young families to the village? One thinks it probably will,” Lapedes said.

Pat Brown said that in her opinion, the value of having housing for seniors far outweighs the zoning deviation allowing the building to be four stories, rather than the three stories permitted. She added that she isn’t worried about parking saying, “we seniors, we don’t drive a lot,” and that with the fire station at the adjacent property, the building will fit in the neighborhood.

“That site is a good site,” Brown said. 

Finally, Chris Bongorno, who is both an adjacent homeowner and the Home, Inc. board president, said during the process, Home, Inc. has reached out to neighbors numerous times. He added that in terms of traffic issues, the plan is solid.

“I feel the project team has addressed those concerns very well,” he said.

And former Council member Judith Hempfling said that multi-family buildings have “fit harmoniously” in various parts of the village, as well as in other communities. 

Traffic and parking impacts

The influx of vehicles that the apartment building may bring emerged as another possible concern during Council discussions. Council members queried Village staff and developers about how the apartments might affect both traffic and parking in the area. Council also affirmed that the Village will move ahead with a traffic study, which Planning Commission had recommended after its review of the preliminary PUD plan. 

Burns, having described the Herman Street at Xenia Street intersection as “one of the most dangerous intersections we have in town,” said that the new apartments wouldn’t help the current traffic situation. Burns added that if that study recommends infrastructure changes to improve public safety, he would like to complete them.

“If it’s a traffic light or a turn lane to improve safety, I will do it,” Burns said.

That possible turn lane would most likely be on Herman Street, according to Burns, while a traffic light, if necessary, would cost the Village in the range of $225,000, he said.

Burns said he did not know the approximate cost of a Village-funded traffic study, and that he has inquired into whether the Ohio Department of Transportation would help fund it.

Although supportive of a traffic study, two Council members questioned how significant an impact the apartments may have on area traffic. Stokes wondered whether traffic was previously a problem when the Wright State medical clinic was located at the site. After operating for decades, that clinic shut down in 2009.  And Council Vice President Marianne MacQueen said her larger concern was the impact of the new fire station, not the apartments. 

Previously, Home, Inc. completed its own traffic study, Seibel explained at the meeting, which showed that the apartments would be considered “very low impact” and would not necessitate another traffic study. 

“We take traffic seriously too, but in our initial research into it, it didn’t appear that this would cause a problem,” Seibel said. “If there’s already a problem there, that’s another discussion.” 

Parking was also discussed. Village Planner and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger affirmed her recommendation for 54 parking spaces, or one for each resident. That figure is more than the current plan for 42 spaces, but less than the zoning code requirement of 68.

Previously, St. Mary lowered their estimate for the number of parking spaces needed after discovering that only about half of the residents of their senior apartments  had cars. 

Swinger, however, believes the average age at their senior apartments, 80, may be higher than the Yellow Springs project is initially. In addition, other St. Mary sites may be closer to bus lines, Swinger said.

However, Council members MacQueen and Housh affirmed their support for fewer spaces.

“The idea was to have as much greenspace as possible,” MacQueen said of the move to 42 spaces.

Home, Inc. has said they would set aside funding and space to add 12 more spaces if more parking is needed. At the meeting, Seibel added that they also intend to promote alternative modes of transportation for apartment residents. Among those initiatives are to get a dedicated Greene CATS bus stop nearby and to fundraise for golf carts and “elder trikes” for residents. 

In other Council news— 

 County money awarded

During announcements, Housh acknowledged a recent award of $22,064 from Greene County. Council was exploring using the money for “something that would have a high return on investment,” Housh said. The funds must be spent in 2019 and be used for economic development or infrastructure, Housh confirmed later. The county had decided to return surplus funds to its municipalities. 

• Deficit budget approved

Council unanimously approved the 2019 budget, which is about a half million in the red. Projected general fund spending is $3.9 million while projected income is $3.4 million.

• Affordable housing fund created

In a 4–0 vote, Council created a new fund at the Village for affordable housing. However, no money was put in the fund. Marianne MacQueen abstained from the vote.

Village wages increased

Council voted unanimously to increase the pay for hourly Village employees by 2 percent for 2019. The move will not affect salaried employees, whose compensation is reviewed separately.

Progress on health award

Housh announced that the Village, which is being considered for a “Culture of Health” award, had recently advanced to the second stage in the process. Almost 200 municipalities had applied, and the Village is now in the top 20 percent, Housh said. If selected, the village would receive a financial prize.

• Citizen concerns

Former Council member Judith Hempfling noted her concern about a Village proposal to lock the Bryan Center after 11 p.m.

 Next meeting

Council’s next regular meeting is Monday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. in Council chambers. 

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