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The Yellow Springs Development Corporation held its first meeting since incorporating on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the WYSO Community Room. Listening to YSDC President Lisa Abel facilitate are, from left, Eric Henry (Greene County Department of Development), Lisa Kreeger, obscured (Village Council), Karen Wintrow (Chamber of Commerce), Don Hollister (Miami Township), Steve McQueen (school board) and Hannah Montgomery (Antioch College). (Submitted photo by Dan Carrigan)

YSDC holds its first meeting

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A new economic development organization is up and running in the village.

The Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, held its first meeting since incorporating on Tuesday, Feb. 4, although prior meetings have been held as the group got established.

At the February meeting, members and other attendees brainstormed a group mission statement; discussed an opportunity to market the village in a county publication; and heard a proposal, in its early stages, to explore building a K–12 school facility on the Antioch College campus.

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The YSDC is a quasi-governmental, nonprofit corporation that has been designated by the Village of Yellow Springs and Miami Township as their official Community Improvement Corporation, or CIC.

A CIC is a public economic development body in Ohio that can apply for grants, borrow money, give loans and sell municipal property without advertising and bidding, among other functions. There are around 300 such groups in the state.

A previous local CIC, Community Resources, operated in the village from 1999 to 2017, but was never officially designated as a local public entity.

YSDC President Lisa Abel, who is also president of the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, said the local group was formed for two purposes — economic development and coordination among local public bodies.

In an interview, Abel said she sees the YSDC as a place to comprehensively address local issues such as affordability and the need for more jobs.

“The pieces are here, the land is here and the zoning is here,” Abel said. “But it’s not going to work if everyone is working on their own silos.”

The board is made up of public officials from the Village and Township, along with the Yellow Springs School District, Antioch College and the local Chamber of Commerce. According to state law, a designated CIC must have a membership that is 40% public officials, in this case, representatives from the Village and township.

Voting members of the group are Abel; Village Council members Lisa Kreeger and Marianne MacQueen; Miami Township Trustee Don Hollister; Chamber Director Karen Wintrow; Antioch College President Tom Manley and Vice President of Operations and Business Hannah Montgomery; and school board members Steve McQueen and Steve Conn. Two seats are still to be filled — another one for Miami Township and a citizen spot.

At the February meeting, board members were joined by invited participants, including YS Schools Superintendent Terri Holden, Village Manager Josué Salmerón, Greene County Department of Development Program Coordinator Eric Henry, Miami Township Trustee Chris Mucher, Village Council President Brian Housh and Community Foundation Director Jeannamarie Cox. This reporter and two citizens also attended. Marianne MacQueen and Tom Manley were both absent.

To-be-vacated MTFR station eyed

In one of the YSDC’s first initiatives, the group is considering ways to use the Miami Township Fire-Rescue property, which will be vacated once a new fire station along Xenia Avenue is complete.

Miami Township leaders have discussed conveying the property to the group, which would sell it and give the proceeds back to the township.

According to Abel, the benefit of the YSDC selling the land is that while the township would have to auction the property to the highest bidder, the development corporation could select a buyer it perceived as creating the most good for the community.

A subcommittee for the YSDC, made up of Village Manager Salmerón, Community Foundation Director Cox and citizen Roger Reynolds, is exploring uses of the property and parameters for a sale.

In executive session at the YSDC’s January meeting, Salmerón and Cox presented the details about interested buyers and their overall plans for the property. No board decision was made.

At the same meeting, Salmerón described the group’s goal as finding the “highest and best use of the property,” by evaluating, in part, the impact on “people, places and profits.”

Abel said the process of selling township property could be a model for other public lands the group considers.

“We’re using it as our example for our procedure and policy for how we go about this,” she explained.

K–12 building at Antioch discussed

Village resident Patrick Lake, who runs an advanced materials research and development company in Cedarville, gave a brief presentation at the meeting on the possibility of siting a K–12 school facility on Antioch’s campus.

The partnership with the college, Lake said, could create a local “education district” and take advantage of collaborative opportunities in areas such as theater and the arts and sciences. A portion of the school district’s current school properties, then, could be sold for residential and commercial development, Lake added.

Lake said he arrived at the idea after hearing that Antioch was considering selling some property, that “local school facilities are lacking” and that the need for more local housing and jobs is acute.

“This village is at a crossroads,” Lake said. “We have to do something proactive if we want to be attractive to young families and businesses alike.”

Antioch’s intentions to sell some of its property have been discussed in four public meetings over the last month. In response to a query from the News, an Antioch spokesperson wrote that although  there have been broad discussions on the idea in local venues, “there is nothing even close to in-progress or in the works.”

YSDC members responded positively to the idea, but also acknowledged that much work needs to be done to develop it.

Montgomery, the college’s vice president of operations and business management, expressed some caution.

“Especially as a campus with shared governance, there are a lot of conversations that need to happen,” she said.

Council member Kreeger said she is excited by the thought of an “education corridor” and appreciated considering alternative sites for a K–12 facility.

“It does strike me that thinking about a K–12 building someplace other than Mills Lawn or [Yellow Springs High School] is an intriguing idea,” she said.

School district leaders said that their latest thinking is that a K–12 campus is the best option to address school facilities.

“Simply in terms of cost efficiencies, a K–12 campus, wherever it happened to be, would be run more efficiently than our current setup,” said Conn, the school board’s president.

Conn added that the district is currently holding more land than it needs — about 44 acres of land.

“That is so much beyond our need for a district of our size,” he said.

Superintendent Holden was interested in exploring the idea, but also expressed a desire to move quickly on facilities needs.

“Our train is moving. We can’t wait five years,” she said.

Several different areas of campus were discussed as possible locations. Lake said he plans to continue to dialogue with the college and YS schools to further explore the idea.

Other agenda items

Among the other items on the February agenda was participating in a county economic develop publication and brainstorming a group mission statement.

The group decided to purchase a page in the “Discover Greene County” magazine to promote Yellow Springs as a place to live, work and play.

Addressing the group mission statement, Abel led an exercise to look at “why we’re doing this.”

Wintrow said the group was formed due to the “need for collaborative conversation.”

Housh added, “the community demanded it” during public discussions around the 2018 school levy.

“We have a limited pot of money, and we’re all pulling out of that,” he said of local government entities.

Salmerón read Cox’s draft vision and mission statements:

The draft vision statement read: “Ensuring a vibrant and economically healthy community.”

The draft mission statement read: “To serve as a coordinating and planning entity providing funding and oversight for projects that ensure the economic and cultural vitality of our community for business, nonprofit, residential and infrastructure development.”

The YSDC’s next meeting is Tuesday, March 3, from noon to 1:30 p.m., at the WYSO Community Room, located in the Kettering Building, 150 E. South College St. The meeting is open to the public.

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