Planning Commission— Chappelle properties to be renovated
- Published: August 24, 2020
New yard signs are up at 241 Xenia Ave. One reads “Black Businesses Matter,” another reads simply “C.” The signs point to the presence of comedian, local resident and entrepreneur Dave Chappelle, whose company, Iron Table Holdings LLC, got the green light from the Yellow Springs planning commission last week for a major renovation of the mixed-use building.
County records show that Iron Table Holdings purchased the property encompassing three attached buildings at 239, 241 and 243 Xenia Ave. in November of 2018 for $599,000. The property currently houses Glen Garden Gifts to the north and Unfinished Creations to the south, while the middle building was previously home to Blue Hairon, a hair salon, and Wander & Wonder, an outdoor clothing and goods retailer.
According to plans presented at the meeting, the renovation of 241 Xenia Ave. will lead to a new hair and nail salon at street level, as well as a remodeled apartment on the upper floor with an extensive roof deck.
The project was the focus of one of five public hearings at the planning commission’s regular meeting, held virtually last Tuesday, Aug. 11. Another hearing involved a second property owned by Iron Table Holdings, 403 Xenia Ave., while a third hearing concerned a property currently being purchased by the architect who represented Chappelle’s company at the meeting. Two other hearings involved unrelated conditional use applications.
Present via Zoom last Tuesday were the planning commission’s current members, Frank Doden as chair, Dino Pallotta, Stephen Green, AJ Williams and Laura Curliss as Council liaison. Village planning and zoning staff members Denise Swinger and Raven Behrens also participated.
Architect Max Crome spoke via Zoom at three of the public hearings. Crome grew up in Yellow Springs and is currently the principal of Crome Architecture, a San Rafael, Calif.-based firm. As the sole representative of Iron Table Holdings at the hearings, he presented plans for the 241 Xenia Ave. renovation, as well as for an interior remodeling of the historic property at 403 Xenia Ave.
Crome was authorized by letter to speak at the hearings, but not to bind Iron Table Holdings to any contract or agreement.
Separate from representing Chappelle’s company, Crome also presented plans for a renovation of a third property, 604 Xenia Ave., that he is currently in the process of purchasing from its present owners, Krista Magaw and Andrew Carlson. According to Crome at the meeting, he intends to locate an office of his architecture firm there.
While Crome declined to answer a request at the meeting for more information about Iron Table Holdings, a privately held firm, Ohio incorporation documents from September of 2018 list Chappelle as its president. The documents also connect the firm to Pilot Boy Productions, Chappelle’s longtime production company.
Chappelle did not appear at last Tuesday’s meeting, however, nor was his name mentioned in connection with the projects. A company representative did not respond to News queries for more information about Iron Table Holdings.
Iron Table Holdings owns a total of three properties in downtown Yellow Springs, according to county records. In March, the company purchased 309 Xenia Ave., previously home to Oten Gallery and Aleta Café, for $485,000. And in June, it purchased 403 Xenia Ave., a property donated to Antioch College by villagers Esther and David Battle last summer. Antioch stated at the time of the donation its intention to put the property up for sale. After almost a year on the market, the property sold for $390,000.
County records additionally show that Chappelle’s Pilot Boy Productions owns two properties in Yellow Springs, 120 Railroad St., purchased in 2015 for $308,900, and 1540 Xenia Ave. on the southern edge of town, purchased in 2017 for $90,000.
Recent queries to Chappelle’s public relations manager, Carla Sims, regarding details of the comedian’s larger plan or vision for the accumulated properties were unanswered by press time.
241 Xenia Ave.
Regarding the 241 Xenia Ave. renovation, the plans call for the creation of a new nail and hair salon with eight manicure stations, eight pedicure stations and five hair styling stations to occupy about 1,500 square feet at ground level. A 450 square-foot glass “jewel box” structure will be added to the front of the existing brick façade at street level, bringing the currently set-back building flush with the sidewalk. A wooden addition facing Kieth’s Alley in the back will be demolished and an off-street parking area will be added to accommodate six vehicles for the trio of attached buildings (239 through 243).
In addition, an existing one-bedroom apartment on the upper level will be remodeled, and a 2,400 square-foot roof deck will be added to cover the street-facing portion of the 241 Xenia Ave. rooftop and extend in an “L” over Unfinished Creations at 243 Xenia Ave. While the architectural renderings presented last Tuesday show tables and chairs scattered across the roof deck, Crome clarified in response to a question that the deck is not intended as a restaurant.
Crome also addressed a concern from an owner of the neighboring property, 245 Xenia Ave., against which the roof deck will abut. During the public hearing, owner Ellen Hoover stated her worry that a proposed privacy screen at the edge of the roof deck would block her tenant’s view of the sky. Crome promised to work with Hoover on the issue.
Hoover was the only member of the public who spoke at this hearing. She also raised an ongoing concern regarding what she sees as insufficient time for public review and comment prior to planning commission meetings. In the current instance, the project is “a major visual change to the downtown that deserves some additional time for public input,” she wrote in an email to the Village, while also expressing support for the project during the meeting.
The street-level commercial space at 241 Xenia Ave. was previously rented out on a month-by-month basis to two different tenants. One was villager Lori Deal, longtime owner of Blue Hairon, while the other was Waynesville resident Jake Brummett, who opened his shop Wander & Wonder there in 2017. Both tenants were notified by Iron Table Holdings in February that they needed to move out by the end of April to accommodate new plans at the property.
Having worked in that location for over 30 years, Deal was upset by the termination at the time, publicly voicing her concerns in a published letter to the editor in March. She moved out of the building in March, and has not reopened her business elsewhere, largely because of COVID-19 concerns, she said this week. Deal added that she has made peace with the move.
For his part, Brummett said the situation has worked out in his favor. He was allowed to stay rent-free from April to July because of pandemic-related slowdowns in the property’s development. During that time, he sought and found a new space for his shop. Wander & Wonder is now located in Kings Yard, in the space vacated by Sam & Eddie’s Open Books.
The planning commission approved 5–0 the conditional use application for the 241 Xenia Ave. renovation, with the condition that a lighting plan be submitted. On a recommendation from Village staff, the commission waived code-stipulated parking requirements, which would have mandated a total of 55 spaces for the three attached buildings. Municipal lots and some dedicated parking on Kieth’s Alley were deemed sufficient for the property.
Commission members had few questions about the project, and no timeline for construction was offered at the meeting.
403 Xenia Ave.
A second Iron Table Holdings property, 403 Xenia Ave., was the focus of a separate hearing last Tuesday. The company sought a zoning change to allow for a renovation leading to a multi-family dwelling with three apartments. A wholly residential use is not permitted under the property’s current zoning of B-1, or central business district. The building is currently mixed use, with professional office space on the lower level and two apartments on the upper level.
Following Village staff advice, Iron Table Holdings sought a rezoning of 403 Xenia Ave. and two adjacent properties to R-C, or high-density residential, to match the surrounding area. The rezoning of all three properties, including a residence at 120 E. Limestone St. and the public library at 415 Xenia Ave., would avoid a “spot zoning” situation, where zoning differs on a single property. Libraries are a permitted use under R-C zoning.
The property at 403 Xenia Ave. is located on the edge of the central business district, just beyond the Mills Park Hotel. Rezoning it and its neighbors to the south and east for R-C would slightly curtail the B-1 portion of the zoning map, but wouldn’t materially affect the size of the actual downtown district, according to a letter of support from Karen Wintrow of the YS Chamber of Commerce.
“While we would not typically support any efforts to reduce the area of the Central Business District, we do support the request for the rezoning of 403 Xenia Ave. … as Limestone St. creates a natural end point of the Central Business District,” the letter states.
Crome noted at the meeting that 403 Xenia Ave. is currently under a conservation easement held by the Tecumseh Land Trust to protect historic details of the exterior. That easement was put in place in conjunction with the Battles’ donation of the property to Antioch College in 2019. Crome affirmed his desire to preserve the façade during the remodel of the interior, which is not part of the easement.
“We wouldn’t dream of changing the exterior of the building,” he said at the meeting.
With few questions, planning commission members unanimously recommended the zoning change to R-C for 403 Xenia Ave. and its two contiguous properties. The recommendation will go to Village Council for final approval, as a Council vote is required to change the Village zoning map.
Based on the timeline for Council approval, construction could begin no earlier than mid-October.
604 Xenia Ave.
At a separate hearing last Tuesday, architect Crome sought approval for a professional office space at 604 Xenia Ave. He is in the process of purchasing the property, and plans to renovate the interior of the residence, formerly a historic church, for a new Yellow Springs office of his architecture firm.
Built in 1855, the building was formerly home to First Baptist Church, and has served as a residence since 1997, after the church congregation relocated to a new building on Dayton Street.
Crome presented his plans to convert the interior of the old church/residence into an architectural office that would employ up to eight professionals. Some details of the exterior would be changed, such as removing the stained glass windows and incorporating them on the interior. No alterations to the building footprint are planned.
Crome stressed his affinity for old buildings, and pledged that though the church is not under historic preservation easement or otherwise formally protected, he would honor the building’s history and integrity.
One focus of the public hearing was a proposed on-site parking lot with nine spaces along the alley off of West Whiteman Street. Rick and Barbara Klopp of neighboring 612 Xenia Ave. voiced strong opposition to the parking lot, calling it “out of harmony” with the surrounding area. Connie Crockett and present property owner Krista Magaw also addressed the parking issue. In the end, existing on-street parking was deemed sufficient, and the on-site parking plan, except for one ADA-compliant space, was scrapped.
Also at the hearing, Crome shared a PowerPoint presentation detailing his personal history in Yellow Springs and his current architecture practice. He grew up here after moving to the village in a yellow school bus in 1970 with his parents and siblings. His father first taught at Antioch College, then worked as a local builder, according to Crome. The family became close with Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff and their children, ties that persist to this day, Crome said. His wife, Abigail, also grew up in Yellow Springs.
Crome expressed fondness for the community, saying that opening an office locally felt like a “move to come home.”
According to information presented at the meeting, Crome Architecture is a Marin County, Calif. practice focused on commercial, retail and high-end residential properties. Crome said he got his start designing stores for Peet’s Coffee, a San Francisco Bay-area coffeehouse chain, as well as retail outlets for Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. He characterized his approach as “what you see is what you get,” with a focus on natural materials and clean lines.
Crome added that he was “hoping to bring my particular brand of architecture to Yellow Springs.”
Crome didn’t respond to several attempts by the News to learn more about his new local architecture practice.
The planning commission voted 5–0 to approve the conditional use application for 604 Xenia Ave. A closing on the sale of the property is scheduled for late September, according to Magaw in a follow-up call.
Two other conditional use applications were approved at the Aug. 11 meeting. Members voted 4–1 to approve “after the fact” an existing accessory dwelling unit at 602 Keystone Court. The dwelling was constructed over the past year without approval from the Village, despite some initial discussion last summer between the zoning office and the contractor hired for the project. Pallotta voted against the application. Although he didn’t cite a specific reason for his opposition, he expressed concerns during the hearing about the size of an impervious concrete patio surrounding the dwelling. A portion of the patio will need to be torn up to meet the Village’s setback requirements.
Owner David Johansen explained at the hearing that he had moved to town a year ago and was unclear on the Village’s permitting process. The accessory dwelling unit is intended for personal use and is not currently envisioned as a short-term rental, Johansen clarified.
The planning commission also voted 5–0 to approve a home occupancy permit for a “hobby farm” at 406 S. Stafford St. Owners Michael Anes and Heather Wright plan to grow fruits and vegetables in beds and hoop houses on the property for sale to local individuals, restaurants and others. Their application was passed with several conditions, including no sales on site, no farm animals except for chickens kept for personal use and no lighting in the hoop houses. Also, roosters were explicitly disallowed.
New stormwater guidelines
In a process spanning about a year, the planning commission has been working to develop new stormwater guidelines and make related revisions to the Village planning and zoning codes. During the recent July and August meetings, members approved nearly all of those amendments, with one item related to park land held for further discussion. The recommended code changes will come before Village Council for a vote.
The centerpiece of the changes is a new “Stormwater Guidelines for Low Impact Development,” which would replace a previous outdated section, of the planning code called “Estate Street Design.” The new guidelines emphasize the need to improve and protect water quality and manage storm runoff. Geared to property owners and developers, the guidelines set forth Village requirements for stormwater mitigation based on several variables, and outline a range of stormwater management methods. Such methods include rain gardens, cisterns, managed natural landscapes, vegetated swales and permeable pavers.
According to Village staff at the July meeting, the new guidelines are needed to address a growing local problem of stormwater runoff related to intensified weather events driven by climate change, as well as changing development patterns in the village that increasingly emphasize infill.
Initial guidelines were drafted by outside firm Choice One Engineering, then revised with input from Tom Dietrich and Nadia Malarkey of the Environmental Commission and Public Works Director Johnnie Burns.
Other items from July meeting
In addition to the first segment of voting on the new stormwater guidelines, the July 14 regular meeting, held virtually, saw two conditional use applications.
The planning commission approved 5–0 an application by Mark Obstalecki, owner of Coactive Yellow Springs LLC, to renovate the interior of the commercial building at 506 S. High Street to create new collaborative professional office space for rent. About 4,400 square feet of existing office space is slated for remodeling and updating into eight individual offices, as well as a conference room, smaller “huddle room” and an atrium. No changes to the building footprint are planned.
Council member Lisa Kreeger, serving as an alternate, expressed support. “I think this is the kind of space that is really needed in Yellow Springs,” she said at the July meeting. Kreeger also advised Obstalecki to make extra efforts to ensure the safety of tenants during the pandemic, which he said he would do.
Obstalecki purchased the property in April of 2019 for $400,000 from its prior owner, Patrick Ertel, who ran his niche magazine publishing company, Ertel Publishing, out of the building for nearly 20 years. The building currently houses one tenant, the Morgan Family Foundation.
A mechanical engineer who works for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and lives in Bath Township, Obstalecki initially sought to rent the available space to a single tenant. Unable to find a renter over the past year, he began to pursue his longer-term plan of developing a collaborative office environment geared to nonprofit organizations and small businesses.
As of this week, construction had already begun at the site, with initial work being done on the building’s stormwater management system. Obstalecki in mid-July expressed the hope that the building would be ready for occupancy by late fall.
Also at the July 14 meeting, the planning commission approved 4–0 a conditional use application for a home occupancy permit from villager Joan Chappelle to move her professional psychotherapy practice into her home office at 163 E. Herman Street. Williams did not respond to the vote roll call.
Planning commission meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month, with the next meeting slated for Sept. 8.
Correction: The sale price of the property at 309 Xenia Ave. has been corrected from the print version.