Land annexation moves ahead
- Published: September 30, 2020
Council began the process of annexing 34 acres of land on the south end of the Village at its virtual meeting on Monday, Sept. 21.
A resolution, passed unanimously, allows Miamisburg housing developer Oberer Homes to move forward with plans to annex a parcel into the village to build a new residential development of 138 single-family homes and duplexes.
Oberer, a semi-custom home builder, is under contract to purchase a 51-acre property located off of Spillan Road from Ken and Betheen Struewing. One third of the property is already within Village limits and zoned for housing, while the rest is in Miami Township.
CEO George Oberer has said his company would develop the property whether or not it was annexed, but that without annexation they could build, at most, 113 houses. Homes in the development would likely start at $300,000, Oberer told the News last week.
Council’s resolution on Monday authorizes Village Manager Josué Salmerón to enter into an annexation agreement with Miami Township. Earlier in the evening, Miami Township Trustees voted 2–0 to pass a similar annexation agreement with the Village. Chris Mucher recused himself from the matter because the Struewings are his in-laws.
The next step is for Oberer to petition Greene County for annexation. If approved, the Village will then consider an ordinance to officially annex the property. At the same time, they would draft a development agreement with Oberer laying out what might be built there. According to a Village timeline, that could happen before the end of the year.
At the meeting, Council members and Village officials highlighted the benefits of annexation and downplayed villagers’ concerns about growth.
After discussion, Council members agreed that annexing the property will give the Village a seat at the table in determining what is built. Annexation is especially beneficial in this case, they said, since the Village already has to extend water and sewer utilities to the parcel due to a 2014 court ruling concerning the property.
Council President Brian Housh said that by annexing the property, the Village could collaborate with the developer to build “the best fit for the community.”
“There will be development,” Housh said. “The question is, do we want to be involved in that?”
Council Member Lisa Kreeger agreed, but said her support was conditional on what was eventually developed. Specifically, she would like to see greenspace and playgrounds at the site, in addition to affordable housing.
“It will be important for me to see a plan that accommodates a range of income levels,” Kreeger said. “I register my support only if somehow that is possible in this development.”
Council member Laura Curliss echoed Kreeger on the need to incorporate “active recreation and play spaces” into the development. She also raised concerns about the impact of the development on nearby Spillan Road and Southgate Drive, which may need to be upgraded due to additional pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the area.
“That’s the one hidden cost to the Village,” she said.
On affordability, Village Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger said, in response to a question from Council Member Kevin Stokes, that by annexing the property, the developer could build a denser neighborhood, thus reducing the eventual sale prices of the homes.
“This would be designed in a way that would try to keep the character of that end of town while still providing the ability for lower-priced homes,” she surmised.
Oberer agreed with Swinger’s assessment that increased density could mean cheaper homes. He also noted that with construction costs rising, especially for materials such as lumber, keeping prices low will be a challenge.
“It’s extremely difficult to build homes anymore that are not going to be closer to the $300,000 range than the $200,000 range,” he said.
Oberer stated that if the Village chose not to annex, the company would move forward with building a smaller number of homes, about 113. By comparison, if the property were annexed, they could build 138 housing units, including some duplexes, according to a draft site plan that was referenced at recent meetings, but has not been made public.
“The current zoning is pretty acceptable to us as a developer,” Oberer said. “The township zoning is also not bad zoning.”
At the meeting, two village residents spoke out against the development. Jillian Ewalt, who lives in the south side of town, said that she was concerned about the loss of open space and suggested that the quality of life for neighbors and the environment could suffer.
“We need to call this what it is, which is environmental destruction,” she said.
Ewalt’s husband, Mark, a member of the Village Environmental Commission, aired his fears that the development would increase traffic in an area that is already without sidewalks. He added that he and his neighbors were surprised by how fast the development appears to be getting the “green light” from Council.
“I’ve spoken with a handful of neighbors and they were really caught off guard with the proposed development nearby,” he said.
Speaking in support of the annexation were two representatives from Yellow Springs Schools. The school district would reap the most financial benefit from the annexation, as 52% of all property tax receipts currently go to the local schools.
Superintendent Terri Holden said in her comments that the development would allow more open enrollment students to move to the village, a “considerable number” of whom have said they would choose to live here if they could afford a home. According to figures presented at the meeting, there were 190 open enrollment students in the district during the 2019–20 school year.
“Schools need families and families need housing,” Holden said.
School Board President Steve Conn argued for the need to grow the town’s property tax base in order to reduce the tax burden on current residents.
“If we are going to increase the size of the pie, then everyone’s slice they have to contribute gets slimmer,” he said.
Salmerón made a financial argument for annexation at the meeting, estimating that the Village could collect $1.7 million in property tax over 10 years if the property was annexed, compared to $423,000 if it wasn’t.
In addressing other objections to the project, Salmerón said that the Village can service the site with water, sewer and electric utilities without needing to make additional infrastructure outlays.
Meanwhile, Salmerón said, the village can handle the influx of residents, contrary to worries that the population may soon exceed 5,000 residents, in which case Yellow Springs would become a city. The last U.S. Census population estimate, in 2019, was 3,744.
Since 1970, “when the community took on an anti-growth sentiment,” Salmerón said, the village has lost 20% of its population.
“There is still more room in our community to welcome individuals,” he said.
Stokes also referenced the past in his comments, saying that since the village previously passed up commercial and residential development, it should act now on “a prime opportunity.”
As for township deliberations, in presenting the resolution, Miami Township Trustee Don Hollister said that the action would “facilitate orderly development” of the area and was of “mutual benefit for both parties” — the Township and the Village.
The only discussion of the matter was a question from Trustee Mark Crockett about costs to the township. After some confusion about what he meant, it seemed he was wondering about fire and emergency service.
Salmerón, who was on the online video conference call, said that the agreement won’t cost anything, but concerning the area, “once developed, there will be a cost for servicing the site.” At the same time, the development will be paying “taxes for fire services,” he said. Abu Sharma, who was on the call from the prosecutor’s office, said that mutual aid also would be available.
After the vote, Salmerón said, “I look forward to this endeavor. I think there are a lot of positive things that are going to come out of this.”
Oberer, who was also on the call, said, “This will allow a more cohesive development.”
Other items from Council’s Sept. 21 agenda will be in a future issue of the News.