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Planning Commission— Costly repairs ahead for YS?

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Costly infrastructure repairs may lie ahead for Yellow Springs.

That’s according to Public Works Director Johnnie Burns, who discussed the contents of two separate studies — one focused on stormwater management, one on the Village’s electrical grid — at the Oct. 13 regular meeting of the Yellow Springs Planning Commission, held virtually.

Planning Commission members Frank Doden (chair), Dino Pallotta, Andrew Williams, Stephen Green and Laura Curliss were in attendance, as well as members of Village staff.

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The studies Burns referenced were prepared by outside consultants hired by the Village to help assess local infrastructure needs.

“We have got some major problems,” Burns said of the local stormwater system. The study was prepared by Choice One Engineering.

Burns described a series of specific stormwater issues related to aging infrastructure — which in some parts of town date back to the late 1800s, he said — certain kinds of lot designs, more intense storms than previously and other factors. Curliss asked if the Village’s encouragement of infill on smaller lots also created stormwater runoff challenges. Burns said that it did.

Smaller lots can be “problematic” for managing stormwater, he said.

Planning Commission recently passed revised and updated stormwater mitigation guidelines that Village Council went on to vote into the Village’s zoning code. The guidelines require certain volumes of stormwater mitigation and offer technical specifications for mitigation approaches such as rain gardens, rain barrels, permeable pavers and swales.

Burns emphasized the need for such mitigation by property developers and individual property owners to prevent further overload of the Village’s stormwater system.

Under the new guidelines, villagers will “take care of it on their own properties,” he said.

Regarding village-wide electricity needs, Burns contended that Yellow Springs was bumping up against the limits of its current grid for “peak times” of usage.

“We’re running out of power pretty fast,” he said.

The electricity study, by GPD Group, estimated that Yellow Springs could add between 275 and 300 homes at 1,500 square feet before maxing out its existing power grid.

The study estimated that $4.3 million in improvements needed to be made to the Village electrical grid to meet peak demand and decrease the length of power outages.

Yet Yellow Springs has historically added houses slowly. And its power needs have grown less rapidly than those of other communities, according to a presentation by a GPD representative at the Oct. 19 Village Council meeting.

However, the village could grow by up to 138 new homes if a new proposal to annex 33 acres of land at the village’s southern edge is passed by Council. The land’s new owner, developer Oberer Homes, plans to build houses on the property.

In response to a question from Pallotta about whether Yellow Springs might be challenged by the need to provide electricity to future homes on the annexed property, Village Manager Josué Salmerón stated that the Village could easily accommodate those additional power customers.

“It’s a good revenue opportunity,” he said.

Curliss asked whether the Village could ramp up solar energy collection to meet the anticipated future power needs, or whether the infrastructure itself needed to be expanded.

Burns indicated that the power grid required upgrades, and that any additional solar power would require the construction of new Village arrays.

“Unless we can put 10 megawatts somewhere, I don’t see it happening,” he said of the need for additional energy.

The current Village solar field generates 1 megawatt, and supplies 4% of the Village’s energy portfolio, Salmerón clarified.

Curliss speculated about potential future scenarios in which the dormant Vernay property on Dayton Street “is cleaned up … and we put a big solar field there.”

Salmerón stated that he had already brainstormed several potential local solar projects with members of the Environmental Commission, including the possibility of locating a solar array on the Vernay property at some future point — an idea also broached with Vernay, he said — and constructing a solar “canopy” at John Bryan Center.

“We need something significant and local to offset demand,” he said.

The topics were discussion-only, and for the stated purpose of informing Planning Commission about Village infrastructure issues.

In other Planning Commission business—

• Planning Commission approved 5–0 a conditional use application to create a 16by 65 patio at the YS Brewery’s southern location at 1475 Xenia Ave. The patio would face Xenia Avenue. In the near term, the outdoor space would serve as part of the “little neighborhood taproom” that’s now being completed through interior remodeling at that location, according to local architect Ted Donnell, who joined the virtual meeting with Brewery co-owner Lisa Wolters. Over the longer term, the owners envision that the indoor/outdoor space will serve as a “small event center” for private parties with a maximum capacity of 50 people, Donnell added.

Planning Commission passed the project on several conditions, including that the Brewery co-owners appear before the local Board of Zoning Appeals for a variance, as the patio does not conform to the required setback from the property line. Zoning staff recommended denying the application on the basis of the nonconforming setback.

• Planning Commission agreed to hear at a future meeting a staff proposal that would eliminate the minimum number of parking spaces per business in the Central Business District of downtown Yellow Springs. Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger said the current zoning code requires unrealistic parking minimums, which have been reduced or waived by Planning Commission in several recent instances.

“We don’t want to discourage economic growth because of parking minimums,” she said.

Salmerón stated that the Village had created 75 new parking spaces in the Village during 2019, expanding the parking options for visitors and villagers.

Any future plan to eliminate downtown parking minimums would have to pass Village Council before being incorporated into the Village zoning code.

The next Planning Commission meeting will be Tuesday, Nov. 10.

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