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Greene County Commissioners recently approved a petition from Oberer for the Village of Yellow Springs to annex 34 acres of Miami Township land owned by the developer. The harvested field at the foreground is the land Oberer is seeking to have annexed. An additional 17 acres northwest of the township property is also owned by Oberer and already inside Village limits. Oberer is looking to build 138 housing units across both properties. (Aerial photo submitted by Bryan Cady)

South end development— County approves annex

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During their regular meeting on April 29, the Greene County Board of Commissioners unanimously granted an annexation petition from Oberer Land Developers to add their 34 acres of land in Miami Township to the southern edge of Yellow Springs.

Commissioners Dick Gould, Tom Koogler and Rick Perales voted in favor of the annexation petition.

Oberer, a semi-custom home developer based in Miamisburg, is looking to build a residential development of approximately 138 units — featuring a mix of single-family homes and duplexes — on 55 acres at the southern end of Spillan Road, near Hyde Road.

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Oberer purchased the land from Ken and Betheen Struewing last November for $1,715,000. Around 17 acres of the property were already within village limits, some which have long been platted out for housing. According to Oberer last fall, homes in the development were anticipated to start at $300,000.

The annexation is known as a type-1, or expedited, annexation and first required the agreement of the township and village governments to proceed. Both Village Council and Miami Township passed resolutions in the fall paving the way for the annexation petition. For its part, the Village argued that annexing the property would bring more tax benefits and allow the Village to exert greater control over what was built.

In addition to Oberer’s township property, the annexation also includes a sliver of a property along the Village right-of-way owned by villagers Frank Doden and Lori Askeland, and located across Spillan Road, directly east of the project.

Village Manager Josué Salmerón briefly addressed the news at Council’s May 3 regular meeting.

“The annexation is in,” Salmerón said.

As for next steps, Village officials will continue to meet privately with Oberer to review preliminary site plans and begin to work on the development agreement, Salmerón said. Planning Commission will also “have a chance to weigh in on the project,” he said.

Also at the meeting, Council member Kevin Stokes shared that he has been working to address potential traffic concerns for Spillan Road residents like himself. Stokes said he is exploring a potential entrance to the community from Xenia Avenue.

“When you consider the people along Spillan and the increase in traffic from that many homes, I think it is worth the Village having serious negotiations to fully vet creating that gateway into the development,” Stokes said.

Salmerón cautioned Stokes about the possibility, as it requires gaining access to a property currently owned by YSI.

“They don’t own the land, so they can’t make plans on land they don’t own,” Salmerón said of Oberer’s ability to create an entrance there.

Village officials and a few select residents have been meeting with Oberer since the developer first got Council’s annexation petition approval in September 2020. That group has included neighborhood resident Matthew Kirk, Sheila Dunphy of Dunphy Real Estate, Brittany Keller of Home, Inc., and Council members Marianne MacQueen and Brian Housh.

The Village’s Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger, Public Works Director Johnnie Burns and an engineer from the ChoiceOne firm have also participated in meetings with Oberer. Salmerón added that Lisa Abel of the YS Development Corporation has also been consulted.

Those meetings have been private, and the current site plan has not been made public.

Next steps

According to an initial Village timeline, the annexation petition was to have been submitted in late 2020 or early 2021, with construction on the development starting in the spring or summer. That start date has now been delayed until later this year, or even next year.

In a recent interview, Greg Smith, Oberer’s project manager for the development, said the annexation petition was delayed several months due to the challenges of building during a pandemic, combined with an “incredibly strong housing market.”

“While it’s harder to build houses because of the pandemic, more people seem to want them,” Smith said. “For a small company like us, it has created a strain.”

But Smith offered assurance that the project will move forward, albeit more slowly than first anticipated.

“It will get a name, it will get annexed, it will get built with beautiful houses,” Smith said. “Whether this summer or the next, remains to be seen.”

Oberer president George Oberer added in an interview that the company wants to push the project ahead due to escalating construction costs and currently low interest rates.

“We are anxious and we are trying to move forward as quickly as we can,” he said. “With interest rates what they are today, it’s to our benefit to get it started as quickly as possible.”

According to a presentation in the Council packet, Oberer’s accepted annexation petition starts a mandatory 60-day waiting period. Council needs to act to approve the annexation within 120 days, or the annexation will be considered rejected. Approval could take place sometime in July, and would also include a document known as a “development agreement.”

Before that, Oberer and Planning Commission may schedule one or more work sessions to hash out zoning issues, the presentation noted. Then, if the property is annexed into the Village, rezoning hearings could take place starting in August. When annexed, the property will initially be zoned in Residence A, but PUD zoning is anticipated. That process could last through September, after which Oberer would have one year to submit a final PUD and subdivision plat. Construction would have to begin within one year of that approval.

Village-Oberer meetings

Meetings between the Village and Oberer are not public, but the News has spoken with Salmerón and MacQueen about the Village’s hopes for the development, and with Oberer representatives about the process so far.

Salmerón said the conversations have focused on issues such as sidewalks, traffic flow, accessibility, a dedicated park, stormwater management, energy standards and affordability.

George Oberer called the meetings with the village “informal,” and primarily for the purpose of  “getting some feedback as we’re developing the plan.” Smith, the project manager, called the Village “very cooperative” in the negotiations.

“Yellow Springs has been great to work with and we are excited,” he said.

When it comes to affordability, Salmerón said one challenge is that the developer is known for “semi-custom” homes, which can mean more visual variety in a neighborhood and higher quality — yet more expensive — homes.

“They offer their customers more options, but at a higher cost,” he said. “We’ve had conversations about how to get to a lower price point.”

The Village wants some units available to those making up to 120% of area median income, Salmerón noted, and initially, the Village asked for 20% of the 138 units to be in that range. But the company’s “profitability sweet spot” for a home is closer to $400,000, he said.

MacQueen said her expectations for the Oberer development are “very, very modest” when it comes to building homes affordable for those of moderate or low income.

Primarily, the Village has been encouraging Oberer to include duplexes in the project in order to reduce the price of some units.

“My understanding is they are agreeable to that,” MacQueen said of the duplexes, adding she was hoping for 20–25 affordable units. There also may be a partnership with Home, Inc., she said.

Still, MacQueen said she is “excited about the project,” as it will meet another housing need in the community — for higher priced homes not in need of significant renovation. She believes that could have the effect of slowing the rise in housing prices for existing homes.

“Adding more inventory, it will have the impact of not increasing the housing cost of Yellow Springs,” she said.

But the development’s affordability challenges are exacerbated by larger trends in the construction industry. Oberer said that the cost of construction materials has soared, with dimensional lumber seeing triple-digit increases recently.

“Lumber has been one of the most volatile commodities,” he said. “It’s increased sale prices on a moderate house price by $25,000 since January.”

The Village has also been in conversations with Oberer about creating a park area and playground at the development and using naturalized landscaping in a stormwater retention area, according to MacQueen. If Oberer seeks a PUD zoning process, which seems likely, that park area could be more than one acre, she said.

Salmerón added that the Village and Oberer have been working on transportation issues, specifically, “connectivity between the Oberer project and the rest of the community.” The Village was pushing for a single, shared travel lane for driving, cycling and walking in the development, rather than separate streets and sidewalks with a tree lawn between them, but Oberer was not interested, Salmerón noted.

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