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MacQueen off YSDC

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The June meeting of the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, began with the surprise announcement that Marianne MacQueen, one of Village Council’s two representatives on the semi-governmental group, was “stepping down effective immediately.”

Lisa Kreeger, the Council’s other representative, made the announcement while chairing the online meeting in the anticipated absence of YSDC President Lisa Abel. MacQueen was not in attendance.

Contacted by the News for comment, MacQueen said, “I decided that I was no longer being effective on that board because my primary intent in serving did not seem to be aligned with what I perceived as the board’s direction.”

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She declined to speak further on the record.

MacQueen, who served on several of the YSDC’s subcommittees, including one focusing on housing issues, was the group’s only member to vote against selling the former firehouse on Corry Street to comedian Dave Chappelle’s Iron Table Holdings for a proposed comedy club and restaurant.

She expressed concern at the time about the effect of an increase in out-of-town visitors on the community life and affordability of the village. She also raised questions about Chappelle’s intentions in purchasing multiple downtown properties in the past couple of years. Several YSDC members challenged MacQueen’s concerns and said her questions were inappropriate.

At the June meeting, Kreeger made no comment about MacQueen’s departure except to say that Village Council will name a replacement.

In other recent YSDC business:

• The board, which opens its general meetings to the public, added a place on the monthly agenda for hearing community concerns. While several community members were in attendance on the Zoom conference call, none addressed the group, though Laura Curliss, a member of Village Council, wrote in the chat that she appreciated the YSDC’s work and was glad to be in attendance.

• Alex Scott, interim director of the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce, who serves as an ex-officio YSDC member, announced that she will be leaving the Chamber effective July 16 to take the position of outreach manager with Home, Inc. The position is currently held by Kineta Sanford, who has accepted a teaching position at Mills Lawn School. Scott noted that she will continue to connect with YSDC, as part of her new role will include leading Home Inc.’s Inclusive & Resilient coalition.

Members unanimously approved giving a hardship deferral to the Chamber of Commerce on paying its 2021 YSDC dues. The dues amount is $500 per representative. Voting members in attendance, in addition to Kreeger, were Clifton Mayor Alex Bieri; Shelly Blackman, representing the community; Yellow Springs school board President Steve Conn; Don Hollister and Corrie Van Ausdal, the Miami Township representatives; Hannah Montgomery, of Antioch College; and Lisa Abel, representing the Community Foundation. Abel, who was out of town, called into the Zoom meeting by phone.

• Board members also voted to accept a proposal from Lisa Abel to hire an architect on retainer in an attempt to avoid some of the issues that came up during the firehouse sale. Abel said she had spoken with a representative of Earl Reeder Associates, who agreed to the proposal. Costs would include a $500 retainer fee plus $175 per hour of work. The board agreed to the fee, with hourly engagement not to exceed $1,000. 

• YSDC members also unanimously agreed to give $1,000 to the McKee Group toward its effort to finance a new Cost of Living Survey of the Village, to be compiled by Wright State University, based on the latest Census data. Total cost of the effort is $15,000, according to information shared with YSDC.

• Yellow Springs Schools Superintendent Terri Holden, an ex-officio YSDC member, addressed the group about the district’s recent efforts regarding local school facilities and her hope that the YSDC will support its plan to construct a K–12 school on the site of the middle/high school campus on East Enon Road.

Holden said that throughout the master planning process, there has been “a lot of misinformation” passed along in the community, and she believes the YSDC can play a role in promoting “accurate information.”

YSDC involvement is appropriate because, “The story of the schools and the story of the village is the same story,” Holden said.

“I want to stress collaboration,” she added, going on to list a handful of ways the district has worked with the village in the past two years on a range of initiatives, including: the sale of property to the Village for the construction of a bike path connecting East Enon Road to the Agraria farm; participation in the Village’s one-way transportation trial on Walnut Street in front of Mills Lawn School; involvement in the Safe Routes to Schools project; publicly supporting the planned Oberer development on the south side of town; supporting “in name and funding” the expansion of Wi-Fi access in the village.

“I say that to tell you that we are interested in collaborating,” she said. “Help us educate the community” about the importance of a new school.

Asked to add his thoughts, Steve Conn, school board president, said that when the 2020 strategic plan was developed in 2010, “the facilities were already identified” as an issue. “We’ve been talking about them for over a decade. We’ve studied these buildings extensively. … The [school] board’s goal is to try to figure out the best solution for our kids, which dovetails into the best solution for our village.”

YSDC members responded favorably to the district’s request for support, including discussion about compiling demographic and tax information and comparisons as well as engaging in community outreach. Jeannamarie Cox, an ex-officio member from the Community Foundation, suggested that the Foundation may have funding available.

Corrie Van Ausdal agreed that YSDC’s support of the school district’s plans is appropriate as an economic development organization.

“I believe the school district is one of the largest employers in town,” she said. It’s appropriate to ask: “What is the larger economic impact of the schools on the village?” she said. “I really look at public schools as an equity issue. I’m disheartened by the negativity [I hear] to progress. I feel down-hearted.”

Van Ausdal, Cox and Abel agreed to form a sub-committee to work with the district in supporting its K–12 plan.

• The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 13, at 4:30 p.m., via Zoom. YSDC leadership is checking to confirm that the group may continue meeting online since it is not a governmental entity subject to the state’s Sunshine laws.

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