Villagers voice concerns over Oberer
- Published: December 15, 2021
At its Monday, Dec. 6, regular meeting, held via Zoom, Village Council members raised questions and heard comments from villagers regarding a planned unit development, or PUD, proposed for the south end of town. The proposal, brought to the Planning Commission by Oberer Land Developers after a series of conversations with Village staff, is for a development that could add up to 140 mixed-income level homes to the village.
Village Manager Josué Salmerón gave a brief overview of the process, explaining how the Village approached Oberer to share its housing goals and needs.
“We thought it was advantageous to inform the developer of what our housing goals were — what the community identified as an urgent need,” Salmerón said. “We have really tried to capture as much value as we could for the village.”
As part of the PUD, the development will include single-family homes, two- and three-bedroom duplexes, and 1.75 acres for affordable housing, which, according Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger, could hold up to 28 rental units.
When Oberer purchased the land in November 2020, the Village annexed the land, a move intended to increase the tax base of the Village. In the Dec. 6 meeting, Salmerón reiterated that the tax and utility base would increase, with no additional costs to current residents.
Prior to the Dec. 6 Council meeting, the PUD was reviewed by the Village Planning Commission at its Nov. 9 meeting, where Commission members approved rezoning the land in a 5–0 vote.
After Salmerón made his statement and Village Solicitor Breanne Parcels affirmed that each Council member had read all of the comments from Planning Commission and concerned citizens, Council President Brian Housh opened the discussion to public comment.
Several villagers who live close to the proposed development, including internationally known celebrity Dave Chappelle, voiced their concerns, which included increased traffic, an absence of sidewalks and the general setup of the development.
Planning Commission member Sarah Sinclair-Amend, a Southview Drive resident, said that she has concerns about her children’s safety with increased traffic on Spillan Road.
“This is a very narrow road and it was not built to be more than a country road,” she said. “Despite all of the efforts [to slow traffic], we have not been able to make it safer, and now we want to add more traffic.”
Patrick Lake, who lives on Stewart Drive, said he is concerned with the “cultural shift” the new development would bring and that he would like to see an expanded traffic and environmental study before the plan is approved.
“I appreciate that there are some benefits, but they don’t warrant the [unaccounted for] long-term impacts that we are going to have to deal with,” Lake said. “The taxpayers are going to have to bear that burden.”
Council member Kevin Stokes recused himself from the vote because he lives near the proposed development. Speaking as a private citizen, Stokes cited concerns about an increase in traffic at the intersection of Spillan and Hyde roads and the viability of thepreviously conducted traffic study.
“This was not the best time to do a traffic study,” he said, referring to the limited traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The traffic study was conducted earlier this fall by Choice One Engineering Corporation, a civil engineering firm. Their study found that no additional turn lanes or intersection improvements would be needed.
Lindsay Burke, Jamie Adoff and Jamie Sharp spoke about the development’s impact on affordability in the village.
“We should be doing justice to the citizens who already live here,” Burke said.
“I think Council has a great opportunity to do what’s best for the community,” Adoff said. “There’s nothing with this proposal that’s going to help affordability. Service workers will not be able to afford these houses.”
Single-family homes between 1,450 and 3,700 square feet built by Oberer in other communities have started at $330,000.
Sharp, who owns the Yellow Springs Toy Company, told Council that two of her employees have moved out of the village because of affordability issues, and that she, herself, lives just outside the village because of the high property taxes.
“Affordability and affordable housing is a huge issue to me,” she said. “I don’t like the look of this development and what the influx of that many people who can afford those houses … is going to mean for us.”
Max Crome, who grew up in the village and is an architect working with Chappelle’s Iron Table Holdings, said that the PUD was not a great option for the village.
“No one has a right to a PUD,” he said. “What they’re [Oberer] giving back is not commensurate with the amount of value that granting this PUD will give them. It’s a bad deal. We deserve better.”
Chappelle, who lives adjacent to the proposed development, said that he is “adamantly opposed” to the project.
“I’ve invested millions of dollars in town. If you push this thing through, what I’m investing in is no longer applicable,” he said. “I would say that Oberer can buy all of this property from me if they want to be your benefactor because I will no longer want to.”
“We should use more of a visionary eye instead of a reactionary one because the potential of this place is immense and Oberer is not the only solution,” Chappelle continued.
One villager, Rose Pelzl, spoke in favor of the development.
“I am in favor of Village Council approving the PUD,” she said. “ I am not in favor of the development going forward with Residential A zoning — I’d like to see more density.”
After hearing comments from citizens, Council members gave remarks about the legislation.
Council member Laura Curliss noted that the density of the proposal did not constitute the need for a PUD. She also noted that Oberer could put apartments on part of the property, and asked why that wasn’t included in the proposal.
“This seems like the perfect place,” she said.
Curliss also asked why there was no requirement to build a street from U.S. 68 to the new development.
Council member Lisa Kreeger advocated for an additional environmental analysis to be done on the property. She also said that she did not hear much support from community members.
“Anytime that a development like this is proposed, is this what the village goes through?” she asked. “I really am trying to understand the overall contribution to the affordable housing development that is commensurate with the profit that is gleaned from the developer as a result of moving forward with a PUD.”
Council member Marianne MacQueen said that she was in favor of moving forward with the PUD to allow for some affordable housing options.
“I want people to think about it when we say we don’t like this housing. Yes, Yellow Springs is changing and will continue to change. That’s life,” she said. “We can either have a Residential-A subdivision or we can have what we’ve been working toward — single family homes, duplexes, attached housing and affordable housing.”
MacQueen also expressed concerns about the homeowners association, or HOA, but she attempted to alleviate concerns about the amount of traffic coming out of the proposed development.
“When we have an active transportation group going we can do more to make Spillan safer for pedestrians, cyclists and others,” she said. “I would like to see the HOA allow the same types of things in people’s homes and yards that are allowed in the rest of the village.”
After hearing the various comments, Council members did not vote on the measure. Council President Brian Housh said, “I think there does need to be some clarity about what is and isn’t possible.” In a follow-up email, he elaborated, writing that there was some “critical data and input missing.”
“I highlighted at least three items I wanted to better understand, and I heard other Council members mention issues that made it clear we did not have enough information to vote.”
Further public discussion about the project will likely continue after the new year according to Housh on Wednesday morning, Dec. 8.
Additional coverage of the Dec. 6 meeting will appear in next week’s edition of the News.