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Oct
01
2022
Economy

The sale of the former Miami Township Fire-Rescue firehouse was facilitated by the Yellow Springs Development Corporation in summer 2020. (YS News archive photo by Matt Minde)

Yellow Springs Development Corporation refines focus

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Coming up on its second anniversary, with most of its existence undertaken amid the pandemic, the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, is continuing to refine its purpose and procedures.

At the group’s most recent regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 9, President Lisa Abel opened with a brief outline of some economic development efforts in the village over the past several decades, not all successful: the Millworks property’s mix of light-industrial enterprises, the rejected affordable housing proposal for Glass Farm; the unrealized vision of the Center for Business and Education on the west side of town; the Chamber of Commerce’s push to make Yellow Springs a destination spot for visitors; the sale of the old firehouse, which the YSDC facilitated, to become an entertainment venue.

“Next year we’re going to see [the] Oberer [housing development break ground] and the expansion of Cresco with 80 to 140 new living-wage jobs,” Abel added.

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Her conclusion, however, was that most efforts had been isolated and of the moment and did not involve intentional, long-term planning. She also noted that new startups are hampered by limited space within the village in which to grow, resulting in their relocation to other nearby towns.
She said her hope for the YSDC is to focus on business incubation and development that supports living-wage jobs, which she defined as paying $20 or more an hour.

“Lots of people have lots of ideas,” she said. “I’m looking for people who are actively doing the work. How can we help develop those new ideas, energetic ideas?”

Miami Township Trustee Don Hollister, one of the township’s two representatives to YSDC, said he thought Abel had raised questions worth deeper discussion, particularly pertaining to the space limitations in town. He suggested the group consider holding a special meeting to explore the matter further.

Kevin Stokes, one of two representatives from Village Council, said he was aware of several available spaces in town.

“If there are needs that exist, there are some opportunities,” he said.

Corrie Van Ausdal, the second township appointee, said she supports Abel’s conclusions.

“I think this is where we should be focusing,” Van Ausdal said.

Relatedly, Stokes shared the most recent draft of a rubric the group’s economic impact subcommittee is developing to rate project proposals. Aspects of consideration include tangible and intangible qualities, such as whether it represents the community’s values.

Which values? In what context? Such questions are among those posed by members.

In other YSDC business, Nov. 9:

• Following up on a presentation last month by Clifton resident and entrepreneur Piper Fernwey concerning the proposed Clifton Crafthouse Co-op, YSDC members voted unanimously to be listed among the project’s supporting groups.

• Given the failure of the school district’s facilities levy in the Nov. 2 election, YSDC members agreed to dissolve any plans to help explore other uses for Mills Lawn Elementary School and its surrounding property. President Abel said she would notify villager Len Kramer, who had been named project manager, and the Cleveland-based consulting firm that had been secured to facilitate the effort.

• Members discussed Antioch College’s decision to proceed with reopening the Wellness Center independent of the YSDC, with which it had originally partnered this past summer. The shared opinion was one of support for Antioch and best wishes for its success.

• The group unanimously approved adding a citizens’ concerns section to the agenda.

• Abel noted that the group now has a website, at ysdc.org.

• Village Manager Josue Salmerón, who serves on YSDC as an ex-officio member, proposed that the group plan a deeper discussion about “how all of the tax levies interact and how they have value to our community.” He said he wants to know whether levies that are up for renewal in the next several years will continue as renewals or whether replacements will be introduced.

Referring to the failure of the school district’s facilities levy the week before as “the elephant in the room,” he said that its defeat, while sending a “loud and clear” message, “doesn’t change the fact that our children are going to schools not suitable for their learning environment.” His point: another levy proposal from the district is inevitable.

Hollister said he supported a more unified look at taxes in the community.

“I think the town needs to face up to taxes, when and for what, as a whole, rather than separate jurisdictions,” he said.

Schools Superintendent Terri Holden, who also serves in an ex-officio role, echoed Salmerón about the continuing needs of the district’s buildings.

“Whether it is new [construction] or renovation, it’s not cheap,” she said, adding that the district also anticipates needing to seek additional operating funds in fiscal year 2025, which is reflected in the latest five-year forecast covered in last week’s News.

She added that she agrees with Hollister on the importance of helping “folks understand how this all works.”

The next YSDC meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 4:30 p.m., via Zoom.

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