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Year in Review

The purchase of the former firehouse on Corry Street by locally based comedian Dave Chappelle's company, Iron Table Holdings closed in March of last year. The sale was facilitated by the Yellow Springs Development Corporation. (YS News archive photo by Matt Minde)

2021 in Review | Yellow Springs Development Corporation

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The Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, completed its second year in 2021, debuting a website — — and by year’s end, adding a time for community comments during its monthly public meeting. Other highlights of the quasi-governmental group’s sophomore year included:

• In January, the group welcomed a new voting member, realtor Shelly Blackman, to represent the community at large, and two ex officio members, Antioch Trustee Maureen Lynch, filling the vacancy left by Antioch President Tom Manley’s early retirement, and then-Chamber of Commerce Interim Director Alexandra Scott, stepping in for former Chamber Director Karen Wintrow, who had moved out of state. Scott has since left the Chamber to take a position with Home, Inc., and her YSDC seat remains unfilled. Clifton Mayor Alex Bieri also became an official member of the board this year.

• The group started the year with a discussion of “lessons learned” from the sale of Miami Township Fire-Rescue’s old Corry Street firehouse, which YSDC had facilitated on behalf of the Township. The decision to sell the property to Dave Chappelle’s holding company for a proposed comedy club and restaurant had elicited wider attention than members anticipated. While most members seemed to feel that the attention, prompted by Chappelle’s international fame, was positive for the village, Marianne MacQueen, then one of Village Council’s two representatives on the board, expressed concerns. MacQueen said she feared the impact of higher-income visitors and potentially new residents on the affordability of living here, and she expressed discomfort about not knowing Chappelle’s plans for a number of other properties, many downtown, that he’d recently purchased. After the Yellow Springs News reported on the discussion, YSDC President Lisa Abel wrote a letter to the editor saying that some comments expressed during the January meeting had not been appropriate, referring to, but not naming, MacQueen. Abel then shared the letter at the next YSDC meeting in February. Several members spoke in agreement with Abel, but MacQueen defended her comments. By June, MacQueen had resigned her YSDC membership, telling the News that she didn’t feel she could be effective, as her intention in serving on the economic development group did not seem to align with its goals. In July, Village Council appointed Kevin Stokes to fill the YSDC seat that MacQueen had held.

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• Through the first part of the year, former YSDC member Patrick Lake continued to serve as a liaison on exploratory talks concerning development of an “Education Corridor,” or “Education District,” involving collaborations between Antioch College, Yellow Springs Schools, the Community Children’s Center and Agraria, and situated on property within and adjacent to the Antioch campus. The conversations were eventually put on hold after school district leaders decided they needed to move at a faster pace in their focus on district facilities, and that the piece of land being suggested for the schools was too small for their purposes.

• In May, YSDC voted to form a subcommittee to explore the formation of an LLC for development purposes, earmarking $3,000 for the effort.

• In June, the group approved giving a hardship deferral to the Chamber of Commerce in paying its annual 2021 YSDC dues, which is $500 per representative. Members also voted to accept a proposal from Abel to hire an architect on retainer, agreeing to employ Earl Reeder Associates.

Costs would include a $500 fee plus $175 per hour of work, with hourly engagement not to exceed $1,000. In addition, YSDC members 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.

• At the group’s July meeting, YSDC voted unanimously to move forward with establishing a for-business loan fund, agreeing not only to form a subcommittee to develop the program, but also to work with the credit union on the details and to request $500,000 in seed money from the Community Foundation.

• In a special meeting Friday, July 23, the YSDC voted unanimously to partner with Antioch College in reopening the Wellness Center, which had been shuttered since the beginning of the pandemic. The college and YSDC issued a press release the following Monday that announced the formation of the partnership and their hope to reach a management agreement by the end of August. In the initial plan, YSDC was to create a subsidiary to manage the center’s operations; the subsidiary would not take over ownership of the building or pay rent to the college for use of the property. YSDC then formed two subcommittees to move forward with planning, but had no new updates as it waited for Antioch to sign the management agreement. In a letter to the editor published Nov. 4, the college’s new president, Jane Fernandes, wrote that college leadership had decided to operate the Wellness Center on its own, nullifying a YSDC partnership.

• Plans for a community picnic on July 29 fell through when the weather didn’t cooperate.

• On the request of the Yellow Springs Schools district, the YSDC in September agreed to work in partnership with district leaders “to help shape the future” of the nearly nine-acre Mills Lawn Elementary School site, should the district no longer need it for a school. The agreement included providing assistance in exploring options for the Mills Lawn building and site; accepting a pass-through grant administered by the YS Community Foundation to cover costs; and creating a subcommittee to oversee the project, including securing a project manager and consultants. Concerns in the community about the anonymous sources of the Community Foundation grant, the absence of public discussions by either the YSDC or school board leading up to YSDC’s vote and the timing of the initiative before the Nov. 3 election led the group to vote in October to discontinue the effort, with the possibility of returning to it should the facilities levy pass. In November, after the levy’s defeat, the group agreed to dissolve further efforts regarding the Mills Lawn site.

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