Villagers speak out at town hall
- Published: January 28, 2022
At a virtual town hall meeting held Wednesday, Jan. 12, scores of villagers aired concerns and asked questions about a proposed development on the south end of town and the efforts to rezone that land.
Over recent months, Village officials and Oberer Land Developers — a Miamisburg based company — have been working to redesignate Oberer’s privately-owned 52-acre property as a planned unit development, or PUD. This collaboration follows a request from Village officials to accommodate a variety of family dwelling units to address the Village’s housing goals. Under a PUD designation, Oberer would be permitted to build townhomes and duplexes, as well as single-family homes. The present Residential-A, or R-A, zoning allows Oberer to build only single-family homes.
Although Village Manager Josué Salmerón set parameters for the town hall at its outset — to talk “specifically about the PUD application that’s before Council” — many villagers took the opportunity not just to criticize the move to rezone the land, but also to voice opposition to the proposed development broadly.
How we got here
Salmerón began the town hall by outlining the years-long series of events that led to the current discussion of rezoning the land.
“I, along with the team, saw an opportunity to provide a more cohesive development — something that honored the existing layout and the nature in the surrounding neighborhoods,” Salmerón said.
Salmerón went on to highlight the research and review process he and Village administration conducted to substantiate the value of rezoning the land. Citing a 1977 visioning document, Salmerón said the property has long been considered “ideal for a mixed-product and high-density development.”
He further stated that, by allowing for a variety of dwelling units, as well as land set aside for Village-owned affordable housing opportunities, a PUD designation would meet the goals established by the Village’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
Following this, Salmerón addressed a number of previously voiced concerns from community members, saying:
• No official records have indicated the existence of a dump on the property.
• The Village’s utility infrastructure — including sewage and electric — can support the utility needs of the proposed additional units.
• Through the inclusion of two detention ponds, one retention pond and a constructed wetland, a PUD plan would “exceed” stormwater regulatory needs.
• A homeowners association — which would be established under an R-A or a PUD designation — would be in keeping with Village codes.
Community concerns, questions
Village resident Sharon Bonadies kicked off the live-question portion of the meeting with an inquiry about the proposed single-family homes, asking if they would be built individually for buyers or built as spec homes.
Developer George Oberer Jr. responded by saying his company, “as a semi-custom home builder,” does both.
“But we prefer to pre-sell our homes,” he said.
Max Crome, a local architect and village native, was critical of the proposed development and the move to rezone the land.
“I’m very disappointed,” Crome said. “This is yet another forum for a sales pitch from Oberer Developers.”
Crome slammed Salmerón and Village Council President Brian Housh for “betraying a partisanship that is going on in the village that is not giving the opposition to this project a fair voice.”
“Shouldn’t we know what a ‘no’ answer on a PUD results in? You have failed to demonstrate what that would be,” Crome said.
A common theme in the opposition to the development is the lack of diversity in prices. Several villagers commented on the small portion of land set aside for affordable housing, some accusing Oberer of donating land that would be difficult to build on.
“How do we know we can build on this land?” asked Patrick Lake. “Oberer has looked at it and decided it’s scrap land. We’re getting scraps.”
Greg Smith, a member of the Oberer development team, said that, although the land set aside for donation has a sizable amount of rock underneath, Oberer plans to build on it should the land not be rezoned to a PUD.
“I’m not aware of any problem with the soil there,” he said.
Smith also addressed the affordability issue, saying, “We didn’t come to Yellow Springs to solve the affordable housing problem. Our goal was to provide market-rate housing and then to contribute to the Village’s goals.”
Two other concerns held by villagers had to do with the safety of the roads surrounding the development and the aesthetics of the development. In response to the safety concerns, Salmerón said that the Village was open to adding sidewalks to Spillan Road.
“Let’s get to it,” he said.
In response to a question asking whether the Village could require garage doors to face the side of a property rather than the front, Swinger said the Village has little authority over such matters.
“We can’t legislate ugly,” Salmerón said in response to the comments about the housing designs.
Several villagers ceded their speaking time to Max Crome, who gave a short presentation outlining his and others’ opposition to the project.
In his presentation, Crome asserted that a dump site was previously located on the property, and that the environmental study included in Oberer’s PUD application was insufficient.
According to the environmental report, compiled by Kilbane Environmental and submitted to Oberer Developers in May 2020, “very limited miscellaneous trash and debris were observed in the wooded areas and adjacent to the roads. A few tires were observed in the northwestern portion of the site.”
Citing assertions from previous owners Ken and Bethleen Struewing, and aerial photographs of the property from 1948–2017, the report found no specific environmental concerns, although there were “a couple of areas of potential fill noted between 1968 and 1979.”
While the vast majority of speakers were in opposition to the PUD proposal, several villagers spoke in favor of the project, saying that it will increase housing stock overall. Judith Hempfling and Dawn Johnson noted that, while the village could choose to deny the PUD, they could not stop Oberer from developing the property. Johnson said that state and federal law will side with the developers’ property rights. Hempfling asked how the opposition plans to increase the housing stock in the village without access to developable land.
“You don’t own the land,” Hempfling said in regard to the Oberer property. “How are you going to get it developed?”
Brooke Obringer, whose property adjoins the land designated for affordable housing, questioned whether her fence would be affected by the new development.
“My property is exclusively going to be deeply affected by this development,” she said. “What’s going to happen to the properties that residents currently own?”
George Oberer, in return, asked if the fence was on Obringer’s property.
“We would have no reason, desire or need to come onto your property and affect your fence or your property,” he said.
“Your fence line is probably in the right of way,” added Smith. “If that is the case it might need to be relocated.”
Eve Fleck, who lives on Randall Road, said she has known the development was coming for some time.
“I’m very sorry that your realtor didn’t make you aware of this,” she said in response to Obringer’s concerns.
Fleck also asked if Oberer could design duplexes and townhomes that would be more aesthetically pleasing to the neighbors.
“I know we can’t legislate ugly,” she remarked. “But is there some other option to their hideosity?”
Salmerón closed the meeting, saying Village Council and staff would put together a document of frequently asked questions and answers.
*Reilly Dixon was a contributing reporter for this article.