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Village Council

Village Council adopts new stormwater fee

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At their most recent meeting Sept. 19th, Village Council members unanimously voted to establish a stormwater utility fee, ranging from $5–$10, for all customers in the village. The fee is part of a larger effort to create funds to maintain the village’s aging infrastructure.

Council President Brian Housh said the fee would benefit the Village’s ability to fix and add to infrastructure.

“This little amount can make a big difference,” Housh said.

In response to several questions asked by the News at the Sept. 6 first reading of the ordinance, Village Manager Josué Salmerón said there are over 2,000 municipalities with stormwater utilities in the U.S. and 138 municipalities in Ohio that charge a stormwater fee, according to a 2021 Western Kentucky University Stormwater Utility Survey.

The stormwater rates assessed in Ohio range from 25 cents in Coshocton, which has a population of 11,231 to $13 in Oak Harbor, which has a population of 2,758.

Rates within the village are split into two tiers: residential properties will pay $5, all other properties, including commercial, industrial and agricultural, will pay $10. Salmerón said that utility customers will eventually be able to receive credits for using stormwater mitigation techniques, such as planting rain gardens or diverting runoff into rain barrels, on their properties, but that process had not been determined prior to the vote.

In response to another question from the News, Salmerón said an appeals policy would be written after Council passed the legislation establishing the stormwater utility.

“Whatever policy we come up with has to be in line with our existing stormwater regulations and best practices,” Salmerón said.

Once the policy is established, Salmerón said there would be two levels of appeals for the fee. The first would go to the stormwater coordinator, who would be working in the utility office. If the customer disagrees with the coordinator’s decision, they may take their appeal to the Utility Dispute Board.

According to Salmerón, the rates for Yellow Springs would generate around $100,000 per year in revenue; the money would be used to maintain and install new storm drains throughout the village.

Council Vice President Kevin Stokes said the information Salmerón provided made voting yes on the utility an easy decision.

“The information suggested we could go a little higher, but I think where we are looking to start is a good place,” Stokes said.

Villager Patricia Brown said the Village definitely needs to have a plan for stormwater mitigation and that every villager must do their part to help with the cost. She asked that Council members quickly establish a policy to charge people based on their contribution to the stormwater system.

“There are many places in Yellow Springs that do not contribute to stormwater,” Brown said, referencing the Thistle Creek neighborhood and developments planned around town by Johnathan Brown.

I think we need to let people know there are ways to mitigate [the stormwater] coming from their houses,” Brown said. “The Village has wonderful plans on their website; I think we should encourage people who can afford it to do so.”

Referencing the Sept. 6 meeting, Housh said the Village has plans to eventually charge fees based on impermeable surfaces on their property.

“Ultimately, we want to get to where people are paying for what they are responsible for,” Housh said.

In a follow-up email, Salmerón said the Village team was determining the rollout timeline for the fee.

“The Village manager is developing a collection process for stormwater fees,” Salmerón wrote.

“The Village expects to implement the process at the end of the year for collection to begin in December or January.”

Energy rates

Council read an emergency ordinance that allows Salmerón to enter into a contract with American Municipal Power, or AMP, to purchase energy through Locust Ridge Wind Power. The measure was written as an emergency because of the time-sensitive nature of the contract; according to the legislation, the Village needed to move quickly in order to lock in rates until 2025.

At the beginning of the discussion, Salmerón said he recently received energy rate forecasts through 2025 along with an opportunity to purchase renewable energy through the Locust Ridge Project. The Village currently uses about 37,000 megawatt hours per year, with about 84% of that energy coming from renewable sources, including the Village’s own solar installation at Glass Farm. The Village purchases the remaining energy from the open market.

Salmerón said he had been approached by the Village’s AMP representatives, who said the Village could save money by locking in prices now.

“It’s going to be higher than expected through 2025,” Salmerón said. “We have an opportunity to lock in renewable energy for the next three years to offset that cost increase.”

According to numbers provided by AMP, the Village would spend about $49 per kilowatt hour, but that price may be reduced if the Village receives a tax exemption. In total, Salmerón said the Village would save about $159,388 between now and 2025 and raise the number of clean energy sources the Village uses for its electricity.

“Currently we are buying 16% of our energy from the open market,” Salmerón said. “By buying this, we are looking at 96% [renewable energy], and we would only have to buy 4% [of our energy] from the open market.”

Council member Marianne MacQueen asked what would happen if the wind project produces more energy than Yellow Springs uses. Salmerón said the extra energy would be sold on the open market, to the benefit of the Village.

“I don’t anticipate that we will have any excess energy,” Salmerón said. “There are market conditions that we have some predictions on but are likely to change. We are making our predictions on what’s certain.”

In other Council business, Sept. 19:

• MacQueen announced that Diane Diller had accepted the position as coordinator of the Village Mediation program. Diller will take on the role left vacant by Luciana Leiff, who took on the coordinator role in June of 2021 and left for a position elsewhere.

• Council members heard a presentation from a local advocacy group called Neighbors for More Neighbors. The presentation, given by Matt Raska, Alex Melamed and John Hempfling, focused on zoning reforms that would allow for more flexibility. Housing examples given included allowing two-family and multi-family housing in all residential districts. After the group completed their presentation, Public Works Director Johnnie Burns said he isn’t in favor of reforming the zoning code before he’s able to make needed infrastructure repairs. Council decided to send the recommendations from Neighbors for more Neighbors to Planning Commission for consideration.

• Council members discussed a draft noise ordinance that members of Planning Commission have been working on. According to Salmerón and Police Chief Paige Burge, the current noise ordinance is unenforceable because of the required equipment and training needed to measure sound levels that would determine if a resident or driver was breaking the law. Several villagers spoke about amplified noise coming from downtown businesses such as Trail Town Brewing and Rose & Sal, and asked that there be more stringent rules about when businesses can have amplified performances.

• Housh gave an update on House Bill 563, a bill that would stop municipalities from limiting the number of Airbnbs. According to Housh, the bill is not likely to pass due to advocacy from places like Yellow Springs.

• Housh shared the agenda for a joint meeting between representatives of the school board, Village Council, and Miami Township. Each entity will have 15 minutes to discuss priorities, projects, and taxing strategies, then the group will discuss cost of living implications and collaborative possibilities.

The next Village Council Meeting will be on Monday, Oct. 3.

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