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Design rendering of Home, Inc.’s newly planned senior-focused development, tentatively to be called “The Cascades,” from the southwest. The development, to be completed in four phases, is planned to include 22 senior rental units in duplexes and triplexes, and 10 for-sale townhouses for a range of ages. At the bottom of the rendering, facing Herman Street, are the eight units planned for the first phase, on which Home, Inc. hopes to break ground at the end of next year. (Rendering by City Architecture, Inc.)

Planning Commission | Zoning amendments, senior housing move forward

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At its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 14, YS Planning Commission reviewed and voted to recommend for approval a preliminary plan application for a planned unit development, or PUD, from YS Home, Inc., in regard to the local affordable housing nonprofit’s latest planned project: a 32-unit development on 1.8 acres along Marshall and Herman streets. Members of the commission voted 4–0 to recommend the approval; commission member Susan Stiles recused herself from discussion and voting as a member emeritus of the Home, Inc. board of directors.

The plan for the proposed housing development includes 22 affordable duplex and triplex rental units earmarked for seniors and 10 two-story townhomes to be sold at low cost to qualifying buyers of varying age demographics. Home, Inc. intends to complete the project in four phases as funds are raised, with the possibility of combining phases based on that fundraising.

The recommendation came following a detailed staff analysis of the application, which was presented by Village Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger. According to Swinger’s presentation, the land on which Home, Inc. intends to build was rezoned for PUD via an ordinance from Village Council in January 2019, in response to a previous senior housing plan from Home, Inc. that was ultimately not pursued for lack of funding. According to the 2019 ordinance, Planning Commission must  “review the PUD request and the preliminary development plan … and shall make a recommendation to Village Council to approve, disapprove, or approve with modifications the request for PUD zoning and the preliminary development plan.”

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The staff analysis found that the preliminary plan from Home, Inc. satisfied the necessary qualifying conditions for PUD approval, including “​​recognizable and substantial benefits”; that the development will be “served by public water and sanitary sewer”; that the proposed development be “under unified ownership or control, so one person or entity has proprietary responsibility for the full completion of the project”; that the proposed plan be “substantially consistent with the Village’s adopted Comprehensive Plan”; that it provide for “integrated, safe and abundant pedestrian and bicycle access”; that the planned architecture be “harmonious and visually integrated”; and that the plan “provide for safe and efficient vehicular movement within, into and out of” the site of the development.

Swinger’s presentation noted that the underlying zoning for the site is Residential-B, which places a density cap of 16 units for a lot of the size on which Home, Inc. intends to build. Home, Inc. requested a deviation from this cap, and the staff analysis stated that, because the units are planned to be “permanently affordable” and because the plan’s design accounts for additional bicycle, pedestrian and open space accommodations, the site qualifies for a “density bonus,” allowing Village Council to permit an increase in units.

The application also requested a variation for lot setbacks of 11 feet on the property’s East Herman Street side and 14 feet on the Marshall Street side; the zoning code’s minimum approved setback without a variation is 20 feet.

After a brief presentation from Home, Inc., Planning Commission member Stephen Green asked Home Inc. Executive Director Emily Seibel whether the nonprofit would favor seniors currently living in Yellow Springs as potential candidates for the planned development.

“Is there some plan to try and make sure that it’s being used by Yellow Springs folks?” he asked.

Seibel replied that, due to fair housing law, Home, Inc. cannot give current Yellow Springs residents “priority placement,” but added that the nonprofit currently has an interest list of “over 200 households” for the proposed development.

“And more than half of those are folks who already live in Yellow Springs,” Seibel said, later adding that, because the expectation is that at least a portion of the units in the planned development will be rented by local seniors who currently own homes in the village, there likely will be “some freeing up of larger homes in Yellow Springs.”

During the public hearing, villagers Laura Curliss and Mitzie Miller expressed concern about the number of parking spots that will be available for residents of the proposed development; where typical zoning code requires 1.25 parking spots per residence — in this case, 40 spots for 32 residences — the PUD application for the development includes a variation of 32 on-site parking spots and five street parking spots. 

“Old people have guests and workers come there, too,” Curliss said. “The people who live there will often have more than one vehicle, so you’re realistically going to be pushing a lot more parking out onto the street than five spaces, is my guess.”

Miller also had safety concerns about a planned stormwater retention pond for the site, citing a similar retention area at Home, Inc.’s Glen Cottages pocket neighborhood, where she said she had observed cyclists using the area “for tricks.”

“If you have a retention pond [you should] also consider some kind of safety measure around it,” Miller said.

Seibel responded to the concerns over parking by stating that providing one parking spot per unit has been “more than sufficient” for its past affordable rental housing projects, where not all residents have vehicles. With regard to safety concerns around the stormwater retention pond, Seibel said that the pond on the site of the planned development will not be as steep as the one at Glen Cottages, and that Home, Inc. will consider safety barriers moving ahead, adding that the nonprofit has begun installing plant barriers around the pond at Glen Cottages in response to neighborhood feedback.

Seibel expressed a concern that the text of the staff analysis of Home, Inc.’s application recommended that the nonprofit incur all infrastructure fees related to the development — including a sewer relining that was performed in 2019 when Home, Inc. was working to approve its previous, 54-unit proposed project at the site — as a condition of the application’s approval.

“I think it would give us more comfort if we could make that part of the discussion around the final approval,” Seibel said. “When we agreed to pay for the sewer relining, it was tied to the Village granting tap fee waivers as part of the 54-unit project.”

Planning Commission recommended the application for approval with no changes to the text as written in the staff analysis.

Zoning code text amendments

Planning Commission also held a public hearing for text amendments to portions of the current zoning code. The proposed text amendments follow the commission’s Feb. 14 meeting, in which the commission heard a proposal from zoning reform advocacy group Neighbors for More Neighbors YS. That group asked that the commission consider zoning changes that would make it simpler for builders or developers to create multifamily and nontraditional housing, with the stated goal of allowing for additional and diverse housing options in the village.

At the Feb. 14 meeting, Planning Commission approved initiating text amendments in the code to allow as conditional use multifamily, two-family and attached single-family dwellings in Residential-A zones, which currently only allow single-family residences; to allow dwellings in industrial zones by conditional use; and to allow dwellings above street-level businesses by permitted use.

In addition, Planning Commission moved at the March 14 meeting to initiate text amendments with regard to land that is annexed into the Village. Where the zoning code currently states that annexed land is automatically zoned Residential-A, which allows single-family homes at low density, the commission suggested changing the designation of annexed land to moderate-density Residential-B, which allows as a permitted use single-family attached and two-family units, such as duplexes, and, as a conditional use, multifamily units, including apartment buildings.

Planning Commission member Susan Stiles suggested that, ahead of voting, the commission consider instead amending the zoning code to designate annexed land as Residential-C, which would allow multifamily dwellings as a permitted use rather than conditional. Such a change would potentially bypass the need for a conditional use hearing before the Planning Commission and members of the public.

“My concern is, we want more affordable housing,” Stiles said. “We are more likely to have affordable housing through apartments, duplexes, that type of thing. And I think a developer is more likely to be open to doing it in Yellow Springs when they don’t have to go through a process that’s conditional.”

Zoning Administrator Swinger countered that augmenting the zoning of annexed land to Residential-C would remove the ability of community members to comment publicly at a hearing on their opinions or questions about any proposed development. Yellow Springs, she said, has always been “a very engaged community,” and she said she felt that continuing to require conditional use hearings would not be unreasonable or a hurdle for potential developers.

“It literally is not that big of a hoop to go through,” Swinger said, later adding: “I’ve been in this position for eight years, and we’ve never denied a conditional-use application. I think people are thinking it’s much more than it is.”

Members of Planning Commission voted unanimously to change the zoning density for any land annexation from Residential-A to Residential-B.

The commission also voted 4–1 to amend zoning code text to allow multifamily, two-family and attached single-family dwellings as a conditional use in Residential-A zones; members Stiles, Green, Gary Zaremsky and Scott Osterholm voted for the amendment, with Council Liaison Carmen Brown voting against it.

Several members of the public spoke ahead of the vote, with Curliss noting her concern that augmenting what dwellings are allowed in Residential-A zones might affect the property values of single-family homes in those areas, and suggested that the Village instead zone some land specifically for multifamily dwellings outside of areas with single-family homes.

“These folks seem bound and determined to get rid of single-family housing,” she said, adding: “I think you’re going to have a fight on your hands if you take away people’s value, and you take away their single-family zoning.”

Stiles clarified in response to Curliss that the proposed text amendments would not ban single-family homes.

“This doesn’t stop anybody from having their single-family home on their big lot,” Stiles said. “I think it does give more opportunities; my guess is there aren’t going to be a whole lot that are going to use this, but it opens up that possibility.”

She added: “We can see how it goes. In a couple of years, there may be more changes that are needed. But I think probably this is a step in the right direction.”

Members of Planning Commission voted to table the remaining zoning code text amendments under consideration until the commission’s next meeting on Tuesday, April 11.

In other Planning Commission business:

Planning Commission approved the design of a new parking lot at Glen Helen near the nature preserve’s entrance on State Route 343. The lot will have 82 parking spaces, including three ADA-compliant spaces, as well as a gate and a small shelter for a parking attendant.

The design was presented by Dirk Lackovich-Van Gorp, a volunteer for the Glen Helen Property Committee, who said the new lot is being constructed to allow “better access to that area of the Glen, because part of the Glen’s plan is to build an ADA-compliant trail.”

The design was approved pending submission of a stormwater mitigation plan and with a request from the commission that the Glen work with the Village Public Works director regarding any future utility service to the site and provide a guarantee that the plan will allow for adequate access to the parking lot for emergency services.

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