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2024
Village Council

Village Council discusses low-income housing on CBE land

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The perennial conversation of what to do with the 35 acres of land on the western edge of Yellow Springs — known as the Center for Business and Education, or CBE — resurfaced at the most recent Village Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 20.

What prompted Monday’s discussion was that members of YS Home, Inc. approached the Village earlier this month with the possibility of creating a low-income housing development consisting of over 50 rental units on the CBE parcel, which is shared between three owners: Antioch University Midwest, Cresco Labs and the Village. 

While no plans have been made, the matter is time sensitive: Home, Inc., is considering submitting an application for a $10 million subsidy through the federal low-income housing tax credit program, which would be due in February 2024.

As Home, Inc., Executive Director Emily Seibel wrote to Council members in a memo, a low-income unit on the CBE would address the ongoing local need for additional affordable housing.

“Family rentals affordable for our workforce are identified as the top local housing need,” Seibel wrote. “Village Council members individually and as a body have publicly stated that affordable family rental housing of scale is a top priority.”

Plans to build — let alone apply for the funds for — such a unit, however, are hampered by several factors.

In order to accommodate any kind of residential units on the CBE land — which is zoned as a Planned Unit Development, or PUD — a lengthy preliminary plan process must take place. Additionally, the land is subject to covenants that restrict land uses to only office, commercial, medical, educational, assembly, research, servicing, light industrial, warehousing and distribution. Residential uses other than hotels are prohibited. Those covenants may be amended if land owners representing 75% of the total acreage of the lots consent. That means the Village, Cresco Labs and Antioch University must all agree to amend those restrictions.

Council President Kevin Stokes noted that the Village has recently approached representatives from Cresco and Antioch University to see if they would be supportive of installing housing on their shared CBE land. Neither organization has responded.

Taken together, these obstacles may stall or prevent Home, Inc. from applying for the subsidy altogether.

“Nobody knows where to start,” Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship said. “How do you begin in this situation when you have those restrictive covenants and an expensive zoning process? This is going to be a very big undertaking to put a residential development on this site.”

Village Clerk Judy Kintner offered a word of caution for Council about rushing a decision to help Home, Inc. meet their application deadline: “The more fleshed out and careful and thoughtful and responsive the community process is, the better it goes,” she said. “We all know that. Rushing anything through tends to backfire.”

Council member Marianne MacQueen — who was once the executive director of Home, Inc. — insisted that despite the challenges, the Village should do everything it can to create more affordable housing in the village.

“We have essentially done nothing other than talk,” MacQueen said. “We’ve talked, done surveys and studies, made committees and commissions, and all of this has amounted to nothing.”

Building a residential unit of any kind on the CBE property may preclude future businesses from settling on the land, which MacQueen and other Council members noted made the topic even more difficult.

“The village needs both economic development and housing, so I’m hoping that we can acknowledge both sides and not denigrate one over the other,” she said.

Speaking in opposition to the proposed affordable housing proposal was Dino Pallotta, local business owner and Yellow Springs Development Corporation member. He said he believes the CBE land is best used as it was initially intended: for commercial purposes only.

“This is your last bastion, the last piece of viable land that is prime real estate for business,” Pallotta told Council. “It’s your greatest opportunity to get taxable revenue from [more] businesses on the CBE. That money will enhance our lifestyle here, because when those tax dollars do come in, you can use that money for whatever. Affordable housing? Phenomenal.”

Seibel noted in her memo, however, that housing on the CBE land may not come at the expense of future businesses locating there.

“If all parties agree to proceed, the project would require approximately three acres, leaving 17 available for the expansion of Cresco and/or additional light industrial uses. We are exploring a ‘both-and’ approach, since housing and jobs go together, and housing availability is a consideration for employers,” she wrote.

Also attending Monday’s meeting was president of the Dayton-based St. Mary Development Corporation, Tim Bete. In collaboration with Home, Inc., St. Mary agreed to take the lead on the potential application process for the $10 million subsidy. Seibel’s memo states that such an application would require over $40,000 in upfront investment.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of feedback that makes me wonder, as a community, how serious Yellow Springs is about affordable housing. There’s a lot of talk,” Bete said. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. [The CBE] is not the perfect site, but it’s the only site you’ll ever get this kind of funding on.”

Council member Carmen Brown took some umbridge about the suggestion that Council and the community as a whole haven’t been prioritizing creating more affordable housing.

“This [conversation] is not about being anti-affordable housing or having community buy-in,” she said. “It’s about two of the most important entities [Cresco and Antioch University] and not knowing what they’re going to do. Saying there’s no support for affordable housing is absurd.”

Ultimately, no decision was made, but President Stokes assured Council members he and Village staff intend to again reach out to the other two owners of CBE land to gauge their interest in the project. Pending their approval, a preliminary PUD application for the site may come before the Village Planning Commission at their December meeting.

Council members agreed to revisit the topic at their next meeting Monday, Dec. 4.

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