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Village Council

Village Council says ‘no’ to housing on CBE land, for now

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At the group’s most recent regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 4, Village Council continued the ongoing discussion of pursuing a plan that could culminate in the construction of a low-income housing development on the 35-acre land known as the Center for Business and Education, or CBE.

The topic of last Monday’s discussion — which at times became contentious — was prompted when local affordable housing nonprofit Home, Inc. notified Village staff that a $10 million subsidy may be available through a federal low-income housing tax credit program. Those funds would help finance the creation of a 50-rental-unit housing development for low-income families.

But a lot of pieces would have to fall into place before such a plan could be realized, as previously reported in the News.

The CBE land would not only need to be rezoned, but it is subject to restrictive covenants that allow for only commercial uses; residential uses are prohibited. In order to amend those covenants, all three owners of the CBE land — that is, the Village of Yellow Springs, cannabis growing facility Cresco Labs and Antioch University Midwest — must all be in consensus.

The matter is also time-sensitive. Home, Inc. Director Emily Seibel reminded Council members at last Monday’s meeting that an application for the $10 million subsidy would be due in February 2024.

Owing to that tight turnaround and the uncertain extent to which Antioch University and Cresco would support a plan still in flux, Council members eventually came to agree that applying for the 2024 subsidy was untenable.

“I believe the time will run out if we’re trying to submit an application for 2024, but I believe we can do the work once we get more answers to prepare an application for 2025,” Council President Kevin Stokes said, noting that a similar opportunity may arise this time next year. 

That there would be not one, but two consecutive years in which this tax credit funding is available for the Village or any one municipality, is a rarity, Seibel said in an earlier memo to Council members. The funding that would come from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, or OHFA, which disburses money, is based on the scoring of the organization’s opportunity index mapping tool.

For 2024 and 2025, OHFA considered Yellow Springs “very high” on its opportunity index, however, as Seibel’s memo notes, the CBE land scored even higher within the municipal limits in the areas of transportation, housing and employment — and as such, makes it the only land within the village that qualifies for the $10 million.

“What we know for sure is that anything on the [eastern] side of East Enon Road — which is pretty much the whole village — doesn’t score high enough to apply,” Seibel said. “It’s frustrating and not fair. But at the end of the day, we brought you a rare opportunity, and I don’t know when it’ll come around again.”

According to OHFA’s opportunity index map, the rest of Yellow Springs — that is, what’s east of East Enon Road — scored 80 on the opportunity index. The rural land that immediately surrounds the village, including land on which the CBE and the Yellow Springs High and McKinney Middle schools sit, received a score of 94.

“I agree that the ship may have sailed, and we don’t have time to put together an application for 2024,” Seibel said, adding that she expects Home, Inc. to continue working with groups like Council, the Housing Committee and Yellow Springs Development Corporation to work on a plan for a 2025 tax credit subsidy.

Seibel alluded to several properties to the west of the Village limits that could also be feasible for a future low-income housing development, but that those properties would first have to be annexed into Yellow Springs. She did not specify where those properties are.

Recognizing the need to regroup before pushing a plan for housing on the CBE land, and walking back the urgency she expressed at the previous Council meeting, Council member Marianne MacQueen agreed with Seibel.

“The communities that say, ‘Yes, we’re interested [in funding affordable housing projects]’ say that because they not only have a vision, but they’ve come together with a plan, and they’ve already got their ducks in a row,” MacQueen said.

Reiterating the hard line she took at the previous meeting, Council member Carmen Brown insisted the CBE proposal be “taken off the table for now,” and that Home, Inc. look elsewhere for future affordable housing opportunities. 

Brown made a movement to do just that, but because there was no second from the other four Council members at the dais, the conversation continued.

“It’s like we’re just spinning our wheels about this particular project,” she said. “If the body is content to do that, then I will do as I’m guided — but first we need some guidance.”

Stokes rebutted: “I’m not comfortable with the phrase ‘spinning our wheels,’” he said. “We have spent professional man hours on researching and finding answers to questions — and yes, there are still unanswered questions.”

He continued: “We do want this to happen, and I’m suggesting we move forward. I don’t want to discount the CBE as one of the possibilities, so we should put ourselves in a position over the next few months to put in a good application.”

Looking ahead, Council member Brian Housh suggested that ongoing discussions of the matter fall on the shoulders of the Village Housing Committee — a group on which he, Council member Gavin DeVore Leonard and several Village staffers sit.

“And we have a new Council member coming in, so let’s wait to have a vote until next year,” Housh said.

Still, opinions on who should lead the charge were split — even among those in the audience at Monday’s meeting.

Local resident Dino Pallotta said he was concerned that any plan regarding the CBE had to be made by Council before the group continues down the path of exploring its options. 

“You’re putting the cart before the horse,” Pallotta said. “You need to figure out a strategy and see if these covenants can be overcome or not. How can you turn to AUM or Cresco and say, ‘We want a decision from you,’ when there’s no plan?”

Encore Miller Fellow for the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, Lisa Abel struck a slightly different tone.

“Personally, I don’t think this is something the Village can run,” Abel said. “I think the Village should remove barriers with whatever propositions are brought forth, but I do not think the Village is in a place to run this project. It should be Home, Inc.”

Seibel appeared to strike a middle ground, asking for greater collaboration among all stakeholders and invested groups.

“If folks are open to it, I would love to continue talking to YSDC, the Village, property owners, whomever, to see if we can work something out collaboratively that would achieve multiple public goals,” she said. “The most important thing is that we’re not all spinning our wheels, but working in tandem.”

The next and final 2023 Village Council meeting will be held in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the John Bryan Community Center on Monday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m.

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