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Village Manager Josué Salmerón resigned from his post after four years. His last day as manager was Sept. 3. (Photo by Reilly Dixon)

2023 In Review | Government

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New fees and tax changes

Village Council entered 2023 with a straightforward mission that spurred a number of pieces of legislation throughout the year: to broaden municipal revenue streams and generate more cash for the Village.

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• In January, Council members began considering villagewide utility rate increases. After several meetings and lengthy discussions, Council members approved several ordinances in February that included new rates, which are set to increase steadily over the next five years — 3% per year for electricity, 5% per year for sewer and 8% per year for water.

Also that month, Council first heard a proposal to change the Village’s reciprocal tax arrangement — that is, the amount of credit granted by the Village for income tax paid to other municipalities from 100% to 50% credit on the Village’s 1.5% income tax rate. Council approved the change at a March meeting.

• In February, Council heard a recommendation from then-Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger and voted affirmatively to raise zoning and permitting fees.

• In March, Council unanimously passed an ordinance establishing a fee schedule for the electric vehicle charging station at the John Bryan Community Center.

• In April, Council approved an ordinance to increase the price of Gaunt Park pool passes for village residents and nonresidents alike.

The same month, Council approved an ordinance to require itinerant vendors to procure a $35 license to sell their wares for 30 days in Yellow Springs; a one-year license costs $50.

• In July, Council approved a resolution to increase rent for the Village-owned Lawson Place apartments.

• In November, Council approved an ordinance that revised several municipal income tax provisions — revisions the Village was required to adopt per Ohio House Bill 33 that was signed into law earlier this year.

Also that month, when Council solidified its 2024 budget, Finance Director Amy Kemper told the group that both the Village’s revenues and expenses for next year have increased from 2023. According to her, revenues have grown as a result of many of the above fee and rate hikes — especially the electric, water and consumer fees, as well as an increase in income tax of $150,000.

• In December, Council approved a measure to change the Village’s Utility Round-Up program from “opt-in” to “opt-out,” meaning that utility customers are automatically enrolled in the program, and will see their utility bills “rounded up” to the next highest dollar amount.

Other legislation

• In January, Council members unanimously voted in favor of purchasing body-worn cameras for the Yellow Springs Police Department.

• In February, Council passed a resolution to adopt the following 2023 Village goals: Support infrastructure and high-quality service; promote affordability balanced with quality of life for the well-being of all residents; facilitate the development of affordable and market-rate housing and; achieve a structurally balanced budget.

• In March, Council approved an ordinance that banned texting while driving in the village.

• Council passed a resolution to enter into a contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation to create a $1.8 million multi-modal pathway on Dayton Street. According to a recent update from the Village, the pathway is now open from Stafford Street to East Enon Road. Crews will return after the first of the year to finish new bump-outs at the intersections of King and Stafford streets, as well as at the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail crossing on U.S. 68.

• Council members unanimously approved a volunteer policy for those wishing to help with projects on Village-owned property.

• In April, Council passed an emergency reading of an ordinance that allowed the Village to join the Sustainable Ohio Public Energy Council, or SOPEC, and to take the first steps to implement a natural gas aggregation program.

• Council passed a resolution to authorize then Village Manager Josué Salmerón to enter into a contract with Viking Painting, LLC to repaint the municipal water towers for $649,400.

• In May, Council unanimously approved a piece of legislation that made duplexes and multifamily homes a conditional use in residential districts.

• At the second May meeting, Council members voted to contribute $40,000 in support to local affordable housing developer Home, Inc. and $5,000 to YS Pride.

• Council voted to adopt a pesticide use policy for the Village’s Public Works Department.

• Council approved funding requests from the Chamber of Commerce for Street Fair and The 365 Project for Juneteenth. The groups received $15,000 and $1,200 respectively. At a later meeting, Council approved giving an additional $15,000 to the Chamber for the fall Street Fair.

• In June, Council members passed three emergency ordinances that would disallow the use of “micro-mobility vehicles,” such as electric scooters, in addition to bicycles and skateboards on sidewalks in the downtown area.

• In July, Council unanimously approved the rezoning of 144 Cliff St. from industrial to a planned unit development.

• Council approved a resolution to grant $5,300 to Village Artisans for their Art on the Lawn event.

• On July 25, Village Manager Salmerón announced his resignation. His last day with the Village was Sept. 3. Then, by a unanimous vote at a special Village Council meeting on Aug. 7, Yellow Springs Public Works Director Johnnie Burns was appointed interim village manager — an appointment that went into effect Aug. 28.

• On Aug. 21, Council member Carmen Brown announced that, following a meeting between her, Scott Osterholm and Greene County Commissioner Rick Perales, stop signs were repaired on the bike path near where a bike fatality occurred in July. Interim Manager Burns reported that his crews cleared obstructive brush in that area as well.

• In September, Council unanimously passed a resolution to authorize the retention of up to $205,000 in the Village’s green space fund through Aug. 31, 2024. Following that date, Council may choose to move some or all money from that fund into the general fund.

• In October, Council members approved a resolution that codified an official event sponsorship and grant policy for the Village.

• Council approved two resolutions to provide stipends to Finance Director Amy Kemper and Water and Electric Superintendent Ben Sparks for the additional labor they took on after Burns assumed the role of interim village manager.

• In December, Council approved a resolution to authorize Interim Village Manager Burns to sell up to 42,579 renewable energy credits, or RECs, at an estimated amount of $18.11 per credit, as well as the purchase of 66,326 “Green E-RECs” at an estimated cost of $3 per credit. An approximate amount of $572,263 was funneled into the Village electric fund.

• Council voted affirmatively to grant $500 to The 365 Project for the group’s Kwanzaa celebration.

• Council approved a resolution to give all Village employees a 3.5% increase in salary effective the first payroll period of 2024.

Changes to the Council makeup

For the first half of 2023, the Village Council dais looked much like it did last year: Brian Housh served as Council president, with Kevin Stokes as vice president and Gavin DeVore Leonard, Carmen Brown and Marianne MacQueen as Council members.

The Council presidency changed hands in October, however, when Council members voted 3–2 to remove Housh from his position. Following the motion’s passage, Stokes was appointed president and DeVore Leonard became vice president. The decision followed allegations that Housh had been intoxicated at past Village Council meetings and purportedly had driven under the influence.

Since then, the Nov. 7 election took place, with three Council seats up for contest — one of which belonged to MacQueen who chose not to run for another term on Council after 10 years.

At the polls, Yellow Springers voted to renew the terms of incumbents Brown and DeVore Leonard, and elected newcomer to local politics Trish Gustafson. As the two highest-voted candidates, Brown and DeVore Leonard will serve four-year terms; Gustafson will serve a two-year term beginning in January 2024.


Zoning Code amended

In February, the Village Planning Commission heard a proposal from Neighbors for More Neighbors YS, a local zoning reform advocacy group, which asked the commission to consider zoning changes that would make it easier for builders or developers to create multifamily and nontraditional housing. The group’s stated goal was to allow for additional diverse housing options in the village.

Following that proposal, 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, at the time, only allowed 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 their March meeting to initiate text amendments with regard to land that is annexed into the Village. Where the zoning code stated at the time that annexed land is automatically zoned Residential-A, which allowed 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.

At the May 15 regular Village Council meeting, Council members approved both recommendations to modify the zoning code.

Senior housing moves forward

Also at the group’s March meeting, Planning Commission members 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 nonprofit’s future 32-unit development on 1.8 acres along Marshall and Herman streets.

The plan for the proposed housing development, tentatively called “The Cascades,” 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.

At the May 1 meeting, Village Council voted affirmatively to contribute $40,000 to the project, as well as to waive $50,000 in tap fees.

Swinger signs off; Leatherman new zoning admin

After eight years of serving as the Village Planning and Zoning Administrator, Denise Swinger, retired from her position in late June. 

During her tenure, Swinger was instrumental in moving forward a number of major projects through Village channels, including the new Spring Meadows subdivision, the renovation of the Union Schoolhouse to accommodate WYSO’s studios and offices, construction at the former Miami Township Fire-Rescue to house a comedy club and expansions at Cresco Labs.

Succeeding Swinger is Meg Leatherman, who came to the Village with a master’s degree in city and regional planning and years of experience in zoning, building and planning. Before signing on with the Village, Leatherman worked as a community development director for the seaside tourist town of Astoria, Oregon, and prior to that, she was the director of development services for Ada County in Idaho.

Lumber Co. Market & Eatery advances

At the group’s September meeting, Planning Commission members voted unanimously to rezone a parcel of land downtown on which an indoor public market is proposed; 108 Cliff St. was rezoned to a PUD from its previous status of mixed-use industrial.

The future business envisioned for that land, dubbed the Lumber Co. Market & Eatery, owned by Massies Creek Ventures, LLC, aims to have approximately 10 vendors selling prepared foods and goods in a newly renovated facility where a 1940s-era lumber yard once stood.

Aside from some light construction and demolition on the 0.67 acres where the lumberyard previously sat, Planning Commission’s rezoning of the land in September of this year has been the only significant stride in establishing the future market and eatery.


Solar conversations continue

The December 2022 Ohio Power Siting Board, or OPSB, denial of Vesper Energy’s planned 175-MW, 1,500-acre utility-scale Kingwood Solar project — about 1,000 acres of which would have been located on unincorporated rural land in Miami Township — did not halt conversations about utility-scale solar in the township this year.

In January, Vesper Energy filed a rehearing application before the OPSB, just days after Citizens for Greene Acres — an ad hoc group of local residents formed in opposition to Kingwood — did the same. While Vesper filed the application in hopes of overturning the OPSB’s ruling, Citizens for Greene Acres did so in order to publicly record more testimony against the proposed project.

The Miami Township Board of Trustees, which acted as intervenors in opposition to the project, co-signed the rehearing application, and approved a resolution to retain private legal counsel to continue to advise them on matters related to Kingwood moving forward.

Throughout the year, the trustees also discussed petitioning Greene County to declare Miami Township off-limits to future utility-scale projects based on Senate Bill 52, which was signed into law in 2022. That law gives Ohio counties the ability to ban solar projects of 50 MW or larger on unincorporated rural land. In the summer, trustees enacted a two-year moratorium on deciding whether or not to petition restriction of such projects.

In September, Vesper Energy appealed the OPSB’s ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court because the OPSB did not issue its decision on the rehearing request within the 30 days required by Ohio law. The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, citing lack of jurisdiction, as the requested rehearing must take place before an appeal can be made. The OPSB has not yet scheduled the requested rehearing.

In early December, Vesper Energy gave a presentation at a meeting of the trustees that proposed a new utility-scale solar project that could be mounted in Greene County, including in Miami Township. The proposed project, tentatively called the Aviation Energy Center, would use an existing interconnection agreement already in place with regional electric power transmission system operator PJM, which was put in place ahead of the Kingwood Solar project’s design.

The Aviation Energy Center, according to Vesper Energy representatives, could be as large as 175 MW based on the interconnection agreement, but could be designed differently than Kingwood.

About 30 local residents attended the meeting at which the Aviation Energy Center was announced, with most in attendance vocally supporting the new project.

Fire Chief Colin Altman retired from Miami Township Fire-Rescue after working 29 years for the department. (Photo by Megan Bachman)

Chief Colin Altman retires

After 29 years at the helm of Miami Township Fire-Rescue, Chief Colin Altman retired in July. During his tenure, Altman oversaw the transformation of the local department from a nearly all-volunteer force to one with 22 paid staff; managed a significant increase in calls for service; and orchestrated the move to a much larger and better-equipped fire station.

Altman was succeeded by Dennis Powell, who has been with MTFR since 2004 and previously served as assistant chief.

BZA procedure, personnel changes

In July, the Miami Township Trustees announced that they planned to initiate several changes with regard to the Township’s Board of Zoning Appeals, or BZA. Among those changes were further training for BZA members and the creation of BZA bylaws. Also announced was the reduction of some of the duties of then-Zoning Administrator Richard Zopf, with those duties to be given to a new position, to be called BZA administrator; BZA Chair Richard Silliman has been filling that role in the interim period.

The changes followed concerns shared the month prior by local resident Steve Wirrig regarding the transparency of the BZA and the actions of Zopf.

In early December, Zopf was fired from his position as zoning inspector, which he’d held for 24 years, during a regular meeting of the Township trustees. The trustees elected not to comment publicly on the reason for Zopf’s firing, either when it was announced or in a follow-up conversation with the News.

Former Village Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger will act as interim zoning inspector until a new person is hired to fill the position.


Jeanna GunderKline won the race for Miami Township Fiscal Officer in a landslide, receiving 1,839 votes over opponent Benjamin Crandall’s 366 votes.

Miami Township Trustee incumbent Chris Mucher ran unopposed, but received 1,736 votes.


New jail breaks ground

After two failed attempts to levy funds for a new jail through sales tax, and nearly a year of decisions about finance, design and size, Greene County broke ground on a new $76 million jail in October.

The Greene County Gene Fischer Correctional Center, named for the late former county sheriff, is funded by a $15 million state grant, $30 million in sales tax-funded bonds, $10 million in revenue from the American Rescue Plan Act and $40 million from the Greene County general fund.

The new facility will have capacity for 482 incarcerated people — about 100 more than the current Greene County Adult Detention Center.


Special election Issue 1 fails,
Nov. Issues 1 and 2 pass

Issue 1 was struck down by voters in a special election held in August. The controversial initiative, if passed, would have created more rigid requirements for citizens aiming to make changes to the Ohio Constitution. In June, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Issue 1 was “100% about keeping a radical pro-abortion amendment out of our constitution.”

At the polls in November, Ohioans went on to pass a second Issue 1, with this one legalizing access to abortion and reproductive care and protecting that access in the State Constitution.

Voters also passed Issue 2, a statute to legalize the sale and possession of cannabis products for Ohioans ages 21 and older.

Property revaluations, House Bill 187

In September, Greene County homeowners received updated property valuations for their homes, following a scheduled property reappraisal that takes place every six years. Yellow Springs home values rose an average of 24%, with property taxes expected to rise accordingly in 2024.

In October, Ohio legislators passed House Bill 187 — a bill that aimed to ease the tax burden for property owners in the short term by requiring county auditors to use a three-year average of home sales data instead of a one-year average, with the result expected to be a slightly curbed rise in property valuation and, thus, property taxes. In December, it was announced that the bill would focus exclusively on providing three-year expanded property tax exemptions for low-income seniors, residents with disabilities and surviving spouses of public safety officers.

Ohio school districts are likely to lose expected revenue as a result of the bill.

—Reilly Dixon & Lauren “Chuck” Shows

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