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Mayor Pam Conine, right, swore in Village Council newcomer Trish Gustafson at the group’s first regular meeting of the year on Tuesday, Jan. 2. Gustafson will serve a two-year term. She succeeds outgoing Council member Marianne MacQueen. Conine also swore in returning Council members Gavin DeVore Leonard and Carmen Brown, both of whom will continue their tenure on Council with renewed four-year terms. (Photo by Reilly Dixon)

Village Council settles first-of-year business

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At the group’s first meeting of the year, on Tuesday, Jan. 2, Village Council took their seats with new membership.

Having come in third in November’s general election, local resident and newcomer to Yellow Springs politics Trish Gustafson was sworn in at the beginning of Monday’s meeting. Gustafson brings with her 21 years of experience as a human resource manager for Beavercreek Township, and will now serve a two-year term on Council.

Also sworn in were returning Council members Carmen Brown and Gavin DeVore Leonard, both of whom, having received the first and second highest number of votes in the last election, will serve four-year terms.

Following the swearings in, Council members then moved on to appoint a new Council president and vice president. Upon Council member Brian Housh’s nomination of Kevin Stokes to continue his role as president and a unanimous vote of approval, Stokes will retain his presidential seat in the coming year. Also with unanimous support from the group, Gavin DeVore Leonard will continue serving as vice president.

In other Council business, Jan. 2—

Village to lease building to YSCF

Council approved a piece of legislation that authorizes Interim Village Manager Johnnie Burns to enter into a lease agreement with the Yellow Springs Community Foundation to occupy the Village-owned building at 201 S. Walnut St.

The building, constructed in 1935, and sited across the street from Mills Lawn Elementary, was the original home of the Yellow Springs Library. Once the current library facilities were built in 1965, the YS Board of Education moved in and paid $1 per year for use of the Village-owned building. It has sat vacant since the district moved to an office suite at 888 Dayton St. in December 2022.

Following a year-long search for a new tenant, the Village struck an agreement with the Community Foundation to rent the building for at least three years for $1,500 a month.

Foundation Executive Director Jeannamarie Cox told Council on Tuesday that she believes her organization will be a fine tenant, and owing to the building’s central location, the community stands to benefit. 

“Last year, over 60 nonprofits and businesses in the community used our Foundation offices [on Dayton Street] for meeting spaces,” Cox said. “We’re going to offer that same availability in this new building — it will be a meeting space as needed. The community is limited on those.”

The Foundation has resided at 108 Dayton St. for the last 23 years, occupying both upstairs and downstairs spaces. The building, located next to Village Cyclery, is owned by villager Bob Baldwin. With the Foundation set to vacate its space, Cox believes several retailers could take its place — another potential benefit for the community, she said.

Burns noted that a number of repairs need to be made to 201 Walnut St. before the Foundation can move in. According to him, the basement is prone to flooding and needs to be sealed and dried, old furniture needs to be removed and the ceiling needs work, among other immediate tasks.

To help with these improvements, the resolution authorized the disbursement of $60,000 to the Foundation to help fund the cost of repairs.

Following the meeting, Cox told the News that the Foundation intends to make the building more accessible by creating an ADA-compliant bathroom, as well as a ramp into the building. She also said that she envisions an eventual reversal of the building’s orientation — that the front, which presently faces Mills Lawn, will become a back patio, and that the back, which faces US Bank, will become the new main entrance.

CBE marketing, listing advances

Following the passage of another piece of legislation, Council agreed to formally enter into a contract with village resident and commercial realtor Allison Moody, who will soon market and list the Center for Business and Education, or CBE.

As previously reported in the News, approximately 20 acres on the CBE — which adjoin marijuana producer Cresco Labs and Antioch University Midwest, and which have been for sale for over 10 years — will be listed for $75,000–$125,000 per acre beginning this month, with Moody as the listing agent.

The ultimate goal, Moody told Council on Tuesday, is to attract new businesses to the CBE.

“I appreciate this opportunity,” Moody told Council on Tuesday. “I’ll be taking on all the initial costs for the marketing — the signs, advertising and stuff like that. I won’t get paid [a 6% commission] until I get a successful deal and bring in an approved business.”

Of that approval process, Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship reminded Council that no sale can occur without the group’s approval; any sale of Village-owned land, like the CBE, would appear before Council as an ordinance needing majority approval and a public hearing. 

Council member Brian Housh asked Moody about the possibility of putting housing on the CBE, harkening back to a previous discussion when local affordable housing nonprofit Home, Inc. approached Council in November with the possibility of building a low-income development on the land.

“It’s Village-owned land,” Moody said. “You control it and you’re allowed to pursue any options you wish. But as you know, the covenants don’t allow for residential.”

She added: “I personally don’t have an opinion one way or another. I’m just here to sell the property and ideally bring in business, because that’s what [the CBE] is zoned for now.”

Housh also wondered about a scenario in which Cresco would expand its operations; Moody reminded him that the company owns 13 acres of the total 35-acre CBE land.

“If they’re going to expand, they have a good amount of space already to do so,” she said.

Stokes said he looks forward to the economic boon an eventual sale of some of the CBE land would bring to Yellow Springs.

“The impetus for redoubling our efforts to market the CBE is the fact that Ohio is a great place to be right now for economic development, technology and industry,” Stokes said. “We want to do our best as a Village to let the world know that we are indeed open for business.”

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