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At the most recent Village Council regular meeting, on Monday, April 15, Council members again turned their attention to municipal broadband — the ongoing initiative to provide village residents and businesses with a local Wi-Fi option. (News archive photo by Megan Bachman)

Village Council renews municipal Wi-Fi efforts

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At the most recent Village Council regular meeting, on Monday, April 15, Council members again turned their attention to municipal broadband — the ongoing initiative to provide village residents and businesses with a local Wi-Fi option.

Since the Village implemented a municipal broadband pilot program in early 2022, over 100 homes and businesses have opted into the network.

The pilot currently offers two tiers of internet service: 300 megabits per second, or Mbps, for $45 a month, and 1 gigabits per second, or Gbps, for $64 per month. Downtown Wi-Fi is free. Presently, 600 homes within designated areas throughout Yellow Springs may opt into the fiber backbone and pay for individual service.

Instigating the pilot program and building the infrastructure has come at no cost to villagers; it was funded entirely through a $300,000 grant from Broadband Ohio. However, Council members agreed that in order to broaden the reach of the program, more work will be needed.

At Monday’s Council meeting, Village Manager Johnnie Burns requested Council approval to partner with Altafiber, Inc. — formerly Cincinnati Bell — to continue to “build out” the current municipal broadband network and the related infrastructure, thus providing access to more local residents.

“Based on our discussions with Altafiber … and the feedback we’ve gotten, it makes sense to work with them,” Council member Brian Housh said, noting that the Cincinnati-based telecommunications service provider had recently struck a deal with Greene County to create more fiber networks in rural areas.

Council President Kevin Stokes added that because the Village of Yellow Springs owns the majority of its municipal utility poles, Altafiber could begin work in the village “almost immediately.”

“By allowing Altafiber to do their job and build out our backbone, Yellow Springs would benefit as a whole,” Stokes said.

Now, with Council’s approval, Manager Burns has the green light to enter into a nondisclosure agreement with Altafiber to gain additional information on how the company can benefit Yellow Springs. Burns said he will continue to provide updates as the partnership develops.

Additionally, Housh said that the local Broadband/Fiber Advisory Committee — which includes members from Village Council, Village staff and the citizens group Springs-Net — will hold a meeting soon to discuss the next steps with Altafiber, and the possibility of working with other service providers.

In other Council business, April 15—

Mandatory bike parking

Village Council gave first reading to an ordinance that would amend the Village zoning code such that some new residential and commercial developments would be required to include bicycle parking options.

Pending future approval — with Council slated to give the ordinance a second reading and hold a public hearing at the group’s May 6 meeting — the code amendment would make bike parking a requirement for any building project that goes through a conditional review from Village staff.

As Planning and Zoning Administrator Meg Leatherman told Council, “The overall intent is to support location and storage of bicycles, but in the long term, support active [nonvehicular] transportation overall.”

In other words, new or modified building projects that go through a conditional use process would be required to erect bicycle racks on that private property at the expense of the builder.

Planning Commission member Gary Zaremsky, who initially proposed the idea last year, told Council last Monday that his goals with the legislation are straight-forward and conform to previously stated Village values of encouraging more pedestrian and bicycle travel in Yellow Springs.

“This is one of several ways that will codify parking requirements for bikes that parallels what’s required for cars,” he said.

In a follow up conversation with the News, Leatherman said that even if the ordinance passes, not every new building project would be subject to the bike parking mandate. Some projects, she said, may have site constraints or a lack of space for said parking, and as such, may be able to waive the requirement.

Leatherman also noted that the Village sees few projects requiring conditional use hearings.

Village to waive additional Home, Inc. tap fees 

By a unanimous vote, Council members approved a resolution to grant additional money to local affordable housing nonprofit YS Home, Inc. to cover the costs of tap fees in the first building phase of the planned 32-unit senior housing project.

Upon future approval of a supplemental appropriations ordinance, $7,963 will be taken out of the Village’s General Fund to cover the costs of building a larger tap required for the sprinkler system in a handicap accessible unit in the planned complex.

This amount granted to Home, Inc. comes on top of the previous $50,000 in tap fee waivers granted to the nonprofit in May 2023.

The supplemental appropriations legislation will likely appear before Council at the group’s May 6 meeting.

No tornado shelter

Village Manager Burns began his regular report by reminding village residents that the John Bryan Center is not — nor has it ever been — a tornado shelter. Burns was responding to suggestions he and other Village staffers have seen on social media during recent storm events.

“If you’re out and about and you need to take cover, we’ll try to get you inside,” Burns said, adding that doors beyond the foyer are normally locked at night. “But understand that we have so much glass in this building; there’s no room or hallway that isn’t surrounded by glass.”

“Successful” April 8 eclipse

Also in his manager’s report, Burns called the April 8 total solar eclipse “one of the best events” he’s been a part of in Yellow Springs in the 10 years he’s worked for the Village.

While Burns was unable to say how many visitors traveled to Yellow Springs to watch the celestial event, his report stated that the Yellow Springs Police Department heard from the Greene County Emergency Management Agency, which said that Yellow Springs experienced the highest influx of visitors of any municipality within the county. Despite that spike, Burns said there were no crowd management issues nor was municipal infrastructure negatively affected.

“The weather was perfect for the occasion, and traffic and parking plans were sufficient to maintain public safety,” Burns’ report stated.

He added in Monday’s meeting: “There were plenty of places to eat and plenty of places to go to the bathroom.”

On the 100 porta-potties and handwashing stations placed throughout the village on April 8, the Village spent $10,000.

Downtown parking fees

In recent weeks, a number of signs have cropped up on downtown utility poles: “Village of Yellow Springs Public Parking. Donating funds helps to keep public parking free. Thank you for your support!” Signs include a scannable QR code that directs people to a website hosted by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, where people may donate a parking fee in an amount of their choosing to the Village.

“This is not something new,” Council member Housh said. “This was a solution that staff recommended, and Council as a majority has said we’re ready to explore paid parking.”

Burns noted that although the signs are reflective in such a way that their visibility is diminished in the sunlight — and that the Village has plans to improve that visibility — the signs have nevertheless spurred some visitors to pay to park their vehicles downtown.

“They’ve been highly used on weekends,” he said, but did not specify how much the Village has gained from parking donations.

In a followup email to the News, Housh clarified that this pay-to-park initiative, which he again said has been in the works for a while, should only affect visitors — not villagers.

“Whenever we have talked about the paid parking initiative in the past, we have emphasized that residents would get a ‘free pass’ with a sticker or something,” Housh wrote. “This revenue generating effort is one of the few opportunities to support our infrastructure needs, which are exacerbated by being a destination, with funds from visitors.”

The next Village Council meeting will be Monday, May 6, at 7 p.m., in the Council Chambers in the John Bryan Community Center.

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