March 25, 2010



Balance land uses

For some in the village, the Center for Business and Education has been a long-term solution-in-progress to the loss of larger scale businesses in Yellow Springs. For others, especially after the near simultaneous development of the Fogg farm across the street from the business park in 2007, the CBE continues to pose a threat to the very sane structure of the village that concentrates the retail and quotidian activity at its core and expands outward with residential and industrial uses, beyond which is given to the open sky, farm fields and woods. Consider following as a potential bridge between the two perspectives that supports the validity of both.

This idea was suggested to me last year by a member of the community, and I like it. The Village and volunteer members of Yellow Springs Community Resources have worked hard to create a space at the CBE where businesses can locate to add vitality to our village, in terms of tax revenue, jobs and exciting new ideas. That same group could acknowledge the perhaps unintended development pressure the CBE’s existence puts on adjacent properties by funneling some of its resources into the preservation of those properties. It could be a particular percentage of the development revenue the business park generates (after YSCR reimburses the Village for the loan the group used to purchase the property). It could be a percentage of the cost of each subdivided property, or a monthly or annual fee that occupants pay to YSCR. It might even be accomplished by encouraging the business leaders to become board members of the Tecumseh Land Trust or to volunteer with a progressive local land use group.

The unorthodox approach may not appeal to some businesses who might otherwise consider locating here. But it could incentivize others who operate progressively, and they might prove to be a better fit for Yellow Springs anyway. What seems more important is that the practice is in keeping with the legacy of the village and Antioch College, which fostered socially responsible businesses that cared as much about the community as they did about the bottom line.

Though preserving property requires the support of the property owner, if funding is available, many landowners in the township have been willing to forego the paving of their fields and farmland. And we as a community should acknowledge that if we’re unable now to utilize the current brownfields that have begun to mar the village landscape, what will the CBE look like as an abandoned property in 30 years? Will we then want to develop even more land to replace those businesses that have failed or moved away?

The Village and Miami Township have dedicated a limited amount of public funds to help purchase preservation easements throughout the township, but the point is to have the CBE generate the funds, because it’s the business park that could raise development pressure on nearby land. And YSCR could gain broader support for its projects by helping others who are doing equally important work on other aspects of the village.

To maintain Yellow Springs as a small, vibrant community, its best qualities must maintain a sophisticated balance with each other. If growth supporters advocate for a little green space at the edge of their development, then perhaps the green space supporters will see the wisdom in a little growth.

—Lauren Heaton