April 3, 2003
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Council, plan board discuss ways to encourage more development
Sitting around three large foldout tables in the Bryan Community Center last week, Village Council and Planning Commission members brainstormed ways the Village could promote two shared goals: promoting business development and residential development. While no specific proposals were made, the discussion showed that the Village would not rely solely on a couple of well-publicized strategies — such as building a commerce park or providing affordable housing — to meet its goals.
The meeting, which was held March 24, was called to make sure both Council and Planning Commission are on the same development page, since both boards have promoting development as a goal for 2003. There was actually little evaluation of the brainstormed ideas. Rather, the meeting seemed an opportunity for officials to bounce ideas off one another. Several people at the end of the meeting indicated that Council would prioritize the ideas later.
Officials suggested about eight ideas for commercial development.
Noting that downtown is “very small,” Council president Tony Arnett said that the Village could consider options to expand the Central Business District — the zoning designation for the downtown area — “on the outside fringes,” including Railroad Street, part of Corry Street, near the Miami Township Fire Station, and one side of Walnut Street.
Planning Commission member Bruce Rickenbach said that the Village needs to change its message from negative to positive. The message, he said, is that Yellow Springs does not want business and residential development.
Council member Joan Horn suggested the Village work closely with the Chamber of Commerce, as well as make an effort to talk to downtown business owners and conduct “exit interviews” with businesses that leave town.
Another Council member, Denise Swinger, said that business owners are saying that they need more options for fiber optic, or high-speed, telecommunications.
Other suggestions included reviewing the Zoning Code for impediments for redeveloping properties; reviewing downtown parking; allowing residential and commercial space to be developed in the same area; and reviewing zoning requirements for home-based businesses.
About eight ideas were also suggested to encourage residential growth.
The Planning Commission chairman, John Struewing, suggested the Village consider annexation as a way to expand the borders of Yellow Springs. Rickenbach said that the Village has “taken annexation out of our tool kit,” and that it should be put back into the kit. The Village could work with Miami Township on annexing land around Yellow Springs, Arnett said.
Horn said that the Village could sell an acre of the Glass Farm to two groups interested in affordable housing issues, Starfish and Home, Inc., “as a sample, pilot program.” It would “provide affordable housing, would bring money into the Village and would not be a giveaway,” Horn said.
She also suggested that the Village could encourage property owners to redevelop commercial space as residential.
Planning Commission members also discussed the idea of providing cottage zoning or cluster housing, which would allow smaller homes to be built in a small area. Rickenbach said that cluster housing “makes it easier to preserve open space” and provide residential development, and that it could be used on the “fringes” of town.
Other brainstormed ideas included encouraging the construction of condos and townhouses; providing “ranch-style houses for seniors”; getting abandoned homes on the market; investigating co-housing; and encouraging more “mother-in-law” apartments.
The meeting did cover some old ground when Council and plan board discussed the idea of including sustainability requirements in a commerce parking zoning district.
Last year, Planning Commission tabled its effort to create a new business district when its members could not agree on a basic framework for the district, specifically with sustainability requirements. Commission member Cy Tebbetts urged plan board to make the requirements voluntary, though other board members said this would weaken the district.
Last week, in response to a question about the status of the district, Struewing said that “absolutely” the issue was unresolved. In fact, plan board will revive its effort to create the new district in the next month or two.
Tebbetts reintroduced his idea, which says that companies in the park would meet certain environmental criteria in exchange for incentives from the Village.
George Pitstick, who is Council’s representative on Planning Commission, said that he has “mixed emotions” about the sustainability issue, noting that while it “could stifle business,” it is also a “good concept.”
Up until last week, most Village officials said that having a commerce park zoning district would be helpful, but not necessary to get a park built here. At the meeting, however, Arnett said that the Village might need a new zoning district that recognizes “how business is done in the 21st century.” While the Village has two zoning districts in which a park could be constructed, Light Industrial and Office/Research, he said that the Village’s current zoning regulations “do not match the operational definitions” of today’s business world.
Arnett also said that Yellow Springs likes “to showcase to the world ‘best practices’ ” and that the Village could provide incentives for businesses in the park.

—Robert Mihalek