February 27, 2003
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Council to provide funds for commerce park effort

The effort to bring a commerce park to Yellow Springs progressed significantly last week, when Village Council agreed to provide seed money to Community Resources to secure property and promote it for development.

Though both Council and Community Resources have been discussing the commerce park concept since 1999, this latest action is important because Council said that it is willing to use public funds to get a controlling interest in a development site, and because Community Resources will begin pursuing developers.

Council president Tony Arnett, who proposed the partnership to both groups, called it “a big step forward.”

The Community Resources board agreed to Arnett’s proposal at a meeting Feb. 10, two board members said.

Noting that the groundwork for a commerce park has been laid, Sam Bachtell, a Community Resources board member who has been active in the commerce park effort, said that Community Resources is ready to move forward. “It’s a big job but there was no hesitation” from the board, he said.

Dan Young, vice president of Community Resources and a member of a subcommittee working on the park concept, said the decision by both Council and Community Resources acknowledges that “this is the right time to make a Yellow Springs park happen.”

At its meeting Feb. 18, Council unanimously agreed to commit an unspecified amount of money from the Village Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund, which Community Resources will use to acquire land, or an option to purchase land, for a development site. The Village would also use the loan fund to support administrative, legal and marketing costs.

Community Resources, a local community improvement corporation that has been working on economic issues, including the commerce park concept, would market and sell the property to commercial developers. The group’s commerce park subcommittee will spearhead this effort, Bachtell said.

Both Council and Community Resources will sign an agreement, solidifying their partnership.

Village Manager Rob Hillard said that he “fully” supported the proposal. “I think it’s a good plan,” he said.

After the meeting, Chris Mucher, president of the Township Board of Trustees who put the CEDA together, said that he was encouraged by the Council-Community Resources partnership. “It’s how I envisioned the hopeful cooperation between the Village and Miami Township for identifying property,” he said.

Community Resources would try to secure land designated for commercial development in the Cooperative Economic Development Agreement, or CEDA, which Council and the Miami Township trustees approved last year. The CEDA names two areas as available: 46 acres of farmland on the northwest corner of East Enon and Dayton-Yellow Springs roads, which is owned by Vernay Laboratories, and almost 40 acres of farmland on the east side of East Enon, which is part of the Pitstick farm. Both properties border the village limits on the west and any land developed under the CEDA would be annexed into Yellow Springs.

Bachtell said Community Resources would determine which of the properties in the CEDA would be “best for this purpose.”

The developer would be responsible for building a commercial facility and finding tenants to fill it, Bachtell said. The developer would follow the steps outlined in the CEDA, including annexation and rezoning processes.

Arnett, echoing a theme he and other Council members have stressed recently, said that working with Community Resources would keep Council out of the business of real estate.

Bachtell said the commerce park subcommittee began working on this effort this week and that Community Resources hoped to secure an agreement with a developer by September.

The Pitsticks have asked the Township trustees to rezone nearly eight acres of land included in the CEDA so the family can build a house. The trustees will consider the request at their meeting March 3. If the request is granted, 32 acres of the Pitstick property, which neighbor The Antioch Company, would still be available for commercial development.

Approved last September, the CEDA says that both the Village and the Township would provide services, such as utilities and police and fire protection, to the designated properties and receive tax and utility revenue.

The agreement also says Council and the trustees must agree to provide to a developer any incentives, including tax abatements, that would affect the Township’s revenue from the CEDA. Arnett said that the CEDA places the trustees “front and center” for discussions about incentives.

Acknowledging that it is still “early in the process,” Mucher said that the trustees would “happily participate if we can.”

In his proposal, Arnett said that Council would discuss what incentives the Village is willing to offer potential developers. These incentives could include providing utilities to a site and tax abatements. The revolving loan funds granted to Community Resources could also be used as an incentive, and not returned to the Village, Arnett said. He said the discussion would involve the trustees, the Yellow Springs school board and the public.

Arnett said that Council must decide “to what extent and how” the Village would encourage development. Laying this out would help Community Resources leverage a contract with a developer, he said.

In addition, Council and Hillard said that the Village must review the Revolving Loan Fund to make sure it can be used to secure land for commercial development. The loan fund has been used as gap financing to help existing businesses in Yellow Springs.

Council members in the past have been noticeably frustrated with under use of the loan fund. Only two businesses are currently enrolled in the program. “We’ve had a lousy track record over the last eight years,” Council member Denise Swinger said of the fund. “Let’s try something different.”

In his proposal, Arnett said that by using revolving loan funds the Village would not have to draw money from the general fund, which supports most of the Village’s programs and activities, except the utilities.

—Robert Mihalek