January 9, 2003
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Council approves goals for 2003

Village Council members said last week that they would focus much of their attention in 2003 on issues Council cited as important a year ago, including financial ones.

During its annual goal-setting meeting Jan. 2, Council unanimously approved five goals that will garner extra attention this year and will likely dictate the Village’s course of action during the next 12 months.

The goals include a focus on business issues and a promise to approve a balanced budget this year. In addition, Council members said they would continue supporting other activities from 2002, such as implementing a plan to protect the public water supply, holding a community visioning process and working with the Miami Township trustees. Council’s goal list also includes an effort to increase residential housing in town.

During the meeting, each Council member proposed a number of goals for the year. Council members then combined the goals that were similar, rewording the proposals when necessary, to reach an agreement on each item. Following a suggestion from Council president Tony Arnett, Council tried to word each goal in broad terms, not to narrow each goal into a few specific action items.

The following are Council’s goals for 2003, as recorded by the News:

Promote and facilitate new business and retain and grow existing businesses. (Parts of this goal were proposed by Council members Joan Horn, George Pitstick, Denise Swinger and Arnett.)

This item was also a Council goal last year, and Council has been involved in a number of local economic efforts. The most significant of these efforts was the approval of a cooperative economic development agreement with the Miami Township trustees. Under the agreement, both governments pledge to work together to promote business growth in town for a share of tax and utility revenues.

Last week, Council members said it was important for the Village to create more jobs in town and offer support for existing businesses. For instance, Horn said that Council should figure out how to “cherish” businesses and attract more to Yellow Springs.

Stressing the need to create more employment opportunities here, Arnett said, “We need an employment base in town. That’s what pays the bills.”

Council member Hazel Latson said that it was important for Council to “improve our relationship with existing businesses” so those businesses will “understand the government supports them.”

“Businesses are not saying very good things about us right now,” she said.

Some business leaders recently have called the community anti-big business. A survey of local businesses conducted last year by Community Resources, a group that is interested in local economic issues, found that the responsiveness of the local government, its services and acceptance of business by the community are the primary factors that could affect businesses’ decisions to expand, relocate or close up shop.

Pitstick said Council should reduce and eliminate impediments to business growth in the Village Zoning Code. Horn singled out parking as a need downtown, and encouraged Council to discuss this topic again this year.

Develop a 10-year capital improvement plan with priorities, costs and revenue sources that addresses items identified by the Village administration. (Pitstick/Swinger)

Like the first goal, this one was approved as a goal in 2002. After the meeting, Hillard said that last year the Village took an inventory of the local streets, water mains and sewer lines, including their condition. Once the 2003 budget process is complete, Hillard said, he would summarize the findings.

In addition, the Village has already completed an inventory of the electrical system, he said.

Swinger said it was important for the Village to have a formal capital improvement plan that includes an analysis of the Village’s infrastructure and the costs to make improvements and a plan to upgrade infrastructure.

Arnett characterized this item as a goal that falls under staff’s responsibility. Listing this as a Council goal “tells the manager, ‘this is a top priority for you,’ ” Arnett said.

Have a balanced budget for 2003 and improve the fiscal health of the Village government with public input. (Arnett/Pitstick)

This goal is similar to the theme this Council set last year, when it focused much of its attention on financial issues and approved a balanced budget in 2002. Last year, Council also tried to increase the reserves in each of the funds in the budget, in part to pay for future capital improvement needs.

Council members said the Village’s regular operating expenditures should not exceed revenue in the 2003 budget. “You have to deliver to Council a balanced budget” and Council will approve any additional capital improvement projects, Arnett told Hillard, who, with help from the Village department heads, creates the budget for Council’s review and approval.

Council members also said that local residents would have the opportunity to participate in decisions if any programs or services have to be cut, because this year’s budget is expected to be tight. “This Council is not playing god,” Pitstick said. “We will listen to people.”

Pitstick also suggested Council, with community input, review the services and amenities the Village provides.

Increase the housing supply across the spectrum (type and cost). (Arnett/Horn/Latson/Pitstick)

In proposing this goal, Council members tried to make it clear that they are interested in promoting all types of residential growth, including houses — from “starter homes” to housing for local business executives — condos and apartments. Horn and Latson specifically mentioned affordable housing in their proposals, while Arnett said affordability was too broad of a concept to tackle effectively. Therefore, he said, “let’s attack” the cost of living in town by increasing the number of dwelling units, as well as businesses, in town.

Latson also highlighted a need to create smaller housing for empty-nesters.

As he proposed with the first goal, Pitstick said that the Village should reduce and eliminate any impediments to residential growth in the Zoning Code. Calling for moderately controlled growth, Pitstick said the Village has zoning laws on the books whose only purpose is to stop growth, “not to improve Yellow Springs.”

Last year, Council said several times it was interested in promoting residential growth here. In one effort, Council approved amendments to the Zoning Code that will make it easier for land owners to build on so-called 50-foot lots. During the meeting last week, Pitstick called that action a “good step” that made many lots available for construction.

Continue the following efforts from 2002: implement the wellhead protection plan; organize and implement a community visioning process; work with the Miami Township trustees; improve the evaluation forms and processes for the Village manager and clerk of Council; improve communication with Council’s boards and commissions; and support the use of volunteers. (Arnett/Horn/Latson/Swinger/Pitstick)

Many of these items were goals from last year. For instance, the Village started gathering information it needs to protect the public water supply as part of the wellhead protection plan, which was approved in 2001. Several Council members suggested Council form a committee to oversee the plan.

Council is also taking the lead on a community visioning process, through which local residents will define their goals for the future.

Swinger urged the Village to consider using more volunteers to help with Village programs and services. Several Council members said volunteers could help implement some of their goals this year.

—Robert Mihalek