March 13, 2003
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Debate on tree protection continues

Village Council president Tony Arnett said last week that he would work with members of a tree preservation group to write a detailed tree protection proposal to help resolve some of the uneasiness Council members clearly have for this effort.

During a discussion at Council’s meeting March 3 on tree preservation, Tony Arnett volunteered to work with the Village solicitor and members of the Tree Preservation Ordinance Subcommittee to put in perspective the debate over whether the Village should have on the books a tree preservation ordinance.

Arnett’s suggestion came after a fairly lengthy discussion about a proposal signed by five local residents from the tree preservation subcommittee. The debate showed that the effort to create a tree preservation effort continues to plod along.

For more than a year, Council and the tree preservation subcommittee have been discussing ways for the Village to help preserve significant trees in town. Last month five members of the subcommittee — Rick Donahoe, Suzanne Patterson, Ann Gayek, Cy Tebbetts and Helen Eier — signed a proposal that would only include trees in the downtown area, which significantly reduces the scope of previous proposals that called for protecting large trees around town.

Though Council originally asked a group of local residents to write a tree preservation proposal, some Council members were clearly uneasy about the prospects last week.

Several Council members, as well as residents in the audience, for instance, expressed skepticism about an ordinance that does not impose penalties. “I’m having heartburn with ordinances that don’t do anything,” Council member George Pitstick said.

He also said, “I don’t know if an ordinance is the way to preserve trees.”

And as she has before, Council member Hazel Latson stressed that it was important for the tree review board to provide advice to local residents before they plant trees.

The tree subcommittee’s proposal would protect all trees in downtown Yellow Springs, including those on Mills Lawn, and would establish a tree review board to review plans to cut down or significantly alter trees in those areas. The board would not have the authority to stop such plans, but rather would provide an opportunity for local residents to comment. The board also would help property owners explain their plans and diffuse potentially difficult situations, the subcommittee said in its proposal.

Arnett suggested the Village could levy a penalty if a property owner did not go through the review process. The property owner would have the right to not follow the opinion of the board, he said.

Council member Denise Swinger noted that Council had previously told the tree preservation subcommittee that Council did not want an ordinance “with teeth.” Swinger also said she did not “have a problem” with the group’s proposal because its purpose was to promote education. Council member Joan Horn also said she liked the subcommittee’s proposal.

After the meeting, Arnett said the new proposal would include language to better define the review process.

Council did not discuss last week a suggestion from the Village Planning Commission that the Village join the Tree City USA program. Under that program, the Village would establish a tree board that would be responsible for the care and management of trees in Yellow Springs. The Village would be required to pass an ordinance to provide “clear guidance for planting, maintaining and removing trees” on public property.

Members of the Tree Preservation Ordinance Subcommittee said the village’s participation in the program would be redundant for a town that “does an excellent job of planting, caring for and protecting its many trees.”

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In other Council business:

• Arnett made a presentation on a parking plan he developed, and originally presented, a couple of years ago. Under Arnett’s plan, the Village would add signage around town directing motorists to long-term parking areas, like the Bryan Community Center and the Cemetery lot, and change some of the time limits on parking spots to create more short-term parking downtown. He also proposed the Village work with the school district to better use spaces around Mills Lawn School on the weekends.

Village Manager Rob Hillard, who has also worked on his own parking plan, said that the Village has a design for a new parking sign, which would direct motorists to long-term public parking areas. After the meeting, Hillard said that he hopes to start replacing older existing direction signs and adding new ones around town, but that it would be balanced with the availability of resources and other needs.

• Mike Migliore, the power supply manager at American Municipal Power of Ohio (AMP-Ohio), the Village’s wholesale power distributor, gave a presentation on the group’s plans to build a new power plant. Right now AMP-Ohio is in the development stages of the project and is asking its members to help pay for a two-year study.

Council agreed to participate in the study, which will cost the Village up to $5,000. The Village’s share of constructing the plant could cost $1 million, though that number is “preliminary,” Hillard said after the meeting.

The new plant could be online by 2009, Migliore said.

• Council heard a third presentation last week from Ted Donnell, a local architect who is president of Axis Architecture, on a plan to remodel the crew room at the Public Works facility. The project, which is estimated to cost $37,000, includes remodeling the facility’s restroom, adding a shower, upgrading the break room and storage areas, rebuilding the vestibule and replacing the roof.

• Council members said that they were interested in future discussions of the options identified in the blue ribbon finance committee’s report. These items include the Yellow Springs Police Department’s dispatch service, the income tax credit the Village grants to local residents who work out of town and the Greene County Animal Control’s weekend service.

• There is one opening on the Economic Development Revolving Loan Fund Committee and two openings on the Cable Advisory Panel. To apply, send a letter of interest to the clerk of Council, Deborah Benning, 100 Dayton Street, or

• After meeting in executive session, Council unanimously agreed to appoint Andrew Brouard to a five-year term on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

—Robert Mihalek