September 11, 2003


Plan board recommends Council adopt new zoning district—
Planners support commerce district

After an insistent debate over the inclusion of an optional environmentally friendly clause in a commerce park zoning ordinance, the Village Planning Commission agreed Monday to give the proposed district its blessing.

The proposal, which would create a “Mixed Commerce District,” now goes before Council, which has final say over zoning changes. Council is scheduled to hold the first of two readings on the proposal at its meeting Monday.

At its meeting Sept. 8, plan board voted 3–1 to pass the proposal to Council. The commission chairman, John Struewing, members Bruce Rickenbach and George Pitstick, who is Council’s representative on the board, voted yes; Cy Tebbetts voted no. Dawn Johnson was absent.

Tebbetts strongly objected to the proposal, saying that he thought the board was missing an opportunity to encourage environmentally responsible business in any commerce park that would be located in the mixed-use district. He recommended that plan board support a proposal with sustainable requirements and voluntary compliance incentives.

“I believe that the ordinance should reflect the village’s commitment to an eco-friendly park and that its inclusion in the ordinance assures that Yellow Springs will contribute more than lip service to a principle we virtually all endorse,” Tebbetts said. “If there is a financial incentive, that’s what businesses respond to, and making it voluntary creates a better feeling between the businesses and the village.”

Other Planning Commission members and Village officials said that they supported an eco-friendly park, however, they did not think it was appropriate to include incentives in the zoning ordinance. The ecologically sustainable goals should be pursued for the commerce park district, but the Village Zoning code is not the right vehicle, said Rickenbach, who was the primary author of the proposal plan board passed.

Rickenbach’s proposal does contain some environmental criteria, saying that the district would “promote environmentally conscious practices,” and that certain practices that emit dust, smoke, gas and noise would be prohibited.

Planning Commission has been working for three years to establish a zoning district that would accommodate a local commerce park.

At one point, several zoning proposals did cite specific environmental standards businesses would have to practice. But plan board dropped such language after its members could not agree on the meaning of sustainability or how to enforce “eco-friendly” standards.

Both Village Zoning Inspector Phil Hawkey and Village Manager Rob Hillard agreed that voluntary incentives should be pursued outside of the Zoning Code, perhaps through Community Resources, which is trying to find a developer to build a park.

But Tebbetts persisted, encouraging the commission to at least allow his version of the ordinance to be submitted alongside the official version passed by plan board. “I feel very strongly about this, and plan board is passing something that is very shortsighted,” he said. “We’re sticking our heads in the sand.”

Other commission members said they felt uncomfortable sending to Council two versions of a zoning proposal.

Tebbetts relented, offering to prepare a separate statement from the board recommending that Council incorporate incentives for clean and environmentally responsible business operations in the commerce park.

“Strike while the iron is hot. Let’s bring ourselves into the 21st century with environmental concerns. There are many communities doing it,” Tebbetts said after the meeting, referring to a new eco-friendly industrial park currently being developed in Fairborn. “It could be a synergistic thing, an exchange with other areas that could be a nice extension of the whole idea.”

—Lauren Heaton