September 11, 2003



Make commerce district green

Village Council should make it a point to emphasize its support for environmentally friendly businesses when it considers next week a proposal from the Village Planning Commission to create a new commercial zoning district. Council should do so by adding to the ordinance creating the district more compelling language about environmental standards and then adopting a policy that would include incentives for businesses to engage in sustainable practices.

Council, which is scheduled to consider at its meeting Monday the first of two votes needed to approve the new “Mixed Commerce District,” does not have to rewrite Planning Commission’s proposal. Council members, however, should listen closely to the ideas of Planning Commission member Cy Tebbetts, who has been lobbying hard, and at this point unsuccessfully, for a district that is based on ecologically sustainable principles. Including some environmental standards in the district emphasizes Yellow Springs’ desire and support for green practices.

Mr. Tebbetts’s ideas are distinctly different from Planning Commission’s on one major level: They feature voluntary environmental practices that businesses in a Yellow Springs commerce park would be encouraged to follow, in exchange for financial incentives. Council could easily tie in the incentives its members have expressed support for with some of Mr. Tebbetts’s ideas.

It has not been easy for Planning Commission to get approval for a commerce park, so the board members should be commended for their hard work. A year ago, the commission put on hold its effort to create the district after plan board members said they could not agree on the basic framework for the district, especially when it came to incorporating environmental standards.

Planning Commission’s proposal to Council represents a significant shift from previous efforts to create the commerce district. The proposal does not contain specific environmental standards listed in previous drafts, though it does say that the new district would promote environmentally conscious practices. Planners agreed to change the scope of their proposal because they could not agree on the meaning of sustainability or how to enforce those kind of standards. Some commission members also said that the Village Zoning Code is the wrong place to regulate environmental standards.

Indeed, many have struggled to define what it means to create a sustainable commerce park in Yellow Springs. In general, an environmentally friendly park is a group of businesses that work together, and with the community, to efficiently share resources and reduce waste and pollution. Incorporating “green building standards” in the park has the support of Community Resources, the local business group that is spearheading the effort to get a park built in town.

It’s worth including some measure of environmental standards in the commerce district because it would distinguish Yellow Springs’ park from neighboring parks. It would create a marketing niche for the community, as it courts developers to work here. Yellow Springs should strive to build the right business park for the community. This should include some degree of green or environmentally friendly standards.

Mr. Tebbetts’s proposal is not that radical. He is encouraging the Village to use its resources to leverage certain practices for the commerce park. Council should find a way to include his basic concept into its efforts to bring a park here.

—Robert Mihalek