UPDATE: Yellow Springs Village Council meeting has been rescheduled due to safety concerns with the freezing weather. A new council meeting is set for Jan. 13 at 7 pm.
Community members will be meeting Thursday, Jan. 9 at the YS Senior Center at 7 pm to discuss concerns with the project.
The project, known as the Center for Business and Education (CBE) has divided residents and faced years of delays due to funding problems, logistical hang-ups and cold feet. Right now, those years have resulted in a mysterious left turn lane on Dayton-Yellow Springs road that leads to an empty cornfield behind Antioch University.
The council had been expected to vote Monday on an ordinance and a resolution that would move the village towards funding the project and authorize the village to hire a project manager for the CBE, but that vote has been delayed until January 21 while village employees work on the language of the legislation.
Supporters of the CBE say Yellow Springs needs new space for commercial and industrial activity to bring in tax revenue.
“We are going to miss the next economic wave, and we’re going to continue to lose our homegrown entrepreneurs to other communities that are willing to step up and address their needs,” said Jerry Sutton, the Vice President of Community Resources, the non-profit that owns the land.
In August, 2013, Sutton brought a new request to the village for hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to complete infrastructure. That number has since been revised up to nearly $1 million; it would be supplemented by a grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for around $400,000 for a total cost of around $1.4 million.
Sutton and Community Resources argue the cost would soon be offset by new tax revenues; he updated a 2001 study that estimates over $800,000 per year in new revenue if the CBE is fully developed.
The idea of spending public funds to develop infrastructure for private use is nothing new to local governments, but many in Yellow Springs believe the village should stay out of the financial side of the project.
“I think that if it’s such a great idea and it’s really gonna be a great project for the community, they should be able to find investors willing to invest in it,” said village resident Chrissy Cruz. She’s gathered several hundred signatures on a petition against public funding for the development.
Opponents also worry the village will build up the lot, extend the road, raze the cornfield, and then fail to attract businesses, which would still need to invest in their own structures on the site. The project would come at a time of continued slow economic recovery, when parcels of many business parks across the Miami Valley lie empty, and many have expressed a desire for more definitive analysis of the potential costs and benefits.
In a council meeting Dec. 16, council members voted by a narrow margin to proceed with a resolution that would allow the village to fund the project. The Yellow Springs News reports about a dozen people spoke out against the funding at that meeting. One council member, Lori Askeland, who had voted to further research the project in the past, changed her vote to a “no” vote along with Marianne MacQueen, leaving support from Brian Housh, Karen Wintrow and Gerry Simms.
After the December meeting, Askeland wrote a long blog post on her election blog about why she changed her mind about CBE.
“Ultimately, I do not believe this is a make-or-break decision for the town. It is not betting the whole farm,” she wrote. “But it does represent a significant financial stake that will affect our other decisions and our ability to make other investments, so we need to make it thoughtfully, or walk away.”