Sunday, July 13, 2008

Planning Comm (7/14): Birch III PUD?, Historical Preservation?, Library Alley Problems

This is an old picture from the YS News published in relation to the documentary film, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, directed by Faith Morgan.
Dear People--Another busy week looms. Tomorrow (Mon 7/14) I'll have my normal office hours from 12-1 pm, and in the evening at 7 pm is our Planning Commission meeting, so I'll focus on that for most of this note.

However, do note that Village Council will meet the following week, Monday 7/21. We'll be considering the conditions on the Barr property development at that meeting, and should have several resolutions to pass regarding appointments to commissions, the Village Manager hiring process, etc.

PLANNING COMMISSION TOMORROW NIGHT: After the normal reports to the Commission--including my update on Council activities, the Bike Enhancement/Northern Gateway Committee, Zoning Administrator/Planner report (Ed Amrhein) and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Comm's Bike Plan and Miami Township Zoning Commission reports--we'll proceed to Old Business: Comprehensive Plan Review and Revisions, with John Eastman, and the final approval of our 2008 goals.

Next, (by about 8:30--but I hope earlier, maybe 8 pm?) we'll go to three items of New Business items that may be of greater interest to villagers:
  1. Concept presentation for a Planned Urban Development (PUD) within Birch III. The proposal is to convert 8 of the lots in the Birch III development (totalling 2.782, located roughly in the middle of the development) from single family dwellings to 6, 4-unit dwellings that they call "attached patio homes," which would have a new "back alley" between them for 12 of the units. Analysis by Ed Amrhein suggests that the potential benefits of this development are: increased revenue from taxes and utilities, increased enrollment in schools, and possibly faster build-out time for the subdivision. The questions that Ed suggests we may need to consider, include:
  • Where is the 25% open space that our ordinances require?
  • Is the alley built to a standard that it could function as a street?
  • How would utilities be connected to the twelve units fronting on the alley?
Additionally, an "Other Voices" column from a resident of Birch III, Mark "Sol" Solomon, in last week's YS News (7/3) raised residents' concerns about this project and the process thus far. My impression from Mr. Solomon's article is that he and some other neighbors who have already moved into the development do not oppose density per se, or--at this point--any specifics of the proposal, but were feeling the developers weren't really being straight with them about their motivations, etc., and that the residents will have made a major life decision/investment based on information that is now changing. Mr. Solomon suggests that the price of these units will be $200,000; houses there are normally in the $300,000 range.

If any of you have specific concerns about this development, please let me know! I can forward your concerns to the PC in whatever way you would like.
  1. Information re: Historic Preservation: At my request, we received a large number of documents from the Historic Preservation, including an inventory of specific homes/buildings that are already on the Ohio Historic Inventory, sample historic preservation ordinances, and information about how to work towards being a certified local government. Most of Yellow Springs, including the Antioch College campus, are part of a national historic district, but we don't currently have a historic preservation ordinance.
  2. 2 requests to "vacate" (i.e., as far as I can tell, essentially "close") an alley or portion thereof: 
  • One of these requests is relatively noncontroversial--it's essentially only a "potential" alley on a currently empty residential lot on the east side of N. High St. (409 N. High) that connects to alleys that have already been closed. Since there's no alley there, except in the most abstract sense,"vacating" this alley really just affirms the current reality.
  • The second request involves the regularly-used alley behind the library, which runs parallel to Xenia Ave., connecting Davis and Limestone. The problem is that current use causes noise, dust, and higher speed traffic than is appropriate for the gravel lane, which is annoying to the neighbors and potentially dangerous (particularly since children, pedestrians and bicyclists also use it, and cars often "confront" each other on this narrow lane, and need to back up, etc. This agenda item allows us to "explore alternative solutions to existing problems," rather than simple closure. 
That's about it, except for agenda planning for our next meeting.

I hope a lot of you caught Vick Mickunis interviewing Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. (Here's a link to his interview on today's WYSO weekend.) Klein's book focuses on the way "free market" approaches are often rammed through on the heels of disasters, whether natural or man-made, by "disaster capitalists." Those who seek to profit from disasters, typically paint a picture of the original destruction, plus the destructive processes of their own desired (very profitable) takeovers, as positive: as creating new, utopian, blank slates on which they will create improved worlds, institutions. It's a "Rapture" fantasy--promising a (profitable) heaven after the end of the world as we know it. So here's a quotation from the conclusion of the book, which focuses on "people's reconstruction" movements that seems especially relevant to our village's current challenges:

[P]eople's reconstruction efforts represent the antithesis of the disaster capitalism complex's ethos, with its perpetual quest for clean streets and blank slates on which to build model states. . . . [These people's movements] are inherently improvisational, making do with whoever is left behind and whatever rusty tools have not been swept away, broken, or stolen. Unlike the fantasy of the Rapture, the apocalyptic erasure that allows the ethereal escape of true believers [the myth that underlies disaster capitalism], local people's renewal movements begin from the premise that there is no escape from the substantial messes we have created, and that there has already been enough erasure--of history, of culture, of memory. These movements that do not seek to start from scratch, but rather from scrap, from the rubble that is all around. As the corporatist crusade continues its violent decline, turning of the shock dial to blast through the mounting resistance it encounters, these projects point a way forward between fundamentalisms. Radical only in their intense practicality, rooted in the communities where they live, these men and women see themselves as mere repair people, taking what's there and fixing it, reinforcing it, making it better and more equal. Most of all, they are building in resilience--for when the next shock hits. (Klein 466)

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