Some existential questions were on the table during the last meeting of the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, conducted via Zoom on Tuesday, February 8.
Following a brief annual meeting, the group’s first since its debut in early 2020, members discussed the place of the YSDC in village and township life.
The conversation was partly sparked by a proposal from Treasurer Hannah Montgomery to revise the current dues of $500 for each member seat into a variable dues structure linked to the size of staff and the budget of the institutions and governing bodies that participants represent. Larger groups would pay $750 per seat; small entities would pay $250. In discussing the proposal, which came to no decision before it was tabled, several administrators questioned the overall composition of the group and discussed the most suitable and useful members to involve in development efforts. economic.
Superintendent of Schools Terri Holden, an ex-officio member of the YSDC, said that while she supports economic development as a general concept, she has come to question the school district’s involvement in this end.
“A natural question that I should answer for the school board: are we just seats because we are a big organization, or are we seats with real teeth? ” she asked. “Honestly, I haven’t felt that yet.”
Lisa Abel, who represents the Yellow Springs Community Foundation and whose two-year term as president of the YSDC ended at the annual meeting, noted that looking at the faces of the directors present at the videoconference, she saw that ‘we don’t have many people left who were part of the organization when it formed. Given this development and local changes over the past couple of years, a reassessment of the membership and purpose might be appropriate, she said.
Abel added that at the time the YSDC began, the school district, village, township and college of Antioch were each considering major initiatives: the school district and the college considering their facilities and assets , the Village in its Comprehensive Land Use Plan and the Township to sell the former Corry Street Fire Hall. One of the main purposes of the formation of the YSDC was to bring these and other entities together to coordinate and support their goals more holistically.
“I don’t know which organizations should be at the table now,” she said, adding that as a quasi-governmental community investment corporation, YSDC must have 40% representation by elected officials. .
The situations and priorities of member groups have changed since the YSDC’s inception, Abel said. The question to ask now is “what makes sense at this point?” Another question is “if we want to continue”, she added.
Community Foundation executive director Jeannamarie Cox, who sits on the YSDC as an ex-officio member, said she was part of the early conversations that led to the formation of the local economic development group. Sharing information between institutions was one of the main goals, she said.
“We realized there wasn’t good communication between the groups,” she said.
Attending the meeting as a guest, Greene County Development Manager Eric Henry suggested the local group speak with Fairborn’s economic development organization, which he described as “pretty good established”.
Step back or press forward
As noted in previous news articles, the YSDC has dedicated time in recent monthly meetings to focus on goals and priorities for 2022, agreeing to focus on three areas of attention: incubation, expansion and business retention; the development of the property colloquially known as the CBE, or Center for Business and Education, on the northwest edge of Yellow Springs; and fundraising.
Last month, the group formed sub-committees for each of the three priorities.
Abel said that in speaking to members of the subcommittee since then, she had heard two things: finding time to meet had been difficult and many participants did not know how to move forward towards the goal assigned to them.
In response, Abel suggested that the YSDC “take a step back and seek feedback from the community.” And rather than splitting their efforts between three goals, “we would do well to have one goal to focus on and work on together,” she said.
Alex Bieri said he supports the possibility of stepping back.
“I think some of the soul-searching we’ve done has to do with the local political climate rather than an economic climate,” he said. “I don’t think you have to fill hours and hours of meetings if there are no projects [that have been requested or identified].”
Estate agent Shelly Blackman, who represents the community as a whole, said putting the group’s collective energy behind a goal made sense to him.
When there are multiple efforts, “sometimes two people have to move this goal forward.” It’s too much to bear, he suggested.
The YSDC could take a more limited approach, Miami Township Administrator Don Hollister said.
“were [currently] take a broader view – the economic vitality of the city,” he said. But the group could also remain relatively inactive, but ready to intervene when there is a specific need, such as the sale of the fire station.
“Let’s remember that we are valuable if we move on to something every two years.”
Newly elected President Corrie Van Ausdal summed up the conversation for now.
“One option is to simplify and expect to do less,” she said. “Another way is to keep meeting in small groups and moving forward.”
Van Ausdal suggested that members bring the issues discussed back to their individual organizations for further discernment.
In other YSDC cases on February 8:
Bieri reported on several economy-related activities at Clifton:
• Miami Township Fire Chief Colin Altman is continuing a collaboration with the Cedarville Township Fire Department to convert part of the former Clifton Fire Hall into a training facility for fire units and emergency. Bieri said they were planning financial assistance from county commissioners, one of whom told Bieri the project “was something the county would like to support because it spans multiple jurisdictions.”
• The Yellow Springs-Clifton Connector Bike Trail project is still waiting to hear about its Clean Ohio grant application. The requested grant of $900,000 would pay for the first phase of the estimated $2 million project, Bieri said. The first phase will take the path from Yellow Springs to the new parking lot that Glen Helen plans to build near its entrance to State Route 343.
• The Clifton Craft House, a multi-purpose co-op, is still raising funds and memberships, Bieri said. An open house for neighbors is scheduled for February 19 at the Clifton Opera House.
• Clifton will open a new parking facility in its central business district this spring following the receipt of a community development block grant.
The next meeting of the YSDC will take place on Tuesday, March 8 at 4:30 p.m., via Zoom.