HOME


 

 

artist's model of how the 'Barr House' would look at night with a spotlight

A House with Staying Power

Have you ever visited the 1840s house at 321 Xenia Ave (Barr property)?  If so perhaps you have felt its majesty.  It's like Pompei's tower-standing solidly among the trees for some 170 years.  Here when Yellow Springs was just beginning to be a village it is one of a few houses from that time that has not been substantially altered, burned in block fires, or torn down.

The house must be demolished  in order to build senior apartments that could go elsewhere.  It isn't right to destroy this unpolished gem with more to give.  One has only to look at the Grinnell Mill or the Hamilton-Carr house, both of whom have been recently restored to imagine how the house and grounds could help the village to continue to draw visitors and residents alike and be a source of happiness to many.

 Yet in order to achieve the house's destruction people must devalue it, twist the truth, and maybe even stretch the formal rules which the village relies on as government (see articles on Barr page).**   Not to mention that some people feel they cannot say what they think about this project or else they will be mistreated by those who are in favor.  It is very disappointing that a resident was removed from a council meeting.  These are not changes for the better no matter how you look at it.

**please note in the previous version of one of these articles there were errors that have been corrected.  My apologies to Mr. Booth and Mr. Walkey.

 

 

Please see notice of two errors made in the article immediately below.

Yellow Springs Village Council Mis-step? 

The facts are that neither Mr. Booth nor Mr. Walkey  received  below market price on their homes from Home Inc.  I apologize to both of these esteemed men for my own mistake.

Village council has taken some unusual actions during their processing of the proposal to build low-income senior apartment buildings at 321 Xenia Ave. 

On Sept. 19th a new law, Ordinance 2011-25, to rezone the property from Residence C to Planned Unit Development- Residential (PUD-R) was brought up for consideration and passed 4-1. 

paragraph removed here because it was incorrect
see above.

Just fourteen day later council voted 5-0 to pass the second reading of Ordinance 2011-25 thus making it law.  This was a very short time compared to the usual manner in which first and second readings advance.  Why there was such a rush isn't clear but it was a poor choice especially when it was known that some were opposed.  Council even had a resident removed from the meeting of Sept. 19th in order to terminate his comments.  The speed of passing Ord. 2011-25 and the removal of a citizen did cut down on the ability of those opposed to be heard.  Ethical behavior means avoiding even the impression of conflict of interest and I am left with doubts about the process here.

  The development as proposed already is over the standard requirements for PUD-R in density (at 20 units per acre) and in amount of impervious (building or pavement) ground.  Council knew that a previous attempt to build a similar development was not feasible at the same site and yet proceeded.  It is true that full approval was withheld and has to be requested  by the developer later.   What happens if the money is granted for the project and proponents insist that it will be lost if the job doesn't go forward regardless of the design not meeting requirements? 

 

 

Yellow Springs News Misstates?

A recent article by Lauren Heaton in the Yellow Springs News on Jan. 19th (p.9) contained one incorrect statement and two omissions of facts about the issue.  The paper stated "The Morgan Foundation originally purchased the Barr property in 2005 to host a senior apartments proposed by Friends Care Community, and then gifted the property to Friends in 2008."  This isn't what really happened.  It was even stated twice in an earlier article by Lauren Heaton (Nov. 17th 2005) that the Morgan Family Foundation bought the property in the hope that it would be a performing arts center.  What did occur is that a citizen group was discussing a performing arts center feasibility (and reporting to the Morgan Family Foundation)  when the focus shifted to Friend's Care Center placing senior apartments there.

The Jan. 19th article (and other recent articles) omits the fact that there is a 1840s house on the property.  Leaving out this fact means that people must speculate about why it was left out.  Furthermore, the same article says "The senior apartments have already received a show of support from the village through the utility tap fee waiver, valued at approx. $20,000, as well as over a dozen letters and public statements in support of the project."   This seems somewhat unbalanced reporting because a count of letters and statements to council is 22 to 21 for a 50:50 split among those who have spoken so far. 

The opposition gives a partial list of objections:

  1. It is at the second busiest stop light in the village.  There is a lot of traffic and congestion.
  2. the site is too small for the scale of building needed to be 'profitable'.
  3. the large trees and lawns are handling air pollution (car exhaust!) and water run-off and making a cool island next to downtown's concreteness. (miss it after it's gone?)
  4. the 1840s house is of value as an attraction to the village and an inspiration to scholarship and learning and should not be destroyed
  5. It is in the center of the village which means it could have many visitors as a park.
  6. There are many single family homes nearby that will be negatively impacted by the presence of a high density development.
  7. Other better locations aren't being found while chasing after this one which has problems
What can citizens do about it?

Keep on speaking up.  Facts are facts. Won't later regret be worse?

Ask that Home, Inc. and their supporters realize that a 'good' project that upsets and angers as many people as it pleases does not achieved any net good. 

Hope that the project doesn't get funded.
See the Ohio Housing Funding Agency website.

Discuss other possible sites.  Why couldn't a fire station and a senior apartment building be together?  Aren't any of Antioch's empty buildings worth repurposing - if they would sell them?  Beatty-Hughes park has gotten little use because of its location - why couldn't it be a site for senior apartments?

Ask village council to reconsider their hasty rezoning.  Surely the happiness of some is not more important than others and it village councils job to work for the interest of all the villagers to the best they can.

 

 

Here is collected the previous photos and articles about the property at 321 Xenia Ave in downtown Yellow Springs.

 


The historic 1840s house on Xenia Ave in downtown Yellow Springs.

 

 

OOps -original summary of first meeting was deleted by mistake.  Here is an attempt to repeat that summary.

 

Nov. 29th there was a first meeting of the 'Save the Barr Property' group.  About 15 people came and discussed the situation and viewed a slide show. 

The historical importance of the house on the property which was built approx. 1830-1840 was noted.  Also the many mature trees on the property were discussed for their role in producing shade/cooling, alleviating pollution and slowing the runoff of water.  The natural beauty of the property is significant.

There was general agreement that an alternative site for the low income senior apartment building needs to be found if plans for a park/museum on the site are to have a chance.  Six alternative sites for the apartments were discussed all within 7 blocks of the Barr property and one of which would involve repurposing an existing building (for which the tax credit program is an acceptable use).

At right is an artist rendition of how the site will look after a 3 story apartment building is there.  The building will probably be larger however the artist erred on the side of making it too small to avoid exaggeration. 

slide show from the first meeting

What some people are imagining could happen at this site were it to be shared with all of the villagers and with visitors to Yellow Springs.

 

more views of the Barr property can be seen in the slide show.

Is Anybody Listening?

There is disagreement about whether the 'Barr property' should be cleared and a three story senior apartments building placed on the site with a parking lot.  Villagers have been giving their opinions at council meetings and in letters to the local paper. To try and understand the controversy I went to see the property.  It is a very lovely spot just south of the downtown area on Xenia Ave.  The Barr house on the site was built in 1840 and has asbestos construction.  There are 1.6 acres of grounds with many large trees  and grassy lawns.  Although councilwomen Lori Askeland said that the Barr property "is a perfect site"* for a senior apartment building I find it a better site for a community park. 

Senior apartments should be built near downtown Yellow Springs and nearly everyone is ok with this.    Just because a person values the Barr property as a park does not mean they are against senior housing and it is misleading to paint it so.  Those who value the natural beauty of the Barr property and its ideal location to be shared by both visitors and locals alike are in favor of an alternative

 site, and some have suggested the Betty Hughes Park on Corry St which is owned by the village.  This alternative site has a beautiful view of the Glen and is even closer to downtown YS than the Barr property.  Why haven't council members examined the possibility of a swap of sites?   If money must be raised to purchase the Barr property villagers could probably do this.

 Perhaps some are unhappy about further delays in development that could come from a site change. Delays also come when people are unable to listen to each other and won't try to see both sides.  Please take a few minutes to think about the issues.  Is one park-like site the same as another or is the Barr property uniquely located and especially beautiful  to make its value huge to the community as a park?  Villager Marianne MacQueen involved in the project said the "village has ample open space"* - do you agree?  I agree with those who say that it is yet possible to please everyone by switching the site to Betty Hughes Park.

*quotations are from the minutes of the Oct. 3rd Village Council Meeting