public places

Use of Public Places Report

Use of Public Places Report

August 6, 2012

Yellow Springs, OH

Prepared by the Use of Public Places Task Force
June-August, 2012

Use of Public Places Task Force


Richard Zopf, Nevin Mercede, Brian Housh, Dennie Eagleson, Joanne Caputo, Jerome Borchers


Corrine Bayraktaroglu, Brooke Bryan, Mary Campbell-Zopf, Lynn Hardman, Beth Holyoke, Deb Housh, Jon Hudson, Nancy Mellon, Bob Moore

Context & Intent

Following two Village Council meetings and a Public Forum focused on developing protocols for managing art in public places, the Yellow Springs Arts Council organized a community task force in June 2012. This group has researched other municipal Public Arts plans and practices, finding very useful models for clarifying roles and responsibilities in the Santa Rosa, California Public Art Policy ( and the Algonquin, Illinois Public Art Master Plan ( The Village of Yellow Springs could borrow a great deal of language and strategy from these models; however, these plans do not completely translate to our current situation given the smaller scale of and fewer resources available to the Village of Yellow Springs at this stage of planning. In both noted plans, the municipality is the main driver of the arts in public places programs, dedicating infrastructure and personnel support to ensure success. Recognizing the limited resources available to our Village government as well as the time-sensitive nature of the issues before us, the task force would like to propose a hybrid model that would involve multiple stakeholders in this early stage of planning.

During the May 21 Village Council meeting, Jerome Borchers recommended that a Commission of the Arts be formed to mediate conflict and to aid in policy decision-making. We would like to refine that proposal to suggest the creation of an ad hoc Public Places Resource Group, which would include representatives from Village government, the Chamber of Commerce, the Yellow Springs Arts community, YS Schools, Antioch College, the Village Tree Committee, YSSI and other parks & recreation groups, Antioch University Midwest, the Historical Society, Glen Helen, the Senior Center, the Human Relations Commission and the James McKee Group as well as professionals selected for their range of perspectives and commitment to improving Village life. A broad inclusion of diverse individuals, allowing all stakeholders to inject their experience, wisdom and vision, leads to equitable decisions and effective results.

The Yellow Springs community should work collaboratively on vision and design for its future, with input from any Villagers whose interests may be affected at specific sites. The ad hoc Public Places Resource Group would be charged with creating a comprehensive planning process, involving regularly solicited feedback from the community. With the roles and responsibilities of the participants clarified, and agreements and understanding forged, Village government could assume the active and primary role modeled in the plans from Santa Rosa and Algonquin when adequate resources are developed. Funding for this infrastructure could be generated through such initiatives as a ‘1% for Public Art’ program, state grants or an operating levy. Creative fundraising strategies should be actively explored.

A Village in Transition

The Village of Yellow Springs has retained its historic fabric, “walkable” small-town feel and friendly-sidewalk values. Visitors and newcomers are warmly welcomed, locally owned and home-based businesses are commonplace, and creativity and artistic expression are encouraged. Yellow Springs enjoys a rich history and continues to be an innovative community spawning entrepreneurs, artists and progressive leaders. The celebration of diversity, creativity and ingenuity should be encouraged. Values around youth, education, the arts, friendly streets, local investment and collaboration need reinforcement.

There has been an increase in Villagers’ use of public space through both spontaneous and organized events. Traditionally, public art projects have not been generated by the Village, but local government has collaborated with groups on installation and maintenance. For the most part, our public spaces have been characterized by the architecture surrounding them. While we have become accustomed to mural and graffiti art, our community now takes broader interest in our public environment. We value the trees that line our public center. Community gardening has taken root. We more commonly use public space for gatherings, festivals and parades. Attention to our visitors by providing restrooms and benches also heightens awareness of the public environment. Guerilla fabric artists and street musicians underscore the ownership individuals assume over community space. Similar to our expectations of open access to nature, individuals have moved into the public sphere to a greater extent for personal use, and many private businesses have expanded their civic outreach.

We would like to recognize the Community Information Project, led by the James McKee Group, and the Yellow Springs Center for the Arts Steering Committee along with other groups and contributors such as the YS Community Foundation for their efforts in supporting public art, cultural programming and other projects as important vehicles to enhance the identity and attractiveness of the Village for both locals and visitors. Additionally, the support of the Village government in facilitating and maintaining public enhancements is greatly appreciated.

Proposed Goals & Objectives of Public Places Resource Group

• Strengthen community identity, spirit and collective cultural experience by encouraging the use of public places in ways that create positive experiences for citizens and visitors.
• Promote public dialogue about potential enhancements to public spaces and their impacts.
• Ensure collaboration between the Village government and community groups on decisions related to public places early enough in the process to maximize creative and physical capital.

• Define the roles of and foster a cooperative environment among residents, business owners, artists, developers, Village government and the proposed Resource Group in developing and implementing initiatives that involve public places.
• Create a Village Land Use Map to clarify current and future uses of public space.
• Provide a process for endorsing, managing and sustaining public enhancements.

Responsibilities of Public Places Resource Group

The ad hoc Public Places Resource Group will have four main responsibilities:

1. Review and finalize the Public Places Concern Form (see Attachment 1), including identification of “Resources” and their contact information, for Village Council approval.

Responding to concerns over uses of public places is important, and establishing accountability for public installations is critical to a fair and successful process. By identifying the proper contact groups or individuals sponsoring or organizing particular uses of public space, issues are more likely to be resolved in a positive and equitable manner.

If a concern over a use of public space occurs, it is proposed that the interested party completes the Public Places Concern Form and submits it to the Village Manager’s Office. If the parties involved reach a mutually satisfactory resolution, this resolution will be recorded on the form and implemented. If a resolution is not reached, the parties will note the areas of disagreement on the form, and the applicant may select a meeting with the Public Places Resource Group. The Village Manager could facilitate the follow-up request with a completed and signed Form.

2. Guide the creation of a Land Use Map through collaboration with all local stakeholders and facilitated by GIS expertise.

The Village of Yellow Springs should have a comprehensive Land Use Map to facilitate future enhancements to public places. The Yellow Springs Arts Council has secured funding from an anonymous donor for this initiative, and a collaborative effort involving the Village government and the Yellow Springs community will produce a highly useful Map for future Village planning.

3. Work with the Village government and other stakeholders to create a Use of Public Places Process.

A proposal for a use of public space requires a transparent approval and site selection process that involves and informs residents. While general criteria can be established to guide this process, it should be flexible such that it can be applied on a case-by-case basis. These criteria apply to the overall geographic distribution of public enhancements, the qualities of individual sites and the best practices for managing use of public places, including budgeting for maintenance costs. Considerations for approval of uses of public places and site selection could include:

• Sufficient and timely public notice and feedback process
• Appropriate size of the site for the enhancement and access for routine maintenance
• Existing long-term development plans that might affect the site
• Utilities or natural features that might require future excavation (pipes, cables, culverts, underground water, etc.)
• Visibility, obstruction or other physical constraints that might cause interference with pedestrian and auto traffic or other safety concerns
• Access to water, electricity or other resources should these be required
• Sunlight, wind, flooding or other natural occurrences that may either be a complement or a detriment
• Materials and processes that may pose safety issues
• Permanence of proposed use of public space
• Socio-cultural context of the proposed use relative to the site and its surrounding environment

Through the process of selecting a project and determining the site, issues may arise that need to be specified in the proposal or adjusted in the proposed use. In broad terms, the Village should be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of public places. However, on a more specific level, each use of public space project should have a maintenance plan and an agreement that is drawn up as part of the implementation process. Maintenance agreements could include support from private individuals or organizations, with the Village Manager taking responsibility for seeing that agreements are in place and are being fulfilled.

4. Meet as required to resolve interests in and concerns over use of public places.

When major proposals or conflicts occur, it is important to include a group representing the interests of all stakeholders in the decision-making process to ensure fair outcomes.

Examples of Implementation

#1 – Concern over Use of Public Place

A citizen with a concern about a piece of art hanging in the John Bryan Community Gallery would initially complete the Public Places Concern Form and submit it to the Village Manager’s Office. Through the Use of Public Places Process, a sponsor or organizer for the exhibit would have been identified, and the Village Manager would forward the Concern Form to this individual or group.

The party responsible for the exhibit would contact the person who submitted the Concern Form and discuss an appropriate resolution. For example, the piece of art might be moved to a different area or a prominent sign might be posted to indicate the nature of the artwork in the exhibition. If an appropriate resolution cannot be reached between the parties, the concerned individual could select a meeting with the Public Places Resource Group as a follow-up option. There would be a list of individuals who could be contacted to form this group when necessary. After discussion with the parties involved, the Resource Group would propose a resolution.

Importantly, an effective and collaborative Use of Public Places Process will likely minimize concerns by anticipating certain issues that might arise.

#2 – Request for Use of Public Place

Using the process developed by the Public Places Resource Group and approved by Village Council, an individual or organization initiating a public art project, such as installing a permanent bronze sculpture on public land, would submit a request to the Village government. The Resource Group would then be convened to discuss the proposed project, using the Village of Yellow Springs Land Use Map and relevant established criteria for the Use of Public Places to evaluate the proposal. In this case, particular attention would likely be paid to such criteria as longevity, context, materials, safety and maintenance. The Resource Group would provide recommendations so that the Village Council could make appropriate decisions regarding approval, which would include fitting determinations about site selection, maintenance and signage.

The Use of Public Places Process for determining endorsement of proposed projects would be flexible enough to allow for case-by-case application of pertinent criteria, which would be specifically articulated in Village procedures, while still providing a concrete approach that is transparent and encourages creative and productive uses of public space. Involving a representative group of stakeholders in the process will ensure that fair and proper decisions are made.

Implementation Plan

1. The Use of Public Places Task Force submits its Report to the Village Council at its August 6, 2012 Meeting.

2. It is hoped that within one month that the ad hoc Public Places Resource Group would be formed, inviting representatives from all stakeholder groups to ensure that all interested individuals are involved. The Task Force is willing to facilitate this process. The Resource Group could initially meet once or twice per month, publicly announcing all its meetings, to accomplish its first three responsibilities:

a. Review and finalize the Public Places Concern Form, which will be proposed to the Village Council for approval.
b. Initiate, oversee and complete the Land Use Mapping Project.
c. Develop guidelines for a Use of Public Places Process, which will be proposed to the Village Council for approval.

3. Subsequently, the Public Places Resource Group would meet when called upon to resolve concerns over uses of public places. It is expected that the composition of the Resource Group will vary depending on the interests associated with a particular project or issue; the key is that a diverse range of perspectives is represented in the decision-making process.


Our intent is not to create a process for temporary, well-maintained uses of public space that add cultural value to our Village and do not compromise broader public use. For example, “busking” should continue in Yellow Springs with no interference unless a concern is raised. When a public space use is more complicated and has a significant impact, the Use of Public Places Process would be triggered. A clear and transparent process can effectively address any unforeseen issues that arise, so there is no need to specify every potential scenario.

The creation of an ad hoc Public Places Resource Group will support the efforts of Villagers and Village Council to develop the Village of Yellow Springs in a collaborative manner that ensures economic prosperity and community enhancement.

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