CHAUNCEY — While continuing to pursue opportunities related to the Baileys Trail System, the Chauncey village government is beginning 2022 focused on development, infrastructure and the arts.

Chauncey Mayor Amy Renner identified her top three priorities for the new year as funding a sewer line replacement project; adopting a zoning code; and joining the National Flood Insurance Program.

Of the three, Renner said joining the flood insurance program was her top priority because “it’s really one of the biggest things that holds back any economic development here.”

Joining the program will reduce flood insurance rates for village residents and businesses while making it easier to secure loans from lending institutions, Renner said.

Renner has been working to help bring the village into compliance with the program’s requirements in order to join.

“I’m really hoping to get it buttoned up this year,” she said.

Meanwhile, the village has been working to fund its sewer line replacement project, which Chauncey Village Council Member Tammy Hawk also identified as a top priority for 2022.

A recent series covered by The Athens NEWS, The Vinton-Jackson Courier and The Logan Daily News reported on regional water infrastructure and included the difficulties Chauncey has faced funding the $5 million sewer replacement project.

Despite the project being listed as a top priority for the county, the project received no funding in three waves of recent state grant funding. As The Athens NEWS reported, it is possible the project was not reviewed before the money was allocated, leaving Chauncey to look for funds elsewhere.

Renner said she is waiting to hear back on multiple funding requests for the project.

However, Renner said the village learned this week that it will receive $130,000 in funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Governor’s Office of Appalachia to extend a sewer line off May Avenue under Plum Street. The extension will bring the sewer to a property the village has identified as a site for economic development.

Hawk said the village is hoping that multiple new businesses can start up in that area.

Some in the village have expressed concern about the changes that will be introduced as a result of economic development.

Facebook user Jason Welch, who grew up in the village, shared his concern in a comment on an article in The Athens Messenger focused on the renovation of the village’s old school buildings to host a suite of businesses.

“Gentrification coming to southeast Ohio,” Welch said in his comment. “Goodbye old coal miners and people on welfare, it’s time to welcome the hipsters.”

The zoning plan Renner identified as one of her top priorities is intended to avoid potential negative ramifications of development and maintain affordable housing.

A first draft of the zoning plan was recently completed by a commission composed of members of the village government and local residents. Renner added that the plan will soon make its way before the village council and the public for comments and review.

Hawk said a major priority will be maintaining the village’s identity and the affordable cost of living while continuing to attract new development.

“We definitely want to keep housing affordable, and we want to keep that small town feel — bringing businesses in, but with a small town feel,” Hawk said. “We don’t want to leave it to corporations.”

Village council members said they are also focused on beautification and arts and culture opportunities, both to attract visitors and enhance the village for its residents.

Council Member Diana Burritt said she hopes to improve the town by working with the Athens County Land Bank to remove abandoned or dilapidated structures. The progress of the village’s work with the land bank was discussed during the village council’s first regular meeting of the year last Thursday.

“My goal is to help get the town cleaned up,” said Burritt. “You want to come into a town that’s pretty, so that’s my goal — to make sure the town’s going to look a lot better.”

Council Member Connaught Cullen said she is excited by the opportunities the development of the Baileys presents to bring more arts and culture events into the village.

“I want to see music in the park and festivals, and movie nights with a big screen and projector,” Cullen said. “I’m an artist, so it’s my job to make sure we don’t all hyperfocus on economics. It would be nice to have murals, and maybe some sculptures.”

The village is currently considering a project to convert old mine buildings near the trailhead at the Baileys into a museum focused on Chauncey’s history. The council discussed the first steps in evaluating the feasibility of the project at Thursday’s meeting.

“We want a lot of our history to be over at the park, so that people who come there learn more about our little town,” Hawk said.

Cullen said she expects the project to take at least a few years if it moves forward following a survey.

Additionally, the village is seeking funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources which Renner said would be used to install signs along the gravel trail near the Baileys trailhead guiding visitors through the pages of a storybook.

The village also received a grant from ODNR to add additional amenities to the park, Renner said.

Cullen said all these projects are important improvements for residents and visitors.

“Everybody likes economic things and businesses, but it takes more than that to make a very enjoyable community,” said Cullen. “We want it to be beautiful too.”

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