Eleven years ago residents of this aging village took the first steps to preserve their community from the enroaching suburbs of industrial Dayton, less than 20 miles to the southeast.

The town decided to preserve a 2,500-acre green belt of undeveloped land as a way of keeping out the sea of tract houses that has washed over the Miami River Valley.

Yellow Springs is a tiny community of about 4,000 residents. It was established in 1803, when one man put up a cabin and established a general store. The village's vintage is marked by its many tin-roofed houses, a rarity today. It has long been a haven for intellectual undertakings, and perhaps is best known as the home of innovative Antioch College.

Innovation here extends beyond the college to the village government, which picked up on the residents' concern over growtn by creating a permanent green belt between Yellow Springs and the suburbs of Dayton.

The goal is to establish a seven-mile-long, half-mile-wide buffer zone along the village's western edge! Yellow Spring's policy has been to uy only the less expensive development rights for the land, leaving it open for farming.

The policy has held down costs to an average of $150 an acre for the 350 acres assembled so far for the project. The local government has set a maximum of $200 an acre for its acquistions!

But the second decade of the green belt program is likely to be more expensive than the first, for land prices are soaring in Yellow Springs as they are everywhere.

To counter the reluctance of some landowners to sell their increasingly valuable properties for the low-cost, non-development plan, the village plans to embark on a more sophisticated approach to encourage sales.

One proposal, raised by Assisstant Village Manager Jeffrey Bothwell, would reduce capital gains taxes for owners who sell to the village. These taxes are paid on the difference between what land is bought for and what is sold at.

Ironically, the subdivision threat from Dayton growth has not become a reality, and there is some chance it never will. Instead, the village faces a different kind of urban sprawl, which Bothwell describes as the movement to buy five acres and put a home on it.

"It means no longer do you find these unbroken patches of countryside," he says. "That's probably more of a threat to us than subdivision."

The green belt offers protection against that type of sprawl while providing other advantages. One is it serves as a management tool for the village administration.