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Traffic, light pollution, water supply among concerns for Columbus planners

The Columbus Planning Board has a long list of concerns regarding the potential impact of the proposed 800-unit Fosters Creek Preserve development.

Before crafting more stringent steep slope regulations to address those concerns, however, the board determined it needs more information. The board directed town staff to research nearly 20 areas of concern, which range from erosion control and water supply to traffic and light pollution.

Several residents shared similar concerns at the planning board&squo;s special meeting last Thursday, urging the board to proceed urgently with its work on the steep slope ordinance.

David Cudlip was one of several residents who raised concerns about the amount of water Fosters Creek will be using and the amount of traffic the development would add to area roads. He noted if 800 units with two residents each use 200 gallons of water per day, the development will use more than 58 million gallons of water per year. Likewise, if just 15 percent of those people lined up their cars, there would be a traffic stream stretching almost two miles long, Cudlip said.

&dquo;This is a serious, serious situation,&dquo; Cudlip said.

David Weiss of the Save Our Slopes organization expressed his concerns about sediment and how that will affect streams. He questioned who would take care of water management after the developers are gone. He also said there will be a large impact on Hwy. 108. The development previously proposed entrances on both Houston Road and on Hwy. 108 near the intersection with Houston Road.

&dquo;We need to look beyond the symptoms that we might be creating in this,&dquo; said Weiss.

About 25 residents attended the planning board&squo;s meeting last week, and the board twice took public comments to ensure all concerns were addressed.

The board has been discussing for the past couple months drafting a more restrictive steep slope ordinance. The drive for stricter regulations comes after many residents and town officials voiced complaints about clearing done for a development on Chocolate Drop Mountain. Save Our Slopes has been heavily involved in pushing the town to adopt tighter regulations following the Chocolate Drop subdivision.

Planning board members have said they are currently concerned about the Foster Creek Preserve development, which is proposed for an area of about 1,000 acres and would nearly double the town&squo;s current size.

Fosters Creek agreed to wait until July to submit its master plan so the town has time to draft new regulations if needed. Fosters Creek representatives have attended meetings and said their development will most likely comply with any regulations because the development will leave 50 percent in open space and have large lot sizes on steep slopes.

The Columbus Planning Board, along with Save Our Slopes and several residents, recently urged town council to impose a moratorium on development, but council decided to work out the agreement with Fosters Creek.

Fosters Creek was asked not to attend last Thursday&squo;s special planning board meeting&bsp; to avoid adding pressure to the planning board. Town officials say Foster&squo;s Creek developers respected the town&squo;s wishes.

&dquo;The perception that Fosters Creek puts pressure on this board is not there,&dquo; said planning board member Eric McIntyre. &dquo;Make no mistake. We&squo;re going to do what&squo;s right no matter what Fosters Creek says.&dquo;

The list of concerns outlined by the planning board last week include the following:

&ull; What is the effect of the method of slope calculation on development and site design?

&ull; What are the effects of development on water table levels and the effects on surrounding individual domestic wells?

&ull;
What is a site&squo;s soil conditions&squo; effect on storm water runoff and water quality degradation?

&ull; What is a development&squo;s impact on traffic throughout the vicinity of a project?

&ull; What mechanisms exist to control light pollution and to promote &dquo;dark sky&dquo;?

&ull; Are solar powered lights a viable option?

&ull; What are the effects of the domestic use of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. on surface and ground water degradation?

&ull; Can a developer be required to test for the availability of ground water before development commences?

&ull; What can development agreements be used for?

&ull; What mechanisms are available for the local enforcement of sedimentation and erosion control?

&ull; Can the town limit or control certain behavioral aspects of construction (hours of operation, road cleaning, noise, etc.)?

The town may ask state experts, such as officials with the N.C. Department of Transportation or N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to visit and share information. Some questions may be answered by Fosters Creek, town staff, engineers and attorneys, among other sources.

The tentative schedule for meetings includes the board&squo;s regular meeting on April 10, as well as special meetings on April 24, May 1 and others through the end of July depending on the availability of experts.