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Concerns over Foster Creek Preserve dominate six-hour Columbus meeting

Columbus Town Council&bsp; adjourned after midnight last Thursday following six hours of discussion dominated by concerns about the proposed Foster Creek Preserve development.

The council&bsp; once again decided not to enact a development moratorium despite more public pleas for one. The council also heard pleas to reject a request from Foster Creek Preserve to annex an additional 17 acres, but narrowly approved the request.

The vote to annex the 16.77 acres and zone it the same as the other approximately 1,000 acres of Foster Creek passed 3-2 with Mayor Kathleen McMillian breaking a tie.

Several residents said the town is growing &dquo;too much too fast,&dquo; and they wish the town could &dquo;de-annex&dquo; the entire development.

Resident Kathleen Kent brought a petition with 34 signatures and said she had just begun collecting signatures from residents of &dquo;old Columbus&dquo; who are requesting a six-month moratorium on development. Kent said many Columbus residents feel &dquo;utterly disenfranchised&dquo; and fear Foster Creek Preserve will bring such a big change to Columbus that it will lose its small town identity.

Most people said they are concerned about Foster Creek because it will occupy more than 1,000 acres, doubling the size of Columbus and eventually tripling&bsp; its population.

Council member Margaret Metcalf told Foster Creek representatives that if she was given a second chance she would vote against annexing the development.

&dquo;If I had it to do over again, I wouldn&squo;t vote to annex you in,&dquo; Metcalf said.

Columbus native Becky Faircloth asked the town to de-annex Fosters Creek.

&dquo;They (Foster Creek) are asking to annex this small part, but I&squo;m asking you to un-annex (the development),&dquo; Faircloth said. &dquo;I don&squo;t think we&squo;re ready for this kind of growth.&dquo;

Metcalf and councilman Michael Gage voted against the annexation of the additional 17 acres in two lots. Councilmen Ricky McCallister and Richard Hall voted for the annexation, with Hall saying that Foster Creek has planned for those lots to be included all along.

Council members heavily debated concerns about the development, which previously proposed 850 units.

Foster Creek has agreed to wait until July 5 to submit its master plan so the town has time to enact new restrictions. Representatives of the developer have said they do not understand the opposition to the development, considering Foster Creek&squo;s willingness to work with the town and its plans to leave 50 percent of&bsp; the land as open space and to put large lots on steep slopes.

Some of the debate centered around a letter submitted by Foster Creek, saying it will agree to wait until July 5, but it will do so only if the 16.77 acres is annexed and zoned the same as the other 1,000 acres.

Council approved annexing the development&squo;s 16.77 acres and zoning it R-2 with planned unit development provisions for cluster housing. The Columbus Planning Board recommended that the 16.77 acres be zoned Residential Estate (RE), which requires a two-acre minimum per lot in an effort to limit the density of the development.

A second vote will be needed next month for the annexation and zoning to become official since it was approved in a split vote.