Columbus approves Foster Creek agreement by 3-2 vote

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Town of Columbus approved a development agreement with Foster Creek Preserve last week, but not without a lengthy discussion and a split vote.
Mayor Eric McIntyre had to break a tie vote on Thursday, Sept. 15, following “yes” votes from council members Michael Gage and Richard Hall and “no” votes from Ernie Kan and Margaret Metcalf.
Metcalf and Kan expressed several concerns about the agreement prior to the vote. Metcalf said she feels the development is getting what it wants, but Columbus’ benefits may take many years to see. She particularly questioned the timing of the development installing a water line along Hwy. 108. Foster Creek Project Manager Scott Kilby said he hopes the line will be installed in a timely fashion, but there are no guarantees when the development will be ready to install the line.
The development agreement places a $500,000 cap on the cost of the water line with triggers as to when the line must be installed depending on lot development.
“I just think it puts Columbus on hold for the water line,” Metcalf said.
Foster Creek attorney Allen Peterson said there is no obligation in the agreement for the town to pay for the water line.
“I think we’re saying we’re not going to commit to the cost of a water line beyond $500,000,” said Peterson. “We don’t know what that cost is, but based on estimates the town has received it’s considerably lower.”
Others on Columbus Town Council said they see many benefits for the town and approved the agreement. Most notably, the town will own the water and sewer lines to the development, Foster Creek is agreeing to pay for a police officer for two years and a new police vehicle, to construct an emergency operations center on site with a generator and to give the town a water storage tank.
“The tank is important to me because it’s a perk for the town,” Gage said. “It will give us the opportunity to service our other tank, which will be needed down the road.”
Hall also said he thinks the agreement benefits the town.
“I haven’t been convinced that all this hard work so many have put into this (agreement) does not benefit the town,” Hall said.
Peterson said the benefits of the development agreement to the developers are related to the design of the project.
“In order to justify those costs, you need to know that the land use ordinances aren’t going to change,” said Peterson. “The benefit to the town is that you want this development to go in over 20 years. You don’t want it to go in in three years to minimize the impact of the development, minimize the planning and the impact to town services.”
The agreement approved is for 20 years with both parties agreeing to review it annually and make amendments if both parties agree to the amendments.
Foster Creek, owned by Forest City Land Group is a planned 687-dwelling-unit subdivision, located on 1,065 acres off Houston Road and Hwy. 108. The town approved the master plan in 2009 and approved a special use permit in 2010. The town has been working with Foster Creek on the development agreement for more than a year.
Depending on the timing of state and federal approvals, infrastructure improvements, lot sales and approximately 100 lots are planned to be developed between 2012 and 2014. Lot development is expected to continue until 2030.

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