Commissioners delay approval of proposed subdivision development
|One of the issues resulting in the county commission's vote to send plans for the Ballpark Subdivision back to the planning and zoning board is 1500 West, the only access for the subdivision.|
Carbon County commissioners denied a request to approve a subdivision in the Carbonville area last week. The Ballpark subdivision would add 20 lots to six existing lots accessible from 2250 North and 1500 West in Carbonville.
"I don't see how I can support this decision at this time,"said Commissioner Steve Burge. Multiple factors weighed in against approval for the subdivision, most notably transportation and drainage issues.
Subdivisions must be presented for approval after public hearings. During the hearings, residents in the community can express concerns regarding the proposals.
Carbonville resident Kevin Axelgard brought a number of concerns before the commission. He explained that the county received more than 80 signatures in opposition to a smaller subdivision in April 2003. However, the concerns expressed in the petition were not fully addressed and problems continue to exist.
"Now is the time to acknowledge the ingress and egress problem. Now is the time to acknowledge the drainage problem,"said Axelgard.
Until the concerns are taken into consideration, the county should stop development in the area, Axelgard told commissioners. This would need to apply to not only the proposed Ballpark subdivision, but also future development.
"There is sizable acreage that could be subdivided,"explained Axelgard.. He said more than one landowner in the area is considering selling to developers. Problems presented at the meeting last week would only be exacerbated by future development if left unchecked.
One item of concern raised by residents is that the subdivision is accessible only by 1500 West, a street many acknowledged is narrow and potentially dangerous.
When a tree feel across 1500 West a few years ago, Axelgard pointed out that residents were unable to access homes.
More than 100 homes already exist in the area and residents have reported that responses by emergency crews have been delayed due to road configurations. Further, recent fires in the area have shown that when emergencies occur in the area, roads are entirely clogged up by emergency vehicles which block access to the homes of hundreds of individuals.
Axelgard also said that problems exist relating to pedestrian safety, specifically, for school children walking to and from the bus stop. When residents add garbage cans to sides of the road one day a week, there is virtually no space for vehicles to safely pass, let alone for children walking on the shoulder.
Jeff Spainhower, the developer of the subdivision, presented the results of a traffic study performed on 1500 West.
The traffic study gives the road an "A" rating, considering its size and usage. The results of the study indicated that the subdivision would not significantly impact traffic.
"Road access was a concern when the property was rezoned," Spainhower conceded. He said that he has tried to find alternate routes for the subdivision, but has been unable to do so. He contended that while the road issues exist, they are not created by the subdivision.
He said that was one of the reasons he paid for a road study to be performed.
Jason Llewelyn, County emergency services director, told commissioners that he had discussed the road widths and visited 1500 West with local fire officials. Llewelyn said the road does not present any immediate safety problems for emergency vehicles.
County officials also pointed out that an alternate route over Wood Hill could be used in emergencies. In addition, there are routes across private property that emergency vehicles could use if necessary.
Axelgard pointed out that the road over Wood Hill is often blocked by boulders or is washed out. And alternate routes across private land don't do much to help most citizens.
"We want an alternate route now,"said Axelgard. He said that the alternate should not be dependent on weather, rock slides or drainage problems.
"We have a scientific study that shows the road is adequate," said Commissioner Michael Milovich. He added that the emergency services director's review of the road showed it was adequate.
County Planning Director Dave Levanger, added that the county has no standard for the off-site roads or other services leading to a planned development.
He added that the problems with 1500 West are not unique to Carbonville. Similar issues exist all over the county.
"We don't have the deed for the road," said Levanger. Like many county roads, Carbon County doesn't have anything more than a prescriptive right-of-way for 1500 West.
A second concern raised by residents related to drainage of water from the subdivision. Water from the six existing homes, which Spainhower has constructed, drains to 1500 West.
One resident pointed out that graves in a cemetery in the area are being flooded by runoff. Further, residents' homes have been flooded in recent storms, a problem which many attribute in part to the subdivision.
During the public hearing, Spainhower asked a contracted engineer to present a drainage plan. All of the runoff in the subdivision would be channeled into a catch basin. The subdivision could be hit by two large storms and not need to release any of the runoff into the surrounding area.
However, residents spoke up about the presentation of the drainage plan during a public hearing. As various individuals made their opinions regarding the drainage basin known, Spainhower revealed that plans for the drainage system are still in development.
Steve Tanner said that there was a problem with presenting information regarding the plans for drainage so late in the process. He pointed out that the planning commission had not reviewed the plans. Further, residents were being asked to comment on plans which were made public only minutes earlier.
Tanner said he had similar problems with the rest of the planning process and expressed his opinion that county planners and private developers were not entirely forthcoming with information regarding the proposal.
In light of the information presented by members of the public, the commission deliberated the matter extensively.
Burge said that by approving the subdivision, the commission would "allow a problem to perpetuate itself when it exists today."
He pointed to county ordinances regarding planning and said that the ordinance specifies that the county consider both present and future impacts.
"As a commission, we need to look at the whole area,"said Burge.
Similar problems have existed in other subdivisions approved by the county. However, Burge explained that the commission has learned from those decisions.
"We have an opportunity to stop, reprocess and do things right, "said Burge. He made a motion to send the decision back to county planning and zoning for review on multiple levels:
Transportation, for issues related to 1500 West and possible alternate routes.
Health, for issues related to waterlines.
Drainage, so the commission could review plans presented in the public hearing. Burge further stated that the developer should solidify those plans and have final specifications which can be reviewed by county officials.
Finally, Burge directed the attention of his fellow commissioners to wording in the county ordinance which requires that development be "serviceable." He said he felt that standard had not been met.
Burge pointed out the the minimum requirements, as used by the planning commission, are simply minimums. He said the commission should address issues which the planning officials either failed to address or are not required to address.
Christian Bryner, legal counsel for the commission, concurred with Burge's interpretation of the statute, stating that the commission can require impositions beyond those set by planning and zoning.
Though Milovich suggested that the commission approve the subdivision and put a moratorium on future development, Commissioner Bill Krompel voted in line with Burge's motion and sent the proposal back to planning and zoning for review.