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Votes

Development Raises Runoff Concerns

Decision deferred until late September.

George Berry is worried that a new development will end up flooding his basement. The proposal will put 22 houses onto just over 11 acres on Ridge Creek Way, off Gambrill Road in Springfield.

The land is steeply sloped, and the new houses, fear residents who live generally downhill, will increase runoff from the site.

“We’re frightened that the water will come into our house,” Berry said.

The area, currently zoned for one house per acre, is wedged between areas developed at between 1.8 and 2.2 units per acre. The proposed development would be 1.99 units per acre, said Lynne Strobel, attorney for the developer, Brookfield Washington.

Strobel agreed that stormwater management was the greatest issue on the property. Right now, the rain that falls is absorbed by the ground it falls on. The development will add a street, houses and driveways, all surfaces that will not absorb the water.

During larger storms, the impermeable surface remaining after development will not be able to absorb the excess, which could run downhill into the existing Middle Valley neighborhood.

The developer’s engineers have developed a plan designed to stop that. They are including an area that will hold the water and release it more slowly into the ground, which should stop the runoff.

The pond will actually serve to lessen not only the development runoff, but will improve the site overall.

“There will be an improvement to existing conditions,” Strobel said.

The plan calls for a complex system for managing the water, in at least one case requiring the developer to change the slope of the land.

The South County Federation also opposes the plan, said Lined Gorham of the federation. The complexity of the stormwater management plan was one of the reasons Gorham cited. If the only way to make the development work is to implement a complex plan, then maybe it doesn’t really work, Gorham said. “The measure of a good plan sometimes is its simplicity.”

Many neighbors who came to speak asked that the project be built at a lower density. Although their development is at a higher density than the proposed development, they pointed out that the new project will be different.

“The houses are much bigger and the lots are much smaller,” said Teresa Champion, president of the association.

Champion said further that if the developer would refrain from building the houses proposed along the part of the development that abuts her neighborhood, it would help solve the issue of runoff, and would allow for lots which she said would be more compatible. “We ask as citizens that you will help protect us from something that isn’t going to be good for our community,” Champion said.

The developer would not be willing to remove the seven houses in question, Strobel said. “We’re having a tough time coming to consensus,” she said.

Strobel said that the county requires only that new development be compatible. “It doesn’t mean that it’s the same exactly, it means it’s comparable,” she said.

THE ZONE which the developer is asking for also presents an issue said one resident. The zone (called “PDH”) is supposed to “encourage innovative and creative design” according to the county’s zoning ordinance.

“This is neither innovative or creative,” said Randy Becker. “They are simply asking for all of us to trust them.”

Planning Commissioner Ken Lawrence (Providence) noted that he did not really see what about the proposal was innovative or creative and asked that it be made more clear how the development fit that criteria.

A technicality about the amount of open space in the development was raised by Commissioner John Byers (Mount Vernon). The zone requires that 20 percent of the property be left as open space, and the developer provided 41 percent.

Byers noted however, that much of that space was the stormwater ponds and other easements. “How much usable open space is there?” Byers said.

Strobel quickly estimated that 10-15 percent of the space was “usable.” She pointed out though, that county regulations allow stormwater ponds and easements to be counted toward the minimum.

“I think that we’re meeting the requirement,” she said.

The decision about the development was deferred until Sept. 29.