COLUMBIA — Columbia doesn't have mountains, but homeowners looked at one for four years near the intersection of Bethel Street and Green Meadows Road.
The 20-foot dirt pile left by a developer irritated neighbors and led to a proposal to prevent such piles from lingering long after a project is complete.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser asked for an ordinance after hearing residents complain about piles of dirt that remained years after a construction project ended.
Nauser said she got complaints about other piles, but the one at the Green Meadows-Bethel Street intersection caused the biggest outcry.
"It was huge," Nauser said about the dirt, which was removed less than a year ago.
"It was starting to be called Mount Green Meadows."
The ordinance, which is still in the draft phase, would place restrictions on area and height of piles and their distance from residences and streams.
These regulations would only apply to piles more than 10 feet high. Those higher than that would require a permit, according to the ordinance, and must be removed after three years, unless the owner receives an extension from the city.
"There has to be some kind of standards and we don't have that now," Nauser said. "I think we need to set rules everybody knows."
Developer Don Stohldrier created the Green Meadows dirt pile and still owns the land that was beneath it.
He said the dirt was a byproduct of development, and he was stockpiling it to sell. Stohldrier disagrees with the proposed ordinance.
"We've got bigger and better problems to worry about in Columbia than a dirt pile," Stohldrier said.
Columbia resident Joseph Johnston lives less than 100 yards from where the pile stood. He described it as an eyesore. He said keeping the topsoil was a smart business move, but Stohldrier was just slow in moving it.
"I was fine with it for a while, but it's a residential neighborhood," he said. "So you'd expect something to go in its place."
Johnston said he understood the need for dirt piles, but the temporary pile near his house almost seemed permanent.
Doug Wheeler, vice chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission who helped develop the proposed standards, said they are a compromise.
"The idea really was not to eliminate stockpiles but to try to alleviate, if you will, the look of stockpiles and the length they were there," he said.
The draft ordinance would also make developers seed their piles to create a buffer against the wind. Plants would help anchor the dirt against erosion, Wheeler said.
Still, the ordinance is intended to minimize a nuisance for homeowners.
"Its not very attractive for anyone, especially those who live in close proximity to them," Wheeler said.
Although the ordinance targets dirt piles in residential areas, it would regulate any stockpile in the city, such as the large mound across the street from Walmart on Grindstone Parkway.
The ordinance has not been introduced to the council, and city Development Services Manager Patrick Zenner said he hopes members will see it by early August. He said the council could vote on it by mid-September.
From the city's perspective, the ordinance would not be too hard to implement, Zenner said, but he expects resistance.
"Whenever you do something you haven't done before, you get some pushback because it's different and new," he said.