City Council to review soil pile ordinance Monday

Sunday, October 17, 2010 | 4:07 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — An ordinance designed to limit the size and location of developers' soil stockpiles might have consequences for Columbia homeowners.

The City Council will introduce the proposal during its Monday meeting and discuss and vote on the ordinance during its Nov. 1 meeting.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4-2 to submit the proposal along with the Energy and Environment Commission to regulate the stockpiles around Columbia.

The ordinance specifies the distances from existing structures, roads and waterways that developers must place their stockpiles. Piles up to 40 feet high must be at least 300 feet away from an existing structure and 100 feet from a stream buffer. Distances decrease with decreasing pile size. Developers may stockpile soil for up to three years, after which they must apply for an extension.

The proposal has generated controversy for its regulation of soil stockpiles less than 10 feet high. A provision states that stockpiles shorter than 10 feet must have a minimum distance of 10 feet from any existing structure, roadway, waterway and lot border.

Since homeowners often engage in activities such as landscaping that create small stockpiles, Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said  he wanted to make sure some of the technicalities in the proposal wouldn't apply to individuals.

He said he supports the draft proposal "in general," but had "a couple questions I need to settle on."

"I'm comfortable with language for larger dirt piles, but I don't want to be in a position where we're policing individual homeowner lots," Thornhill said, calling such policing a "menial task."

Third Ward Councilman Gary Kespohl said he doesn't see the large soil piles as "that big a problem," adding that many of the large stockpiles have vegetation growing on them.

"I understand how unsightly dirt piles are, but once the vegetation starts to grow on them, it's not unsightly anymore," Kespohl said. "Also, once you get vegetation, erosion is controlled."

Councilwoman Laura Nauser originally sponsored the proposal and designed the task force that drafted the ordinance after years of constituent complaints.

Nauser said that she "definitely would not be in favor of regulating individual lots" and that "the intent of the ordinance is to deal with large piles of excavation dirt for new subdivisions being platted."

"The concern comes from large-scale development, not individual homeowners," Nauser said.

"Since this was a joint collaboration with the Energy and Environment Commission, I'm not sure if we could have stricken that provision unilaterally," David Brodsky , Planning Commission chairman, said of the language regulating small stockpiles.

Brodsky also said he wanted to avoid a situation in which the two commissions sent separate drafts to the council.


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