Without further testing, it might be impossible to ensure development on the Philips farm will not damage the environmentally sensitive Gans Creek and Clear Creek watersheds, Columbia officials said Monday.
Nevertheless, Public Works Director Lowell Patterson said developer Elvin Sapp’s storm-water management plans are probably sufficient to protect the area.
In a televised work session of the Columbia City Council on Monday night, Patterson said there was no baseline standard for water quality on the Philips farm, a 489-acre tract in southeast Columbia that Sapp wants to have the city annex and zone to allow a mix of homes, apartments, businesses and office buildings.
Unless the city does tests to find out what pollutants are in the watershed, Patterson said, it’s impossible to set a standard for what level and what kinds of pollutants Sapp’s development could safely generate. That kind of study could take more than five years.
“It would be difficult to accomplish it fast enough for the developer at this point,” Patterson said.
Instead, Patterson told the council that the best management practices, or BMPs, included in Sapp’s plan will probably protect the watershed. He said those techniques, including barriers, berms and detention basins, are the best way to make sure Clear and Gans creeks are protected.
“I’m comfortable that it could be done with what they are proposing,” he said.
He emphasized that details of the storm-water plans would be determined after the council’s annexation and zoning decisions. All of Sapp’s methods would be subject to city review and the city could even hire an outside consultant to monitor the development, Patterson said.
A major step forward
The city’s endorsement of Sapp’s storm-water management plan is significant because it has been the main point of contention for groups like the Sierra Club and the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition. Those groups worry it’s impossible to control storm-water runoff on such a large development in a sensitive watershed. Sapp’s engineers have repeatedly said they would protect the area at all costs, however.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless said Monday he’s worried about the lack of data on the Clear Creek watershed, but he acknowledged that pollutant testing would take too long.
“We have been assured (by Sapp’s team) that best management practices can handle (the runoff) and I’m becoming more and more confident in that,” Loveless said.
In other action Monday, City Manager Ray Beck said the city would pay about $170,000 to clean up 40-acre Bristol Lake and have Sapp limit uses on Tract 8 to exclude billboards along U.S. 63. Sapp’s team has agreed to cover costs up to $30,000 for improving Bearfield Road from Gans Road to Nifong Boulevard.
The council will take up Sapp’s plans at its March 1 meeting. If changes are made to the plans at that time, the final vote will be March 15.