Some have argued the newly proposed 230-home development near Ashland is fairly cut-and-dried. Rezone 100 acres of land, build the homes in phases and pick a basic sewer option.
Others are not convinced.
The Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission’s public hearing on the rezoning proposal has been moved back a month, to May 19. There are concerns about the development’s possible impact to the future of sewer services in Boone County.
The proposed development, to be named Shadowridge Estates, calls for construction of 230 homes at Route MM and Route M, about a mile west of Ashland, and a five-acre commercial area in the southwest corner of the property. The development would be built in several phases, the first beginning as soon as this fall.
The developer, Miller Properties, has proposed two sewer options: building a treatment facility on-site or connecting to Ashland’s facilities through an extended sewer line.
Some county officials, however, are concerned that those options will hinder their efforts to secure money for a regional sewer line to the Missouri River. Such a project would require $10 million to $12 million, Planning Commissioner Carl Freiling said, and that would require a federal grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Freiling said the Department of Natural Resources has voiced concerns that the EPA would be hesitant about a regional sewer line because it might encourage leap-frog development along the sewer line. Leap-frog developments are those that are built a significant distance from the nearest city. During the discussions about the regional system, the DNR was assured that the Planning and Zoning Commission would prevent any such developments.
Freiling argues that the Shadowridge property is a leap-frog development, and its approval would send a signal to the EPA that Boone County is satisfied with such developments, even without a regional sewer line. And that could cost the county the EPA grant, he said.
“This single proposal, if approved, might make it impossible to ever get funding for this project,” Freiling said.
The regional sewer system would funnel all the individual sewer systems into one pipe. The current setup has various smaller sewer systems draining into the county’s watersheds.
“These watersheds are a very public resource and an ecological resource, and there are ways to develop while protecting them,” Freiling said.
But the Shadowridge developer has argued that the development will benefit the public by centralizing some of the smaller lagoons that are already scattered around Ashland.
“Rather than have 20 to 40 lagoons, I’d prefer to have a little more density and have a development that provides a good, central sewer line,” said Chad Sayre, vice president of Allstate Consulting, which is working with the developer.
That, he said, could provide a host of benefits for the county.
“The more consolidation we can provide, the better off we’ll be from an environmental standpoint,” Sayre said.
He also noted that the development will bring more people to southern Boone County, which would mean more customers for a regional sewer system. And that could help the county’s request for federal funding.
“It’s going to have a positive effect and shows more need in awarding federal and state money needed to develop the southern Boone County regional plan,” Sayre said.
Another issue is the property’s location. Freiling argues that development should happen within the city before building a mile outside of its limits.
“It’s not like there’s no way to expand within the city limits,” Freiling said, adding that there are 100 acres available for development within the city.
Still another problem, Freiling said, is a potential conflict of interest for Sayre, who has an agreement with Ashland for engineering services.
“He has earned the trust of the Board of Alderman and the city of Ashland and the county, and he’s done a good job. All of a sudden he’s using that trust as a representative of the developer,” Freiling said, adding that if Sayre were not working for the developer, he might be telling the city not to approve the development.
But Sayre said he is following Allstate Consultants’ standard procedure, which allows employees to work with a project as long as it stays in the county and not Ashland.
A different consultant might be used if the project moves towards annexation with the city, Sayre said. “It depends on the circumstances,” he added. “We have told the city and the developer that if it becomes annexed he (the developer) would have to go with another consultant.”
The developer and the city of Ashland have said the proposal is a win-win situation because the developer gets rezoning and the city gets a free sewer line from Shadowridge to the city. The line would be paid for by the developer. But Freiling said those are standard practices and that such an argument in favor of the development is deceptive.
Sayre said the practice of the developer paying for the sewer line extension has not been standard for Ashland.
In the end, the May 19 public hearing should provide an opportunity for the public and the developer to address concerns about the proposal.
“One of the things I look forward to is for these people to say why this rezoning has public benefit,” Freiling said.
A portion of this report first aired Sunday during “ABC 17 News at 10.”