The Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission received mixed reviews of the Bonne Femme Watershed Plan at a public hearing Thursday.
The Bonne Femme watershed is an ecosystem of streams and caves. Some landowners in the area want to develop it. The 93-square-mile area is located between Columbia and Ashland, both of which are growing and need space for housing and businesses. The goal of the watershed project is to minimize the impact of development on water quality.
Two of the three people who spoke on the issue were members of the stakeholders committee who voted on the plan.
Bill Florea, senior planner with Boone County Planning and Building Inspection, said the purpose of the stakeholders committee’s vote was for the group to make a final confirmation to move the plan forward to government agencies for adoption.
The stakeholders committee is an advisory group appointed by the watershed project to gather recommendations about the plan for Columbia, Ashland and Boone County. All of the committee members present for the vote were in favor of the plan — with one exception.
Stakeholder committee member Steven Sapp, whose family owns a 500-acre farm in the watershed area, was the only person who voted against it.
“While there are some good attributes to the plan, it is a little bit overreaching,” Sapp said.
Sapp said he thinks agriculture should be exempt from the plan.
“If passed, I hope the commission takes into consideration the landowners,” Sapp said. “The land is their crop. It’s what they worked hard to get.”
Amelia Cottle, also a member on the stakeholders committee, voted in favor of the plan and recommended that the commission consider it.
“We did the best we could as a group to take all needs into account,” Cottle said. “We put a lot of work into it.”
The four-year-old project’s goal highlights the need to balance ecological concerns with property rights. For instance, the plan recommends insurance that land-use changes do not increase flooding or decrease water quality, maintaining clean water without restricting property rights and maintaining economic viability while protecting streams. The plan is available for review at cavewatershed.org/plan.asp.
The project had $320,000 in federal and state funds to distribute to local landowners for water quality projects. Residents, farmers and developers within the area are eligible for financial assistance for up to 60 percent of a project’s cost.
Terry Frueh, a watershed conservationist overseeing the Bonne Femme project, said the plan was generally well-received. He said Boone County and the cities of Columbia and Ashland must approve the project.
Frueh said the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission may hold more public hearings this summer. It would decide whether to approve the project in late July or August, he said, and would then make a recommendation to the Columbia City Council, Ashland Board of Aldermen and the Boone County Commission for review.