One of the many unanswered questions surrounding the Crystal Spring development is regarding the development of a relief road that would run parallel to Forest Drive through the Crystal Spring property. City officials estimate this road from Skippers Lane through Crystal Spring and across Forest Drive to Gemini Drive will cost more than $10 million, but they have yet to obtain a formal cost estimate and come to an agreement with the developers as to their share of that cost.
The 2005 resolution annexing Mas-Que Farm and Crystal Spring into the city states, “The developer of the property will make an equitable contribution to the cost of the relief road.” But how much is an “equitable contribution?” The city government, and more importantly its tax-paying citizens, cannot afford to leave this critical question unanswered.
The City will never be in a better position to set such an “equitable contribution” than they are right now. Once any development is approved, much of the government’s bargaining power may be lost, potentially leaving city taxpayers responsible for millions of dollars. Further, any economic impact analyses and economic viability study for this development will be invalid unless it includes the potential cost of this new road and how that cost will be shared.
At the time of annexation in 2005, it was assumed this road would be much longer and run from Aris T. Allen Boulevard through the Crystal Spring property and connect to Forest Drive at the Gemini Drive intersection, which would have improved traffic flow much more than the current plan. This parallel road to Forest Drive was even included in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, but has since been abandoned as too costly.
Since the City has substantially reduced its plans to assist with the already critically overburdened Forest Drive corridor, they should at least do everything in their power to ensure taxpayers aren’t forced to foot the bill for this less effective relief road. Instead, they continue to approve new development along this corridor. Today, there are more than 1,270 new residences in the pipeline along Forest Drive.
The City should stop all processing of development plans for Crystal Spring until the developers submit a cost estimate from an independent highway contractor that includes design, engineering, right-of-way acquisition, and construction costs. Most importantly, the City must reach a formal and legally binding agreement with the developers as to what their “equitable contribution” will be.