Developers Attempt to Renege on Conservation Pledges

Updated FSD Filing Reveals New Problems that Prevent Developers from Reaching Requirements for Conservation Easements

In February, the Crystal Spring developers filed a new Forest Stand Delineation (FSD) with the City to greatly expand the area that could be considered for development by including an additional 76 acres of Mas Que Farm beyond the original 111 acres at Crystal Spring. The FSD must be approved before the development can move forward with the next step, a Forest Conservation Plan (FCP).

Our organization submitted formal comments urging the City to reject the new Forest Stand Delineation on the basis that any development on the Mas Que Farm parcel would be in direct violation of the 2005 Annexation Resolution. On March 22, the City sent the FSD back for technical revisions, but ignored our comments.

Now, the updated April 5 FSD filing by the developers raises even more problems. In the filing, the developers acknowledge they had mistakenly included 11.58 acres from the Mas Que Farm site in the February 19 FSD that is already under residential development. The Annexation Resolution clearly states that “approximately 75 acres” of the land at Mas Que Farm must be placed under a conservation easement. With the absence of the 11.58 acres already under development, the newly filed April 5 FSD only includes 64.52 acres at Mas Que Farm available for the conservation easement.

To accommodate for this oversight, the developers have proposed to include 11 acres in the Critical Area at the far southern end of the Crystal Spring property that was never going to be developed and use that to reach the 75-acre requirement for the conservation easement. Again, Annexation Condition 19 requires the 75 acres of easement land to be “in the general vicinity of the equestrian center” and “in the area adjacent to Spa Road, identified as Preservation Land as delineated on applicant’s exhibit 1…” This Preservation Land does not include any of the 111 acre contract purchase area of Crystal Spring. Also, keep in mind all undeveloped land at the Crystal Spring site, including the critical areas, is supposed to be preserved under a separate conservation easement.

Moreover, the easement land available at Mas Que Farm could be lessened even further if the developers are allowed to use a portion of that land for stormwater management facilities, which is their current intention. This would also violate the developers’ pledge that all stormwater would be retained or treated on the 111-acre site of Crystal Spring.

On April 16, our organization and our attorney FSD Comments April 16, 2016 to the City, once again urging them to reject the updated Forest Stand Delineation on the basis that any development on the Mas Que Farm parcel, even for stormwater management, would be in direct violation of the 2005 Annexation Resolution. Additionally, we noted that allowing the developers to use acreage from the Critical Area at Crystal Spring toward the 75-acre conservation easement would seemingly abrogate the terms of the Annexation Agreement and violate the pledges of the developer to place all undeveloped land at Crystal Spring in a separate conservation easement. We believe this is another case of bait and switch.

We are simply asking that processing of this FSD or any future FCP be halted until the perpetual conservation easements have been clearly drafted and agreed upon for Mas Que Farm and any remaining undeveloped land at Crystal Spring. The easements should include detailed metes and bounds, with provisions prohibiting any further development and clearing of forest on these sites and disallowing expansion of the Crystal Spring development into Mas Que Farm – whether for stormwater management facilities or otherwise.

The City has the power to require that the easements be drafted and agreed upon, which would put many minds at ease, but so far they refuse to do so. As of last week, they did extend the 30 days they had to respond to the developers’ FSD another 15 days. They are now due to respond by May 20.