The City Council voted Monday (Sept. 26) to postpone action on the Resolution (R-21-16) concerning violations of the Katherine Properties (Crystal Spring) Annexation Agreement.
The legislation was introduced in June by Mayor Pantelides and two aldermen after the then-city attorney found the owner in material breach of the original 2005 Annexation Agreement and associated Public Facilities Agreement for failing to hook up existing dwellings on the property to city water and sewer within 10 years. It also noted other outdated provisions of the original agreement needing reform. If passed, the resolution would have required the council to try to reform the agreement on terms mutually agreeable to the owner and the City after recommendations by the Planning Commission and City Attorney.
However, after objections from the developers’ attorney, the council voted Monday night to postpone action on R-21-16 until December 12 in order to give the city’s lawyer and planning department staff time to negotiate directly with the owner and developers. While the City cannot legally prevent the developers from submitting a new Forest Conservation Plan, which is the next step in the approval process, officials can decide not approve any new plans for the development until the issues surrounding the annexation have been addressed.
It is our hope that the city attorney and planning staff will seize this opportunity to ensure that all outstanding issues are addressed while the City has the upper hand. The Public Facilities Agreement is a major issue, but the likely outcome is going to be a new agreement to hook up facilities to city water and sewer at the time of development.
There are several other major unresolved issues at stake and this is the City’s best opportunity to ensure these potential disputes are settled in favor of the City and its residents. The two primary concerns are outlined as follows:
Parallel Connector Relief Road Location and Cost-Sharing Must be Resolved
The 2005 Annexation Agreement included a plan for a parallel road, which would have run from Aris T. Allen Boulevard through the Crystal Spring property to Spa Road to relieve congestion. This parallel road was also included in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, but has since been abandoned as too costly. Instead, the City has required a much shorter parallel road to run from Skipper’s Lane, behind the CVS, through Crystal Spring and connect to Forest Drive at Gemini Drive. The original Agreement clearly states that “[t]he developer of the property will make an equitable contribution to the cost of the relief road.” City officials estimate the road will cost more than $10 million, but the siting and agreement for the developers’ “equitable contribution” to the costs still need to be negotiated. The costs of siting and constructing of this road will affect all city taxpayers, as will the cost of maintenance for the road.
While negotiations are conducted on the water and sewer hook-up issue, this issue needs to be resolved favorably to the city detailing the road’s location and costs and the developer’s equitable contribution to the costs.
The terms of a conservation easement with metes and bounds and strong development restrictions must be submitted and approved for 75 acres at Mas Que Farm
Another issue that has been raised many times by opponents relates to the conservation easement for the 75-acre property adjoining Crystal Spring, known as Mas Que Farm. The 2005 Annexation Agreement requires that a conservation easement be placed on “approximately 75 acres in the general vicinity of the equestrian center […] in the area adjacent to Spa Road” once any development is approved for Crystal Spring. However, in the developers’ revised Forest Stand Delineation (approved in June), they acknowledged that 11.58 acres on the Mas Que Farm site could not be included as this land is already being developed with houses. Thus, the acreage available for the 75-acre conservation easement has been reduced to only 64.52 acres.
The developers want to use some of the remaining 64 acres for stormwater management and, under an agreement with the owners, plan to substitute land in the Critical Area at the far southern end of the Crystal Spring property that was never going to be developed in order to reach the 75-acre requirement for the conservation easement. The City Planning and Zoning office has advised they may not do this.
Any plan for development on the remaining land at Mas Que Farm, including for stormwater management, is a clear breach of the terms of the 2005 Annexation Agreement, as is the developers’ plan to use critical area land and other land at the far southern end of the property to compensate. While in negotiations on other annexation issues, the specific metes and bounds and the terms of the protective conservation easement on the 75 acres should be agreed upon.
The developers filed a draft proposal for the conservation easement in 2014, but it does not define the area of the easement, nor does it meet the pledges of both the owners and developers to keep the land “undeveloped in perpetuity.” The proffered easement would allow any form of agricultural activity on Mas Que Farm on a commercial or non-commercial basis, including construction of structures and dwellings. This broad language would allow the destruction of all remaining forest at Mas Que Farm.
Until this issue is resolved, there should be no further processing of an FCP or other development plan for Crystal Spring by the City.