The South River Federation (SRF), dedicated to restoring the South River and its tributaries, recently announced their opposition to the current development plan for the Crystal Spring property. This is a reversal from the organization’s previous support of the originally proposed mixed-use development dating back to 2012.
A post on the Federation’s website reads, “Until this fact-finding is complete [on stormwater management impacts] and the issues raised by the City [25 substantive issues raised] are adequately addressed, the Federation opposes the development proposal.”
The organization made the announcement in response to the news that the City had rejected the developers’ latest proposal on August 11 as “inconsistent, incomplete, and lacking analysis and detail.”
The Federation’s position speaks volumes about the scope of the Crystal Spring proposal, which has grown larger and more destructive. Since the last development plan was filed in December 2014, the number of units for the senior community has increased from 362 units to 383 units. The main CCRC building, originally planned at 6 stories, has been reduced to 4 stories substantially increasing the footprint and the loss of forest. The development plan for the senior community proposes to clear 27.5 acres of Priority Forest, including 65 larger trees of significance.
Moreover, the most recent filing (July 25) also includes a subdivision plan for the entire property which shows more development will be sought in the future on adjoining lots that would strip another 12 acres. Although the subdivision plan does not outline what this future development would entail, current zoning would permit at least 150 non-age restricted housing units. The Forest Conservation Plan shows that in total, between the senior community and future development, they are planning to clear 39.5 acres of forest and replant only 16.45 acres, despite their original pledge to replant 100 percent.
The announcement also confirms what we have been reporting for years about the declining health of Crab Creek, one of the most polluted tributaries of the South River. The Federation reports that one of the stream segments of the Creek closest to Crystal Spring had “extremely high bacteria levels the entire summer.” More specifically, they found extremely high levels of Enterocci (fecal) bacteria more than 30 times the safe exposure levels. Another stream nearby has an overwhelming amount of trash flowing in with every rainfall.
“It is well understood that as the amount of impervious surfaces like parking lots and roofs increases, stream health decreases…From a strictly environmental point of view, any development that removes forest and increases impervious surfaces is detrimental to aquatic habitat and water quality,” the Federation wrote.
We applaud the South River Federation for joining the many organizations and thousands of citizens opposing this massive and destructive development. We look forward to working in partnership with them to ensure the health of Crab Creek and the South River remain at the forefront of discussions surrounding the development of this property.