City Sued Again Over Approval of Model Senior Living Project

During more than a decade of battle over the future of the 176-acre tract known as Crystal Spring, our group, Citizens for Proper Land Use, Inc., has spent countless hours blocking proposed large-scale developments at this site. The original plan would have destroyed 49 forested acres with only 4 acres replanted while building a massive, sprawling mixed use development with a large shopping center, bank, more than 500 housing units including non-age restricted homes, and an 80 room hotel.

Through citizen support and fundraising, we succeeded against all odds to gain a major downsizing of the development with the elimination of all retail and non-senior housing and clustering the development closest to Forest Drive. The senior only project under National Lutheran & Community Services would consist of a senior-living project with 302 housing units, mostly apartments, and 48 health care suites. With a strict conservation easement and deed restrictions, all future development of the 176-acre tract would be eliminated with minor exceptions.

Moreover, traffic flows may be improved as National Lutheran is required to make significant improvements including new left-turn lanes on Spa Road at Forest Drive, traffic light synchronization, and a long-planned connector road from the property paralleling Forest Drive to connect Spa Road to Skipper Lane near the CVS, reducing Forest Drive/Spa Road traffic. There also will be a walking/biking trail around the entire perimeter of the project and along the connector road.

Forest clearing is reduced to 27 acres, leaving 97 acres of forest intact. All forest cleared will be replaced on site with native trees. Remarkably, 124 existing forested acres will remain and be protected in perpetuity, including reforestation. Another 216 landscaping trees will add 4 acres of tree canopy. A 200-foot forested buffer along Forest Drive is required.

Stormwater runoff from the site actually will be improved with remarkable concessions to limit impervious surfaces to 15 acres with 79 rain gardens (1.2 acres in total), green roofs, and remediation of a highly polluting stream channel that drains into Crab Creek from Spa Road at a cost of $500,000. Also, 364 of the 475 parking spaces will be placed underground or under buildings. Our stormwater expert, one of the best in the business, concluded, “I can unequivocally state that anyone concerned with the water quality of Crab Creek should be elated with the current environmental site design plan for development.”  He noted how stormwater from the entire site after the senior project is built would be the same as from a mature forest in good condition.

We are disappointed with yet another appeal as our group has determined we could never expect to see such a sound environmental project for this 176-acre site which is zoned for much more development, including commercial uses.  Those appealing have zero plans for the future of the site and have not raised a nickel to acquire the land which is valued at well over $30 million. 

Please click here to read our President, former Senator Gerald Winegrad’s, Capital column detailing the process and decision.