Archive for Thursday, October 14, 2004

De Soto Council delays decision on building limits

October 14, 2004

The De Soto City Council members agreed last Thursday that they needed more information before deciding how much development the city should allow before more sewer capacity was available.

In a memo to the Council, City Engineer Mike Brungardt suggested the Council choose between two policy decisions concerning granting building permits in light of the sewer capacity limitations. The choices, he wrote, were to issue permits on a first-come, first-served basis or reserve permits for proposals that had already won preliminary plat approval with the Council and De Soto Planning Commission.

The decision requires Council members to speculate whether three different stalled-but-approved residential projects would have homes or apartments ready for occupancy in the next 27 months. The decision would pit the stalled projects' interests against that of the 228-home Arbor Ridge subdivision that will come before the De Soto Planning Commission later this month.

The decision was requested as a sewer master study commissioned to explore the city's options in expanding capacity neared completion. Brungardt said options developed in that study conducted by Shafer, Kline and Warren would be presented to the Council at its Oct. 21 meeting. It is assumed the earliest new sewer capacity would be available in late 2006 or early 2007.

There are currently two active residential subdivisions in De Soto, the nearly built-out Timber Trails and the neighboring half-completed 88-home Timber Lakes Estates. Three other residential developments have won preliminary approval -- Steve Brady's 200-unit Country Village Apartments, Nate Harding's 28-home Brook West, and JoAnn Thompson's 68-home development Cherokee West. All of those projects have obstacles that have prevented progress with the exception of the 51-townhome piece of Country Village that Brady sold to Don Parr.

Neither Brook West nor Cherokee West can go forward until Primrose Drive is extended through the proposed Cherokee West subdivision. City staff brokered a benefit district for the developers this summer that would provide the revenue to build the road, but Thompson has yet to sign the agreement.

Perhaps more seriously, Thompson also didn't sign a drainage easement agreement the city negotiated with Archie Bedford, that is also a precondition for the start of construction. City Attorney Patrick Reavey told the Council last week that Bedford had decided to rescind his participation in the agreement.

As for the apartments, Brungardt said Brady was seeking federal financing through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which would take a six-month approval process. If Brady did receive federal financing, all the apartments would be built upfront. Should he be forced to seek private financing, the market would determine the construction schedule.

In weighing the various interests, Councilwomen Mitra Templin and Linda Zindler joined Mayor Dave Anderson in support of a policy of issuing building permits on a first-come, first-serve basis. It wasn't reasonable for the city to reserve building permits for development that might not happen, they said.

The policy would ensure the city added rooftops, which would contribute to the city's sewer system development fund and provide more customers to share the burden of paying for sewer expansion, they said.

Councilman Tim Maniez offered a counter view. The city, he said, had made a commitment to those developers with preliminary plats, he said. Brady was acting on that commitment by building roads on his property, he said.

Straddling the two views was Councilman Emil Urbanek, who agreed new construction was key to making the sewer plant affordable. But he was also concerned that Arbor Ridge developer Jim Lambie's track record of quickly building out subdivisions could overextend the current plant's capacity.

"Lambie isn't one of those developers to build out in four years," he said. "His goal is a two-year build out. We could potentially have 100 building permits next year."

The city could manage growth by imposing a 50-permit annual limit, Templin said.

Maniez and Urbanek were also concerned about the plant's actual capacity as presented in Brungardt's report. Once the upgrades were completed, the plant would have a 400,000--gallon-per-day capacity, he wrote. Although the daily average is well below that figure, the city had seen more than 600,000 gallons a day during very wet months, he said.

The storm water that drove the large-volume months made the sewage go through the plant more quickly, but its diluted nature also required less treatment, Brungardt and Shaffer, Kline and Warren engineer Steve Baker said.

Plant operator Doug Smith said he was confident the proposed improvements would allow the city to properly treat its sewage until new capacity was added.

Baker said he would attempt to substantiate that claim with projections made from data the city was collecting.

It was agreed the Council would use that information to make a decision on how many building permits should be allowed.

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