Developer tries to please everyone

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, March 31, 2016

A development off College Hill Road may have run into a snag as the developers attempt to appease their requirements with the county as well as neighbors along narrow County Road 148.

During Monday night’s Lafayette County Planning Commission meeting, developers with Fieldstone Farms sought preliminary and final subdivision plan approval from the commission. They also provided an update on the 240-unit condominium project, informing the commission a traffic study has been completed, a few modifications have been made and plans have been submitted with the city of Oxford. Developer Brian Hill and his team are scheduled to go before the city planning commission on April 11, seeking site plan approval.

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Hill acknowledged there are a few issues that need to be resolved with the city, but the biggest obstacle may be with residents living along County Road 148 and the surrounding area. The road reportedly is as narrow as 11 feet in some places and would be used as a secondary emergency access entrance into Fieldstone Farms. A siren-activated gate would provide emergency access from the development to County Road 148 and be maintained by the homeowner’s association. Commission members want to make sure the gate is not used as a primary entrance and exit.

“We had a similar situation where a gate mysteriously came down six months after completion,” commission chairman TJ Ray said. He wants to make sure it is in the covenants that the gate will be maintained.

Paul Koshenina with Precision Engineering said using the emergency gate to County Road 148 will not be convenient for the residents of Fieldstone Farms.

“There really is not a benefit to anyone using this access,” Koshenina said. “It will be closed for emergency-only access.”

Needed for emergencies

Fire Coordinator Wes Anderson indicated it would be next to impossible for his trucks to currently navigate down County Road 148 to use the emergency entrance in case of a structure fire.

“The way the road stands now, we can’t get two trucks in and out. We can barely get one,” Anderson said. “If the road is not upgraded, emergency access for us doesn’t matter. It would not be feasible for us to use.”

County road regulations show 20 feet is the minimum length needed for the road, and the developer is willing to make the road larger.

“This is a balancing act between trying to meet your requirements for emergency management, and trying to meet the requirements the county planning commission has put on the project, also try not to make these folks any more bothered,” Koshenina said. “Again, our client has no desire to spend that money unless told to do so.”

The development, however, would be using city water and have fire hydrants for the fire department to access instead of using their pumper trucks.

Improving the road

Hill offered to make improvements to the road and proposed adding gravel and 4 feet of asphalt on each side of the road, as well as overlaying the road, and any other required improvements county engineer Larry Britt may have.

“I think to make all the people on County Road 148 happy, they want to see it gated,” Hill said. “But if the county would like for us to improve County Road 148 to the local street standards, I will be happy to do that. And still gate it.”

Commissioner Ray Garrett said he would not vote in favor of the project unless improvements are made to the road.

Garrett asked the developer if he has the easements necessary to make the improvements.

Hill said Precision Engineering has pulled all the deeds along County Road 148 to make sure the 50-foot right of way is available.

“So what you are telling me is you will make the improvements and you have the capacity to do that?” Garrett asked.

“Yes, sir, I do,” Hill responded.

Koshenina provided documentation to show a 50-foot right of way along County Road 148 that is not privately owned that can be used to make the road larger. However, some residents along the road say they have been maintaining that right of way as part of their property and are not willing to surrender that land.

Residents not happy

Jean Gurley was emotional when speaking about losing land to improve the roadway.

“I want you to know that I won’t have a front yard,” Gurley told the commission.

Other residents along County Road 148 fear occupants in the new development will opt to use the gated entrance to come and go and create a hazardous traffic situation.

“I have a son who uses a walker,” Rocky Kennedy said. “What happens if he gets hit? Who is going to answer for that?”

Koshenina added that the developer would be glad to present a plan to coordinate with the neighborhood exactly what improvements would be made to County Road 148.

He also said the county road would not be accessed for any type of construction traffic at Fieldstone Farms.

Ray suggested developers have a meeting with the residents prior to coming before the commission again.

Hill and Koshenina agreed they are willing to work with the residents in the area on improving the road.

The commission voted in favor of preliminary and final subdivision plan approval contingent upon developers meeting the city requirements as well as presenting a plan on what improvements will be made to County Road 148.