Palmyra residents fear new development will deplete local water supply

By Heather Michon




Residents of Courthouse Road in Palmyra raised concerns about the impact of a proposed development during a public hearing at the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday night (Jan 12).

Developer Tim Miller of Meridian Planning Group submitted an application to build a housing development on a 124.5-acre tract on Courthouse Road last fall. If developed, Ballinger Bluff would contain 48 single-family homes.

Miller was seeking the commission’s approval for both the subdivision plan and a Special Use Permit for a central sewer system for the development. Rather than each home having its own septic system and drain field, he proposed a system where clusters of four homes share a single drain field.

But during the public hearing, it was clear that water — not sewage — was the main concern of local residents.

Many homes on Courthouse Road have long-standing problems with their wells, including low water supply and the need to dig new wells as old ones have gone dry. They fear adding 48 new wells to the neighborhood might make the issues even worse.

Miller, along with his water consultants, largely dismissed the potential for disruption of adjacent wells. Based on their hydrogeological survey, they believe there is adequate water supply for the new homes.

Some residents remained unconvinced.

“One minute, you’re saying you can’t guarantee that there’s water out there and you need to drill test wells,” said Renae Chiovaro. “And then another minute you’re saying 100% sure it’s not going to affect anybody. So I’m a little confused about that.”

Another resident said that while the developer had to show sufficient water quantity as part of the Certificate of Occupancy, by the time any problems arose, “Mr. Miller has washed his hands of the subdivision at that point, and has no financial responsibility to any of the current owners of those lots or to anybody in the surrounding area to address the issues with our wells.”

Overton McGehee said, from his research, the proposed development would have the highest density of wells in the county, with multiple wells in a 300 to 400-foot radius.

He also argued that interruptions in water availability would impact not only homeowners, but two farms directly across from the development.

While understanding that developers have a right to access groundwater for their projects, “we believe that existing homeowners and farmers have a right to some water, too,” said McGehee.

Other residents raised concerns about the potential for runoff from the development contaminating Ballinger and Oak creeks, light pollution, and increased traffic on Courthouse Road.

In his closing statement, Miller had some concerns of his own, particularly a provision in the Special Use Permit that would require him to guarantee the full cost of maintenance and replacement of the sewer system for a period of five years after the 90 percent of the lots were sold. If he never reached that 90 percent mark, he argued, this would leave him on the hook for the system “forever.”

Douglas Miles, Director of Community Development for the Planning and Zoning Department, said the provision was “pretty standard in subdivision development,” and had been used in other county projects.

In his closing statement, Miles had concerns of his own, including the lack of in-depth Miller’s consultants had provided about the water supply. He and his staff recommended deferring the approval of the permitting process to give Miller 90 days to do a fuller hydrogeologic study, including the digging of test wells.

Commission member Ed Zimmer made a motion to defer approval of the subdivision to give Miller and his team time to present a clearer picture of the water supply at the site.

While he said he knew no water study could give a 100% guarantee of supply, he felt it could alleviate some of the concerns from both residents and county planners.

The motion passed 5-0. The Planning Commission will revisit the motion at their March 9 meeting.


Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138