Columbia County’s rapid growth is great boon for this region’s economy and an attraction for businesses seeking to benefit from the concentration of pocket books filling up our neighborhoods.
By and large it is a good thing. It is what we all want. Growth is what drives jobs and business. It funds our schools and creates opportunity. I think everyone will agree on those points.
But our success also brings on growing pains.
I saw a little evidence of this at Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting. The board was presented with approval of preliminary plats in five subdivisions for a total of about 160 lots for new homes. Officials tell me this number of requests is not uncommon and the number of new homes going up is on a steady rise.
Most of these plats sailed through with little discussion. But then came Tom Warner and a request to build an additional 55 lots in Summerlin, off of William Few Parkway.
This is planned to be the final phase of the 350-home development. The preliminary plan was approved, but with the stipulation that Warner make some changes to William Few Parkway at the entrance to allow for traffic congestion.
Warner had some concerns. He estimated the road alteration could cost him as much as $400,000, which he said would have to be spread over the costs to build on each of the new lots, adding about $7,000 to each new home.
His problem is that he had already built about 300 homes in Summerlin. Had he known the road alterations would have been needed when he started several years ago, the cost could have been spread over 350 homes, not 55.
The board was sympathetic, but said it would have to be done. It was a safety issue. Matt Schlacter, the county’s director of construction and maintenance, said according to a traffic study, residents were already making about four times the number of left turns out of the subdivision than traffic planning normally allows.
It wasn’t something that seemed as important 10 years ago, but now planning officials say these types of conditions will be the norm for new developments.
Warner said such conditions might force him to forgo developing the lots at all.
It’s a tough call. But it’s the kind of thing our officials will continue to face as more rooftops are added and more roads are filled with traffic, these things will need to be weighed.
What is fair to developers like Warner? What is fair to the rest of us?
Those who make these decisions have plenty to think about as this county prepares for what looks like another big surge in coming years.
But it’s not just on them; it is our responsibility to pay attention to these issues and influence the process. We will have a say in how this county will develop. We want growth, but how much, how fast and with what costs?
Those are questions everyone gets to answer. Make sure you are part of the conversation.