Of several dozen people attending a hearing conducted by the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission at the Worm Creek Opera House, about 20 of them expressed deep concern over plans to build 33 houses on the foothills east of Preston, Feb. 17. No one expressed support for the project.
The new development is a northward expansion of 19 lots, most with homes already built, in the Sierra Hollow subdivision, located at 2937 E. 800 S., Preston. All traffic accesses that subdivision from 800 South on Giraffe Hill.
The concerns raised over and over at the hearing focused on road safety and water availability.
Craig Kunz called the road a glorified cattle trail, saying it was merely a gravel road that had been chipped and sealed. Its narrowness and lack of an expected three-foot shoulder was addressed repeatedly, as was the speed with which vehicles come off the hill.
Steve Hill noted the noise of air brakes applied to trucks filled with gravel and construction equipment, in front of his home, which is located at a 90-degree turn in the road before descending the hill. Blake Hull, his neighbor, noted that more than once people have failed to make the turn and ended up on his property.
All homes in the subdivisions east of 2600 East are on private wells. The area is also the main water source for the century-old Whitney Nashville Water Company, which currently provides water to 145 homes, said the company’s representative, Darren Foster. The main concern was that current wells would drop if the proposed number of wells were sunk into the aquifer that supplies those wells.
“Who is protecting the... shareholders who have been there for years,” Foster wanted to know.
Dave Jensen recalled a study that was given to the Franklin County P&Z 22 years ago at the time 20 lots of the Sunset Hills development east of 2600 East was built. “During wet years the recharge to non-farm acreage east of this project (the property is the new Sierra homes) may provide adequate recharge to the aquifer to sustain the consumption of the proposed Sunset Hills subdivision. However, because dry years occur more frequently ... the withdraw per year may mine the aquifer of the Salt Lake Formation,” he read from the study. “ ...the groundwater aquifer beneath the subject property may not sustain this withdraw rate for 30 years,” he continued.
“Our drinking water goes down at certain times of the year, so that concerns me,” said John Davenport.
Most people who spoke wanted to know who would pay to deepen their wells if the new subdivision impacted their well’s current ability to provide as they have been, or whose water would be turned off first if the supply falls off. Blake Crowther asked the commissioners to consider that 13,000 gallons per day (the maximum amount of water Idaho code allows for a home and 1/2 acre of land per well) X 51 homes (the current plus proposed homes in the Sierra Hollow subdivision) for three summer months equals 180 acre feet of water, or one quarter of the water in the neighboring Johnson Reservoir.
He also questioned why the county requires 500 gallons water per minute for 20 minutes when the International Fire Code requires 1000 gallons per minute for two hours. Franklin County building Inspector Randy Henrie, who moderated the meeting, said a water study has already been completed by Rocky Mountain Environmental for the development and is available to the public through his office. It states that if property owners water their whole lot “it’ll be disastrous,” said Henrie. He also said the fire marshal has noted that a road on the east side of the subdivision would create an adequate fire break, and that 19,000 gallon water tanks on some of the lots would satisfy fire suppression needs. Those tanks would be maintained by the landowner and inspected by the fire department.
A third point raised by several people was the impact that number of homes will have on the county’s current infrastructure. “Have impact fees been considered” for infrastructure over and above what is already needed by current residents? asked Randy Bradfield.
Henrie also said a traffic study is underway, and that the county’s road engineer will investigate the impact a new subdivision will have on erosion and run-off, as water drains through the properties west of the proposed development.
Members of the county’s P&Z commission decided to defer action on the subdivision until their next meeting. They are: Clendon Christensen, Kent Egley, Benny Kendall, Stan Packer, Bob Wilkinson and Roger Wright.