The Richland City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a subdivision proposed for the ridge of Little Badger Mountain, but some members said they did so reluctantly.
Councilman Phil Lemley and Mayor John Fox said they were inclined to send Milo Bauder's plan for the Falconcrest development back to the Planning Commission for more consideration, but conceded they had no legal grounds to do so.
Lemley said he thought the Planning Commission hadn't "fully vetted" the proposal at a Dec. 21 public hearing, while Fox said he was hesitant about "leaving loose ends" in south Richland's street plan.
Bauder's plans for the land have been the subject of controversy since 2007, when he proposed a different subdivision called The Crest, which would have included 58 single-family homes and 87 townhouses on 44 acres.
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The plan for Falconcrest is less dense, with 44 lots on 21 acres. Bauder also has short-platted part of the remaining land into 15 larger-sized lots -- a move that didn't require city council approval.
The focal point of the conflict was the amount of traffic Crested Hills residents believed would pour onto Morency Drive from The Crest. A group of homeowners filed a land use lawsuit trying to block The Crest, but lost in the trial court and on appeal.
Residents again raised objections about traffic during the Planning Commission's hearing in December, arguing the road is too narrow, steep and winding for current traffic let alone more.
The development plan calls for Baum Street to be extended to divert some of the traffic from Morency, but opponents of the plan said Baum Street won't be built soon enough -- and Morency is a problem now -- and they don't believe enough people will choose to use Baum to make a real difference on Morency.
Councilman Bob Thompson admonished Bauder to "do what's right by the community" and implied that Bauder's reputation had become tarnished in the course of the controversy about The Crest.
"This one has been an extremely difficult one for me," Thompson said. "The city is supposed to have a meaningful road system and meaningful zoning. ... The serial short plat irritated a lot of people."
But he said the correct process had been followed by Bauder, city staff and the Planning Commission and he had to vote in favor of the development.
Councilman Dave Rose came to Bauder's defense, noting that Bauder lives on Morency Drive and has to live with the same traffic issues as other residents.
Bauder also has to sell lots, and Rose said that would drive Bauder to address the concerns raised by neighbors.
"I want people to know their concerns have been heard," Rose said. "He has scaled down the project. From a business standpoint the gentleman has been jumping through hoops. ... I think it is appropriate for the council to take some action on this."
Councilwoman Sandra Kent was absent Tuesday.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org