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Treasure Hill - Thirty Years of Planning With No End in Sight

The applicants for Treasure Hill say they plan to use a conveyor belt to move the material from the excavation.

The Santy Auditorium was all but empty if not for the 30 interested residents who showed up to hear the Treasure Hill applicants plans to mitigate the impacts of their project.

Planning Commission Chairman Adam Strachan said he hopes people aren’t experiencing Treasure Hill fatigue.

“We are kind of getting toward the end – not the end but toward the end in the discussion about mass scale, density and bulk," Strachan said. "Of course that issue is going to overlap with other issues – namely traffic. So I hope the public continues to turn out because we’re a long way from done.”

A sticking point remains – how big will the project be – given that the unit equivalents have already been decided.

“The unit equivalents are already defined by the MPD so that number is set. What the commission is struggling with is what the accessory space is associated with that and I think that’s sort of the hard part," Strachan said. "The back of house, the hallways, the elevator shafts, etc.”

Commissioners haven’t come up with a consensus at this time how to calculate those numbers.

“It’s important to remember that even though we may have some ideas about what the square footage is," Strachan said. "Each planning commissioner may have an idea roughly what the square footage of the project they believe to be is – there still has to be mitigation because we have not yet analyzed all of the impacts. So that number is kind of the ceiling from which the final square footage could be much less.”

The applicant’s planner Steve Perkins didn’t have the 3-D presentation at last week’s meeting but Strachan said it’s probably best he didn’t.

“He said that the 3-D sketch would be coming  with our next meeting on Nov. 9 at the work session," Strachan said. "Which is probably the more appropriate place to look at it because that’s where we’re gonna have a more informal meeting where we can stand up, move around, point at things, ask questions find out some exact measurements. How deep they plan to excavate, where…so I wasn’t too troubled by that.”

Both the public and the applicants kept referring to the Woodruff drawings. The public claims these are the standard approved drawings as part of the original application – however the applicants said the drawings were only preliminary.

“Those drawings were part of the MPD," Strachan said. "They were attached to it and they are volumetric drawings from 1986 so they provide a pretty good barometer that allows us to get a pretty good idea of what the 1986 city council and planning commission were thinking when they passed the MPD. The MPD is probably eight pages long with a lot of wring and it’s got a lot of conditions and it’s well written but it’s one thing to have paragraphs of writing and another to have a visual. So, the visual is pretty important and I think that’s why it’s so central to the discussion.”

Strachan agreed with both sides.

“MPD’s – by their nature – are preliminary in many circumstances especially where as here where you have CUP that comes afterward," Strachan said. "MPD is the first step, CUP is the second step. CUP is the more specific step so many of the things that come with an MPD are preliminary so they’re a very good starting point but the applicant is correct – they are not the end of the analysis.”

The drawings, he said, are important in helping the commission know where buildings are supposed to be built.

“Those woodruff floors have floors in them," Strachan said. "They have elevations, they have rough sizes, so they give us a pretty good idea about what this 1986 council was thinking. So, it’s kind of tough I think. Some people want to say, ‘Well the Woodruff drawings are the end of the analysis and that’s all you get.’ Well, that’s probably a little naive – there’s more to it than that and the applicant thinks there’s much more to it than that in terms of square footage and the answer is probably somewhere in between.”

Excavation was a hot button issue. During the meeting it led to many questions with few answers other than the developer plans to use a conveyor system that would move materials uphill.

“Okay fine – but show us how that works," Strachan said. "Where do the conveyor belts go, how much are they moving, how loud are they, when do they run? And – are they going to take away all of the excavated material or will you need dump trucks to supplement that excavation or that conveyor system?’ A lot of unanswered questions there - the applicant has submitted an excavation mitigation plan that just says, ‘We’re going to have a conveyor system and it’s gonna move some stuff uphill.’ To me that is woefully inadequate.”

There’s a lot of speculation about the amount of material the applicant will need to excavate and the potential impacts that could have. But Strachan said it’s up to the applicants to figure that out.

“In terms of mitigating those impacts - that’s up to the applicant to show us - it’s their burden," Strachan said. "If it’s just, lets pull a numbers out of the sky – if it’s 70 trucks a day for how many years – show us how that’s mitigated and that’s their obligation and we’ll see if they can meet it.”

The next planning session on Treasure Hill is Nov. 9 and returns to the Marsac building.