Formerly contaminated site back in development pipeline

A San Miguel housing project pulled off the planning schedule in 2006 when the county learned it was on a brownfield is back in the pipeline.

The county Planning Commission on Thursday approved 24 residences on 5.28 acres at 525 11th St., next to the Union Pacific railroad tracks.

A brownfield is a site contaminated by hazardous materials — in this case cadmium, arsenic and other dangerous elements.

Brownfield sites commonly were once used for other purposes, and then abandoned. The San Miguel location was once a railroad spur.

After the county and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control flagged the location in 2006, developers Colin and Candy Weyrick removed 415 tons of contaminated soil.

Their spokesman, Paul Reichart of EDA Design Professionals, told the commission on Thursday that the new plan would include 24 residences, although he said he could not provide a precise “total buildout” date because of the uncertainty of the economy.

The proposal also calls on the Weyricks to build a sidewalk off site, on the north side of 11th Street.

The state Public Utilities Commission had sought a sidewalk on the south side of 11th Street as well, where the houses will be built, but the county planning staff and County Counsel Jim Orton said the development would not generate enough traffic to justify both.

County Planner Elizabeth Kavanaugh added that the county believed that the $100,000 to build the additional sidewalk was too much money to ask of the developer.

In an e-mail to The Tribune, Kavanaugh wrote that the county will decide whether to require a sidewalk from the south side of 11th Street to the sidewalk on the north side “when public improvement plans are submitted.”

Environmental activist David Broadwater urged the Planning Commission to require those selling the residences to alert would-be homeowners — who, he noted, might be “raising kids and growing vegetables” on the land — to the site’s toxic history.

Commissioner Bruce White balked at the suggestion on the grounds that it might alarm people unnecessarily.

“I don’t want to cry wolf,” he said.

However, Commissioner Carlyn Christianson said, “I don’t see the harm in saying this was contaminated and now it’s cleaned up and now you know.”

The commission agreed to general language alerting home buyers, rather than specifics about cadmium and other contaminants.