Monday, August 10th, 2009
By Nancy Allen
EPA OKs permit for lake subdivision
  The Ohio EPA approved a permit for Water Color Estates housing subdivision on Grand Lake in Auglaize County near the existing Southshore Acres lake subdivision.
"We had a hearing in June 2006 and again in May of this year," Ohio EPA spokeswoman Dina Pierce said this morning. "They (developers) have modified their plan enough that we feel they did what is necessary to reduce the overall impact to the wetlands there and the lake."
Pierce said developer Richard Swarts plans to do a "fair amount of wetland mitigation and use riprap and seawall to stop shoreline erosion."
The Ohio EPA won't monitor the project, only if there is a complaint, but will check to see that the wetland mitigation is done properly.
"We will swing by a couple of times to check on that and the limits placed on the project," she said.
Veryl Cisco, the real estate broker for Water Color Estates, said construction would not start until at least the fall of 2010. It would be built in five phases and two areas.
"This project has been in the back of Mr. Swarts mind for many, many years. It's purpose is to leave a legacy to his father-in-law, Dr. (Curtis) Libbee and the people already living out there," he said.
Cisco said the first area of the development would be 10 lots built at the end of Schroeder Road off the west side. The second area would be 41-plus lots, plus probably condos, built off the north side of Koehn Road where Southshore Acres housing subdivision already is located.
"It will be a gated community and have city of St. Marys water and county sewer," Cisco said. "We are looking at some condos, but that depends on what the market wants ... it will be done right."
Before construction can begin, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Section 404 permit also must be approved, Pierce said. The Ohio EPA permit already approved will be good for five years from the date the U.S. Army Corps. issues its 404 permit.
"We have not heard if the Army Corps. had approved their permit," Pierce said. "They usually wait until we approve ours, because if we don't, they won't."
This is the third time Swarts has applied for an Ohio EPA section 401 permit to build the subdivision, Pierce said. The first time Swarts withdrew the permit application because the EPA said it would not approve it. The second permit application was withdrawn due to other reasons not involving the Ohio EPA, Pierce said.
A news release from the Ohio EPA said three alternatives were presented to the Ohio EPA this most recent time Swartz applied for the permit. The EPA approved the plan with the least amount of impact to water quality.
The plan would impact 1.9 acres of wetlands, 0.7 acres of shallow lake access channel and reclaim 0.29 acres of eroded lakeshore.
To replace the wetlands that will be lost due to the development, Swartz will preserve a 3.22-acre wetland on a 6-acre parcel of land south of Koehn Road. Additional mitigation will include enhancing 1.1 acres of wetland and creating 2.8 additional acres of wetlands on a 5-acre site nearby in Mercer County.
The nonprofit Lake Improvement Association has opposed the project from the beginning, saying it will destroy wetlands. LIA officials have spoken out against the subdivision at both public hearings held on the project.
Tom Rampe of the LIA this morning said he is dissapointed the EPA approved the permit and does not feel the state agency properly dealt with the issue. He said the LIA is consulting with an attorney to determine the group's next step.
"Under the law it says you should avoid the destruction of wetlands, but if you must do it, it must be minimized," he said.
The Water Color Estates development is completely separate from a nearby 100-acre development where developers have said they plan to put a hotel, restaurant, retail shops and more for members only.
That two-part development is being called Blue Heron Bay, to be built east of Schroeder Road, and the Grand Lake Yacht Club, to be built west of Schroeder Road. St. Marys Township Trustees in June approved the appropriate commercial zoning for that development to move forward.
Water Color Estates needs EPA and U.S. Army Corp. approval because that land involves wetlands.
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