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The company proposing to build an outlet mall just south of Interstate 64 in Simpsonville will be given an opportunity by the Army Corps of Engineers to respond to letters of comment it received about the project.
The Army Corps logged 45 letters of comment during the posted public notice for the 60-acre site, and Horizon Group Properties of Muskegon, Mich., may take until the end of July or longer to review them.
Project Manager Layna Thrush said the decision on whether or not to allow the filling of a 6.5-acre pond and .28 acres of wetland and ephemeral tributaries of Plum Creek won’t be coming anytime soon.
“The next step is to review all the comments and letters and pass them on to the applicant,” she said.
Horizon’s preliminary plans for the 9-building, 355,000-square-foot Outlet Shoppes at Louisville show parts of four of the buildings and some of the facility’s parking on top of the pond’s current location.
Thrush said that the vast majority of the comments and letters were from property owners in the area, but one letter did come from a national agency.
“The National Resource Conservation Service sent a letter indicating that the pond on the property is not one of theirs,” she said. “There had been some [commenters] saying that the pond was built by them [NRCS] in the fifties or sixties for water retention, but they [the NRCS] have said they had nothing to do with it.”
Originally established in 1935 as the Soil Conservation Service, the NRCS works with landowners through conservation planning and assistance designed to benefit productive lands and healthy ecosystems.
Many have questioned the potential for runoff from rain, with buildings and asphalt parking lots taking the place of the pond, causing problems and bringing change to the ecosystem surrounding the property.
“Mostly [comments came] from people in the area, yes,” Thrush said. “We’ll see how those [comments] pertain to the ‘waters of the U.S.’”
The Army Corps of Engineers is authorized to issue permits to allow companies to dredge and fill in wetlands and waterways through section 404 of the Clean Water Act.
That act defines “waters of the U.S.” as waters currently, formally or in the future used for interstate commerce, including those subject to ebb and flow of the tide, wetlands, areas of recreation, areas used for fishing and shellfish and tributaries. These waters don’t have to have constant flow, either; they can be ephemeral or occasional.
“We’ll look to see the impact of [this request] to any waters of the U.S.,” Thrush said.
Once she passes the comments on to officials of Horizon, they will have an opportunity to address them.
Thrush said if everything follows a normal pattern – although she said the were quite a few comments to go through – the permit application process normally takes about 120 days, which would be the end of the July based on the public notice posting on March 27.
“But that’s not a deadline,” she said. “If it takes longer, it takes longer. It just normally depends on the project.”
Once Horizon reviews the comments and addresses them, it is then up to the Army Corps to decide on the permit.