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CODY — Park County commissioners met with developers of the planned Copperleaf subdivision Tuesday to discuss a proposed change in the development's domestic water supply.

Commissioners expressed concern over an application by developers to the state Department of Environmental Quality to use three wells on the property for domestic water. Developers said wells would only be used as a backup source.

"Many representations were made to the board by the developer in the special-use permit and final plat that the source of water would be an infiltration gallery from the North Fork," said County Attorney Bryan Skoric.

Public comment required

Even if approved by the DEQ, the application to use wells could not be sanctioned by the county without some form of public comment, said Skoric, and it may require a new special-use permit, an amended final plat or some other review.

Developer Bob Kudelski said the application to use well water was filed only as a supplemental source to the infiltration gallery. Wells would be used during mechanical failures or if river water were particularly muddy.

"When there is a problem with the pump, or the system goes down temporarily, we would convert over to wells for a brief period," he said. "The intention is to use them only if necessary, for whatever reason."

Commissioner Tim French asked Kudelski what constituted a temporary use, noting, "There are times in normal spring runoff that river is muddy for months at a time."

'Nothing really to talk about'

Kudelski said well water would be used only briefly, not for months, adding, "There's nothing really to talk about until the DEQ gives us the go-ahead. Right now all we're doing is speculating. My suggestion is we wait to see what the DEQ has to say."

Developers and commissioners agreed that well water could not be used in the project without further review by the county, even if the DEQ approves.

Hans Johnson, president of North Fork Citizens for Responsible Development, a group opposed to the subdivision, had called the well plan a "bait-and-switch" from the original river water proposal.

Jim Evans, a consulting engineer for Copperleaf, said last month that developers preferred using well water because it required less treatment than river water.

"As far as a supplemental use is concerned, it seems to me what they're talking about doing is reasonable," said North Fork resident Arne Sandberg. But any such use should follow county review, he said.

Johnson also criticized the developers' wastewater treatment plan, saying a DEQ review had called for more information on the system.

"Copperleaf has failed again to plan a proper sewage system that meets state standards," Johnson said.

Kudelski said questions from the DEQ regarding the system were routine and expected, mirroring previous questions during the approval process.

Commissioners appointed attorney Tracy J. Copenhaver of Powell to preside over a contested case hearing set for July 12 during which developers will appeal restrictions on the project's special-use permit.

Copenhaver had been on lists provided by both the Park County Attorney's Office and Copperleaf attorneys as a possible hearing officer.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at rprevost@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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