Holly Springs park might lure developers

akenney@newsobserver.comAugust 23, 2013 

A rendering shows the carefully landscaped stormwater-management area that the town of Holly Springs plans to build downtown.

COURTESY TOWN OF HOLLY SPRINGS — WITHERS & RAVENEL

— The town has a new way to lure developers downtown: Build them a pond and a babbling brook.

Actually, the 2.5-acre park planned for central Holly Springs is more than meets the eye. While passersby will see benches, walkways and a huge variety of plants around the water features, the area’s true purpose will be to filter stormwater runoff.

Developers normally would build their own stormwater-filtering areas on their land. Instead, the new Holly Springs project will act as a central receiving point for the rain that flows off of about 25 acres of downtown development, allowing landowners to develop up to 15 percent more of their lots.

The project already is set to handle runoff from several downtown developments, including the multi-use Mosaic on Main property next door.

The idea is that developers will find it easier to build if they don’t have to set aside land for and design stormwater management.

“They’ll pipe it down to our device and we’ll handle it for them,” town engineer Aaron Levitt said at a Holly Springs Town Council meeting last week.

Once inside the town’s estimated $970,000 “stormwater management device,” the water will shed sediment in a “forebay,” receive a dose of oxygen as it bubbles over the man-made brook, settle into a 0.7-acre pond area, and eventually into a “constructed wetland” where biological processes will remove pollutants.

The entire process is required by federal laws meant to keep pollutants out of bodies of water such as Utley Creek, Harris Lake and the Cape Fear River, the ultimate path of Holly Springs’ runoff.

And as they become more common, towns such as Holly Springs are looking for ways not just to beautify but to showcase their stormwater infrastructure. Raleigh also has dressed up a biological stormwater filtration area as the water garden at Fred Fletcher Park.

“At first, function was the focus, but as people have realized they’ve had to have these facilities, there’s been a gradual shift to make them look attractive,” said Stephanie Sudano, engineering director for Holly Springs.

Besides seating, paths and plantings, the stormwater area will have pleasant lighting, careful landscaping and a circulation pump to keep the brook babbling even if the rainwater isn’t flowing. The entire setup also will be connected to the planned Mims park.

“We have to have it. It’s a great way to do it and make it aesthetically pleasing,” said Town Councilwoman Cheri Lee.

Though the project is meant to ease the way for downtown development, developers who use the stormwater system may be asked to pay fees to offset its cost. The Town Council will address that issue at a later meeting.

About $300,000 of the project’s cost will come from a stormwater fund fueled by development fees, and another $200,000 will be contributed by the developer of Mosaic on Main.

Kenney: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @KenneyOnCary

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