Developer expects housing starts
With a housing study ongoing and hoping to bear fruits, the Marshall County Board of Supervisors discussed the opening of a subdivision with Joe Houck, who is trying to get a family-owned property back on track for development.
There is no construction road into the subdivision, which has lain fallow for years without a single house built.
The road through the subdivision has grown up in places. Supervisors want the development to take off but at the same time want to make sure big construction vehicles do not destroy what is already there.
Houck recently requested a permit to redraw the lots.
He said it would take about $115,000 in bond for the county to be assured the road will be taken care of by him. The county does not want to take over a road that is in bad shape after the required second lift of 1.5 inches asphalt has been laid by the developer.
Supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett asked Houck if he would start building in the front or the back of the property.
“In back makes sense,” Houck said.
He plans three phases with the second phase to open once 80 percent of the lots in Phase I have sold.
“It takes years to get it done and get the last lift,” Bennett said.
Houck agreed with supervisors that people complain about the subdivision roads if they are torn up.
He said he lives in one of his own subdivisions and residents complain about the roads.
“That’s what gets kicked back to us,” Bennett said.
“We want to understand what we are getting into,” said supervisor Charles Terry. “I’m supportive of developers coming in to help us get rooftops.”
Houck reiterated that he would begin Phase I at the back of the property (so trucks would not tear up the repaved road).
He noted there are better jobs available in the county, now paying about $16 an hour. That will help interest people in buying a new house, he said.
Houck wants the existing road to be tested and perhaps he could use tar and rock rather than asphalt for the second lift.
He said asphalt would run $100,000, and he could not turn a profit.
“Since we do not have a construction road going in, it would not be advantageous for us to go to tar and gravel,” Terry said.
Houck said about 60 percent of the building materials and labor to construct the houses would come from the county.
“Sixty-three houses is a lot,” he said.
Terry said the board of supervisors would set a precedent if it let Houck not follow the ordinances it has in place. The next developer would come along and want the same flexibility.
“Keep in mind, we need a final coat of asphalt,” he said.
Houck said the county is putting down tar and chat. So why should he be held to standards the county does not meet on county roads?
He said he is a businessman and must make money. The tax office has already said he cannot get any tax breaks as a developer, he said.
County administrator Larry Hall said the county is using soil cement to stabilize roads now. Concrete trucks are hard on (subdivision) roads and the time of year makes a difference, too. Heavy trucks running over subdivision roads in winter tear up what has been already put in place by the developer (the first lift).
Supervisor George Zinn III asked Houck if he would agree to do a lift at a specified time in the future of the subdivision construction.
Houck said roads in Scattered Oaks, a subdivision put in by his late brother, has held up pretty good.
“As long as I have a solid thing to look at,” said Houck. “That’s what makes me uneasy – not being sure.”
Terry asked if Houck expects to have all houses sold in two years.
“The issue is still going to be the road,” he said.
Zinn asked if Houck could have an agreement with buyers that the roads will not be finished until after two years.
“I don’t think you should put a timeline on it,” Bennett said.
“Now is the time to build - the next two years,” Houck said.
“You are in business to make a profit,” Terry said. “We don’t make a profit, but we still have to have the roads.”
Zoning director Ken Jones said the final plat of Valley Oaks Subdivision should be prepared and state who will be responsible for what.
Houck said with pay scale in the county jobs running from $16 to $20 an hour, he wants to make sure houses he builds will sell and that the income of residents will support the purchase of a home.
Jones asked if the board has issues with letting Houck do some dirt work.
“I have no issue with dirt work,” Terry said. “It will help with people (potential homebuyers) coming in.”
The board passed a motion to table the matter until a further date.
Gary Anderson, county consultant helping develop a house-building strategy through a partnership with lenders and leaders, said several public meetings will be set where industries who have employees wanting to buy a house can get information or help with the process. Help with credit and establishing a savings plan so the buyer can get a home loan are some of the matters that will be discussed.
Bankers and lenders will facilitate the meetings in their communities.