Letter to the Editor
To the Editor:
I read the article in The South Reporter’s Thanksgiving edition with great interest and gratitude that the leaders in our county are organizing and convening a series of meetings to develop a shared understanding of the dynamics related to the building of new houses in our county.
Some thoughts on this subject that may help in this process are:
1) Continued emphasis and publicity to help schools to keep striving to make improvements, not only in academics and school culture, but to also be more intentional about embedding character, 21st Century skillsets, and leadership in the students themselves. These attributes are very important to most potential new Marshall County residents and these better prepared students are more ready to enter college or careers and are needed to staff the jobs that hopefully will keep coming to the county.
2) Emphasize the many positive things about living in a “country living, city close” lifestyle. I live only 15 minutes from Holly Springs and 20 minutes from Collierville and only negotiate a few stop lights to arrive at either location. I enjoy living in green grassy landscapes rather than in areas covered by sheets of concrete. We are ideally located to enjoy both locations.
3) Take whatever action it takes to provide “fast computer service” to residential developments. This issue kills many lot and house sales with people who work out of their home, a practice that will continue to grow.
4) Focus county and developer promotion messages to specific groups such as “home schooling families,” “empty nesters,” Northerners, Westerners and Easterners who want to move back to the South, military retirees, and other target groups.
5) While it will be difficult in the short run, it is necessary to get the appraisal values up in Marshall County. One of the best ways to sell a lot is to build a house on the lot. Developers are reluctant to do so in our county because they can build the same house in adjacent counties at basically the same price and sell it for $10 to $12, and possibly even more per square foot due to higher comps and appraisals in the neighboring counties.
6) Identify and continue efforts to minimize any “frictions” that may be causing potential new residents to not be comfortable moving to Marshall County.
7) Within the limited resources available, the county needs to assist in keeping the roads and services in first class shape in existing and future land developments. Holes or patched holes in the road, when an interested person first drives into the development, is an immediate turnoff. Efforts also need to be emphasized to encourage developers and existing home owners to keep things attractive and inviting to the potential new resident. This collective action will be a win-win for everyone.
8) The practice of using lot sale dollar amounts, shown on the lot sign, to assist in levying tax rates on unsold lots runs counter to encouraging developers to take the financial risk to invest in the county. The listed lot prices, since 2008, are seldom received when selling a lot in today’s market situation. This will require cooperation between developers and tax officials.
9) Tax officials need to be careful and consistent when dialoguing with potential lot or new home buyers when they answer due diligence questions by potential buyers who are unsure about what their taxes will be. This has been a problem in the past, but seems better now. However, it is very important for county officials to talk honestly and congruently when conducting these type conversations. In fact, it would probably help if a professional and comparative tax rate analysis were conducted to show the relative situation between nearby counties and the taxes in Marshall County. This type of information would empower county officials to talk credibly about this subject and would assist in removing, or at least minimizing, this specific, negative dynamic from the marketing and sales process.
10) Then, let’s not forget that many local citizens want to upgrade their homes. Classes and seminars could be conducted to assist these local families in understanding the ins and outs of home financing, family budgeting, legal and other issues involved in home ownership.
I am encouraged with the leadership effort. There seems to be a positive and collaborative atmosphere continuing to unfold among all segments of the county. I think The South Reporter does a great job capturing and reporting this ongoing and developing process. Marshall County has many great attributes and leadership is the catalyst to continue moving us forward to realize our full potential. We are all in this together and it takes the whole team to maximize what our county can become.