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Tighter rules set for new county subdivisions

[10/5/04]In 30 days, developers of new subdivisions outside Vicksburg will be required to comply with new regulations designed to protect buyers from unseen defects and ease the pressure on taxpayers to bear the cost of shoddy work.

Warren County supervisors adopted the ordinance, updating a weaker set of rules adopted in 1992, by a 5-0 vote in the face of more than 100 protesters who were rallied by a newspaper ad to appear at Monday’s meeting.

Attendance was smaller at two earlier public hearings on the ordinance, both of which had already resulted in loosening the proposed standards.

In a nutshell, the requirements direct developers to build new roads and install drainage that will meet minimal standards. They are designed to cure a problem with developers building roads on the cheap and with little or no thought to runoff. That has left purchasers stuck if a developer won’t make repairs, or clamoring for repairs to be made at public expense.

As with all county laws, the effective date is delayed a month.

Supervisors arrived in a packed meeting room on the third floor of the courthouse, then adjourned to the more spacious second-floor circuit courtroom. People packed the benches in an apparent response to a full-page advertisement in The Vicksburg Post placed by “concerned Warren County landowners” who were not identified.

The ad listed reasons to oppose the ordinance, including higher costs and accusing supervisors of “denying decent housing to people who can least afford it.” The ad also said the regulations were a step toward zoning, requiring that craftsmen be licensed and building codes be enforced in most municipalities, including Vicksburg.

After County Engineer John McKee outlined the history of subdivision regulations and the board’s efforts to strengthen the 1992 regulations, the board voted 5-0 to approve the motion made by District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders and seconded by District 1 Supervisor David McDonald.

McKee and supervisors also indicated much of what the advertisement said about the effect of the requirements was not accurate.

“One of the main concerns is family property,” McKee said, pointing out the old ordinance did not exempt dividing family property among family members from subdivision regulations and the new ordinance will allow for an exemption.

District 5 Supervisor Richard George said, however, a developer will not be able to claim the family or agricultural exemptions if the exemptions are falsely claimed.

“It is not our plan to involve ourselves with giving land to kids,” he said.

The phrase “and the Board of Supervisors deems this appropriate” in the ordinance was called too subjective, but Charles Selmon, board president and District 3 supervisor, said the regulations will be financially helpful to developers and increase values for buyers.

“We have no intention of taking people’s property … and no intention of making them come before us begging,” Selmon said.

George said if anyone wanted to talk about the ordinance, they are welcome to call him or any other member of the board, to come by the board’s office, to write or to request a personal visit.

In other business, the board:

Approved three resolutions that will allow the Culkin Water District to sell up to $1.57 million in bonds to refinance a previous $2.865 million bond issue that has a balance of $1.465 million to get a lower interest rate. The new rate will allow Culkin to save about $62,000 between now and 2011 when the bonds mature.

Approved a request from the Warren County Sheriff’s Department to remove a 2001 Crown Victoria and a 1998 Crown Victoria from the county inventory and allow them to be sold at auction and to transfer a 1996 Caprice to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Approved a list of driveway permits with the exception of one on Lee Road which George said involved a subdivision. That one must await approval from the county engineer.

Approved the final plat of an extension of Ruby Lane in Suburban Heights Subdivision off Tiffentown Road.

Reappointed Trudy James to the Warren County Vicksburg Public Library board.

Recessed until 9 a.m. Oct. 18.