Subdivision developers responding to warning

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Letters sent to subdivision developers by Warren County two months ago are yielding results supervisors said they wanted.

Principal planners of neighborhoods under construction outside Vicksburg’s corporate limits are now required to communicate their plans to county officials for approval, but several had failed to do so. They faced misdemeanor charges and fines of $500 per day per violation.

Since the Aug. 1 deadline set by county officials, five final plats have been approved by supervisors — two more than the board OK’d in all of 2007.

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“We’ve had a good deal of response,” said District 5 Supervisor Richard George.

Homebuyers in new subdivisions that comply will benefit more quickly from the county adopting privately built roads and drainage systems for maintenance at public expense, officials have said.

Adopted in 2004, the county’s first subdivision ordinance sought to cut down on frustrations associated with new neighborhoods being built and supervisors rejecting their “public” areas for poor design or construction. That left homeowners looking to developers for maintenance that developers had no incentive to perform.

Current policy affords a two-year window of extra time, or warranty period, to bring roads up to standards after final plans are approved by the county. If developments were crafted before the ordinance was passed, the window is one year.

The list of 25 developments under the engineering microscope this summer was about evenly divided between those with lots sold with no formal steps taken and those merely with slow paperwork. Sixteen have sufficiently detailed progress, County Engineer John McKee said, with the remainder disputing their noncompliance status or undergoing further review.

Most recently, small subdivisions near Redwood and on Fonsylvania Road were approved, as were three larger ones including Choctaw Boundary, off Dudley Road.

“We expect the roads will be ready for county maintenance,” George said, referring to one-year deadlines for the development’s main roads, Boundary Line Drive and Crested Bluff Drive.

McKee said Warren County’s challenging topography makes designs more difficult, but he expects developers will do better than in the past.

“Several have gotten compliant and I think you’ll see more,” McKee said. “They see the board is serious about enforcing the ordinance.”

When developments begin, planners must hand in preliminary plats showing in broad terms points such as distances between roads. After county supervisors approve that step, further plans must show details on drainage and elevation. When final plans are approved, engineers inspect the roads for acceptance.

Provisions of the ordinance constitute the lone guidelines Warren County has on subdivided land, as no land-use regulations exist beyond Vicksburg city limits. An $85,000 study by Central Mississippi Planning and Development was completed in 2007 but not adopted. Maps showed most areas outside the city would not have deviated from current land uses.