SUBDIVISIONSCounty looks at toughening restrictions for developers

Published 11:28 am Friday, October 5, 2012

More restrictions for developing neighborhoods outside Vicksburg and compromises for two developers moved closer to reality Thursday, as Warren County supervisors revisited the issue.

After a second informal meeting in 10 days on substandard roads in Littlewood and Twin Creeks subdivisions, both off Lee Road, supervisors left the table agreeing letters of credit to back two-year warranties on Madison Ridge Road and Twin Creeks Road should be reduced from original estimates so each can come under county maintenance.

For Littlewood, a $142,000 credit line would equal double the cost of paving its main road with 1½ inches of asphalt. The county had asked for a $488,000 letter for Madison Ridge Road, which is showing damage near a pond. For Twin Creeks, the same criteria translated to $70,000, down from the $188,000 first requested.

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County engineer John McKee said adopting patched roads goes against the spirit of the county’s subdivision ordinance, but is the only way to speed up full compliance by developers of each subdivision.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to get it done otherwise,” McKee said. “I don’t think we’ll move past where we are if we don’t make some concessions.”

McKee also recommended the county amend its ordinance to ban developers from selling lots until roads are dedicated to the county. Regulations adopted in 2004 call for road and drainage drawings to be turned in to the county but don’t put a lock on property sales. Before the ordinance, poorly built roads were handed off to the county. When supervisors refused public maintenance, home-owners were left only with the option of legal action against developers.

Since the current ordinance was put in place, county supervisors have sent letters to dozens of developers at a time warning them of potential violations and talked about tighter controls and legal action, but have backed off each time. McKee said he consulted with Central Mississippi Planning and Development District and engineers in Rankin County, which asks developers to have 85 percent of homes built or three years pass before the top layer of a road is applied. Both recommended Warren County beef up its regulations, he said.

The board’s next formal meeting is Oct. 15, the earliest any action on the letters or developer activity can be taken. A public hearing date must be set if supervisors want to amend the ordinance.

Neither Littlewood developer Ronnie Taylor nor Twin Creeks developer Richard Cowart were at Thursday’s session. Both appeared before supervisors Sept. 24. Five residents of Littlewood listened in on Thursday’s session, but asked no questions.

Supervisors warmed up to both slowly.

“I’d go along with $180,000,” District 2 Supervisor William Banks said, referring to an amount McKee quoted as the cost of removing and repairing several layers of a sloughing roadway near a pond off Madison Ridge in Littlewood. Banks didn’t make it clear whether he’d support the lower, $142,000 amount.

District 1 Supervisor John Arnold, a real estate broker, sought to slow the pace of added regulations for builders.

“Every time one of those houses sells, they’re $350,000,” said Arnold. “If these subdivisions were not built, these people would end up in Clinton. How do we prevent them from going to Clinton? By working with them in Warren County.”

District 5 Supervisor Richard George indicated the time may have come for stronger language in the ordinance.

“I’ve had all I want to hear about developers and their intentions and this, that and the other,” George said. “All we’ve got is what they have done on the ground. Now, we’ve allowed it to happen to a certain degree. We need to fix it and we need to quit whining about it.”

“Those people bought homes in good faith and paid for pavement that will last,” George said. “And what they’ve got, ain’t gonna make it.”