Approximately 190 Homes Planned Over The Next 8-10 Years
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
The developers of a new 120-acre, 190-home subdivision that will be constructed in the Chalybeate community spoke to about three dozen community members last night at the Edmonson County Community Center at a meeting organized by area residents.
Darrell Oliver, an owner of Kelltrace, LLC., and Merritt Blevins, an owner of Blevins and Blevins, are partnering to develop the Middlebrook Subdivision, which will be built in three phases and will have two different accesses; one off of HWY 101 and the other off Mallory Lane, a gravel road off of Miranda Drive (another gravel road), which is off of Denham Road.
Beth Roeder, a citizen in the area of the new development, organized the meeting and acted as moderator for the evening. After welcoming the audience and discussing the rules of decorum, she invited Mr. Oliver to the podium, who then described the proposed subdivision.
"I'm not here to make any enemies. This is our job. It's what we do for a living," Oliver said. "And we're going to try to do it the best we can do."
Oliver provided preliminary plans for the subdivision and said they were hiring a civil engineer to plan for drainage throughout the development. He discussed the restrictions that will be required in the subdivision that includes the size of homes, required maintenance, and the overall look and feel of the homes.
"We're going to try to make this really nice. We don't want wrecked cars sitting around and all that stuff. All the fencing and what we put in here, the owners will have to have that approved by the developer."
Oliver said they plan on knowing which house goes on what lot in the first phase, meaning that the outside of the homes will be predetermined. Customers can change the layout of the interior of these homes, but not the outside, in order to achieve the desired look.
Oliver said the plan is for the developers to be the general contractors of the entire subdivision and there were no plans to simply sell the lots individually. He also noted that the streets within the development would be paved and built to the county's specs so they could be added into the county road system after they were constructed.
He spoke for about seven minutes then asked for questions and comments. Mrs. Cheryl Peters, an area resident, asked how the restrictions would be enforced. Oliver answered that the developers would take care of that; however, there would be no homeowner's association.
"We're going to take it upon ourselves to make sure the rules and restrictions are followed," he said. "We know that's a tough job as a developer. You always have one or two that don't want to follow the rules, but, if you have a good group of people and a good developer, you can put enough pressure on those people to do what needs to be done. We've done them both ways and we've found that if you've got a homeowners association, you get a group of people that can't get along with one another, and in that homeowner's association, you've got a whole subdivision full of mad neighbors. This way here, y'all can just be mad at me."
Oliver answered several other questions as he addressed the issues. One question was asked about fire hydrants and he said those would be available and would cover the area to be developed. Another question was asked about the need for traffic lights. Oliver stated that wasn't part of their job, but a traffic study could be done and state and county officials would determine that.
Rumors around a strip mall in the development were squashed, as that is not part of this plan. Oliver said the first phase average home price would fall into the $225,000 to $265,000 range and would be 1300-1500 square feet. The other phases would include larger homes that would sell for approximately $325,000 all the way up $700,000 and lots could be combined by a customer if they want to purchase additional space. He said these would be planned to be custom homes.
Someone asked about low income homes and Oliver quickly shot that down.
"I want to get one thing clear that's bothered me the whole time," he said. "I've heard people say 'we don't want immigrants, we don't want HUD housing,' we're not building HUD houses," he said. "We can't control who moves in here, but I can tell you one thing, I'm not in a habit of building HUD houses. I don't think I've ever built one HUD house in my career. That's not what we're fixing to do here."
Area resident Anthony Simon said his concern was the sheer number of homes going into the area. The 120-acres currently serves as barriers between many homes throughout a couple different developments. Simon said currently, he didn't worry about who was in the area and that he had no issues with his daughters playing outside in the neighborhood. With this many homes going up, he was concerned that he'd no longer know his neighbors.
"I understand your concern, but, the very person you're talking about may be the one that saves your kid's life," Oliver said.
Oliver's wife, Tracy, asked those in attendance to encourage their own community members to live there, not to just expect the newcomers would come from other counties and places.
"Guys, I know y'all don't know me, but I want to be the proudest of this subdivision of anybody here," Oliver said. "When we're done, I want you to say 'those guys did more than they had to do.' We want it to look good, we want it to be full of people living in it, children living in it. We don't want it to fail, we're the biggest investors in it. We've put up the most money and we want it to work. The only way we feel like we can make it work is to make it nice. I believe there's a need in this county for somebody to live somewhere nice. If you drive over there (in the current area) y'all's places are beautiful. It looks really nice, beautiful land. We don't want to change that and we want it to be pretty when you drive through it five to six years from now."
Questions were also asked about the increased number of students possibly entering the school system and Superintendent of Schools Brian Alexander discussed the current situation.
He also spoke in favor in Mr. Oliver, personally, who attends church in the county and has already had children in the Edmonson County school system.
"Of all the people that could do this, I feel like the county is fortunate that it's him," Alexander said. "My job is to make sure that I'm doing everything I can to market our school district. I don't market houses and all this, but I'm trying to get people to come into our school system that respect the values of our county. I want to attract the right kind of people. I understand your concerns, I really do, but we can provide adequate staff and adequate space."
He then discussed how the current ratio of students to teachers is anywhere from 24 to 1, to 28 to 1, depending on the school and he said the school system is currently set up for growth, and that the Board of Education is always working proactively to accommodate new students and planning for expansion in the school facilities.
Callie Beliles, Director of Facilities and Safety of Edmonson County Schools discussed possible funding options for new expansions in the future; some of which could come from bonds, other from government funding. Alexander also noted that the increased revenue from new homes would likely offset the need for increased school taxes.
Other questions regarding increased need for law enforcement, firefighters, road services, etc., were asked and Judge Executive Wil Cannon discussed the current situation. He similarly stated that newly generated tax revenue from incoming residents would help fund any services needing to be increased. However, Oliver also stated that the pace of construction for this subdivision would be around 20 houses per year. At that rate, it would take 8-10 years to fill the entire development. That pace would not likely put any strain on emergency services or the school system, according to data discussed at the meeting.
Jeff Eaton, General Manager for SCRTC, spoke to the audience and discussed plans for high speed internet to come to the area of the new development. He stated that the area would include anyone residing from Noah Bledsoe Road, to Otter Gap, then to Sulphur Road out to 101 near Beaver Dam Chapel Road. This would cover dozens of homes in the Chalybeate area. While SCRTC services the area up 101 to Brownsville, and Mediacom offers service just outside of that area, most of the county is plagued with poor service from only one other provider, Windstream.
As the meeting concluded, Oliver invited attendees to view the plans and discuss the layout of the subdivision. He and Mr. Blevins then addressed individual questions for a short period.
The issue of growth vs. tradition has always been a difficult one in Edmonson County. Some residents argue that the county needs more growth, which includes population, industry, and commerce. They want to work, shop, and live in the same place. Others say the biggest asset to the county is the lack of those things, giving it a "Mayberry" feel. Those are the ones that don't mind to work or shop elsewhere. Others would agree that a healthy balance would be the best solution.
Several residents were heard discussing zoning before and after the meeting. Zoning does not currently exist in Edmonson County. The discussion of zoning resurfaced in 2015 when multiple companies looked at purchasing the former Atmos gas plant. Judge Wil Cannon stated then that he was not against zoning; however, six years later, there has been little to no discussion of implementing zoning.
Oliver said he plans on starting construction as soon as possible.