OYSTER CREEK — Developers of the proposed Acadian Landing Subdivision in the city are thinking smaller will sell better and asked Oyster Creek leaders to approve downsizing some of the specifications for the project.
City Council members are on board with two of the changes, but wants more time to consider whether to approve a request to build smaller homes than initially proposed.
Kenny Vernor, CEO of Vernor Material and Equipment, and company Human Resources Director Randy Fry addressed some of the modifications to the initial plans with City Council during its meeting Thursday.
“What we’re really asking for are three changes to the current contract,” Fry said. “The first one is gonna be with the square footage of the homes.”
After looking at home prices in the area, the developers worry the 2,500-square-foot homes they initially planned will not sell, Fry said. Homes that sit empty won’t benefit anyone, and while they want to commit to building the largest homes the market will bear, they’re afraid the current market won’t support big houses, he said.
“If the market would stand all 60 homes being 2,500 to 2,800 square feet, we would love to do that because it would be beneficial for all of us,” Fry said, but the market looks discouraging. “We’re asking for a requested contract change. VME is asking for a reduction in the minimum square-footage requirement currently in place.”
The next change was size-related as well. VME requested the street and easement width drop from 80 feet to 60 feet. That modification would require some engineering changes if approved, Fry said, and the company was prepared to make them.
VME also hoped to divide the Acadia Landing plan into four phases to assist with cash flow through the build. They drew up this plan after taking advice from Doug Konopka of DHK Development, an experienced developer who planned the Woodshore subdivision in Clute.
“We have three phases for home building and one phase for the commercial property,” Fry said. “What that allows us, what we’re asking to do, is as we complete one phase and all the infrastructure for that phase, the city would issue a certificate of occupancy so at that point we could sell a home.”
The contract permit stipulated all infrastructure must be completed before certificates are issued. This could delay returns on the project, where phased certificates would mean quicker sales.
Freeport developer Troy Brimage, who is working with VME on the project, added his support to the proposed changes.
“We want to build something that the market will purchase,” Brimage said. “People are going to smaller homes today. It’s the trend. I was thinking it will be a very viable development, nearly a $20 million addition to Oyster Creek. I think it will be a great thing for Southern Brazoria County altogether.”
Council members asked several questions about the square footage, how these houses would compare to others in the area and livable space in the proposed subdivision area. Brimage spoke for the reliability and responsibility of VME, saying a local company with local employees will have every reason to do their best for the county.
“I’ve seen it as a mayor of Freeport, you know, these fly-by-night companies that try to come in and pull some fancy trick and get the city to pay for all the stuff,” he said. “You’re dealing with a proven local company that has always been successful.”
Despite these assurances, Oyster Creek Mayor Justin Mills had some uncertainties about the project. He requested elaboration on the four-phase plan and cautioned reducing house size could open the door to incongruously small houses being built next to large ones. Mills also expressed concerns the subdivision might go unfinished and leave an excellent area for development sitting vacant. He said he’s seen similarly ambitious projects falter. He said the size change was the council’s main concern.
“We’ve taken it back, we’ve talked about it. As of right now, we were holding on the 2,500-foot with some other perks,” he said. “The phase thing I’m sure wouldn’t be a problem to work through. The 80- to 60-foot (street and easement width reduction) is fine.”
Council members decided the matter required more thought and went into a second executive session of the evening. When they returned, they agreed to the four-phase plan and the reduction in street and easement width. The square footage, however, was a stumbling block.
“To sweeten the pot, the city is willing to run a sewage line over there, and cut you from the burden of what you’re going through with on y’all’s end over there,” Mills said. “We will consult with several Realtors around here and see what the market bears on this property. … We’re still holding pretty firm at 2,500 (feet).”
Mills emphasized he doesn’t want to hobble VME, but he must do his best for residents and taxpayers. Vernor agreed, saying he also wants to find a solution that will be profitable for both the city and his company.
“I been here for 60 years as part of the community,” he said. “I am us. We’ll do what we need to do to make this work, and we’ll stand behind our work.”Council will discuss the issue again at their next meeting after consulting with realtors.