Oyster Creek City Hall

Oyster Creek City Hall

When a developer approaches local government to share his vision for a project, it often sets up a staredown of competing interests who both want to maximize their return.

That appears to be the path now forming in Oyster Creek, where the proposed Acadia Landing subdivision backed by Vernor Materials and Equipment has hit a stumbling block in the form of a city council unconvinced smaller homes would be better than the McMansions previously pitched.

Without some give on both sides, a promising plan to put new, attractive rooftops in the small city could either never happen or come about in a way that leaves the project well short of its potential.

During a meeting last week, with Vernor Materials and Equipment President Kenny Vernor on hand, company Human Resources Director Randy Fry asked council members to give some ground on three provisions of their existing subdivision agreement. Council appeared on board with two of them — reducing the street and easement width from 80 feet to 60 feet and allowing the project to be done in phases.

T he third provision proved to be stickier, and the question of whether it would be granted remains hanging. It calls for building homes smaller than the 2,500-square-foot and larger dwellings Vernor originally planned. The reasoning is simple — the current housing market shows homes of that size are difficult to sell.

“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.”

City leaders weren’t sure that was such a good idea as they saw their potential tax revenue dwindling if the size of the homes on a good piece of real estate did the same. Mayor Justin Mills said the city would consult with some Realtors to determine what size homes were selling right now and which made the most sense for Oyster Creek.

We think he will find large homes are a tougher sell right now, a finding already backed by consultant Troy Brimage and the group behind the successful Woodshore subdivision in Clute.

“We want to build something that the market will purchase,” said Brimage, who is working with Vernor on the project. “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.”

As Vernor’s representatives pointed out, neither side wins if oversized homes are built and sit empty. It also could make Mills’ concerns that the subdivision might never be built out come to fruition.

The people on both sides of this current disagreement are reasonable and each benefits from the project only if it is successful, making it likely the two sides can find some ground to give. If they both hold firm, however, a visionary project that could spark residential growth in a city desperate for it might never happen.

This editorial was written by Michael Morris, managing editor of The Facts.

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