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Posted: March 30, 2013 6:17 p.m.

Subdivision building is back in Newton

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This map shows the proposed property to be developed into a 211-home subdivision by Crown Communities.

Subdivision building is back in Newton County.

For the first time since the housing bubble burst and local development was brought to a screeching halt, a company is proposing to build a full subdivision in Newton County.

Crown Communities, the self-stated second largest home building company in the Atlanta area, has proposed building a 211-house subdivision at the intersection of Jack Neely and Harold Dobbs roads called Silver Ridge Farms.

The Newton County Planning Commission approved the subdivision plan — known as a preliminary plat — at Tuesday’s meeting, and the plan will now go before the Board of Commissioners for its final approval.

The 110-plus acre property was in the midst of being developed before the housing collapse and already had 82 developed lots along with around 85 undeveloped acres. Crown’s plan calls to build a total of 211 homes at price points starting in the $170,000s according to Phil Corley, vice president of marketing for Crown, with an average of 2,500 heated square feet (not including garages, etc.) of space. County Commissioner Nancy Schulz, in whose district the development is located, said the company had told her the price range would be between $175,000 and $265,000.

County landscape architect Debbie Bell said in an email this was the first subdivision plan she had seen since probably 2007, the year during which signs of the housing collapse were becoming apparent. The county saw a handful of new housing construction permits last year, Bell said, as well as a handful so far in 2013, but the Silver Ridge development is by the far the biggest in years.

“We’re just excited about the economic development in that area and a lot of the job growth happening, and we are consistently getting inquiries about Newton County,” Corley said. “So, I believe (the development) is really in the position to take advantage of the current economic growth there in the county for us.”

Corley said the development will also be close to the new Newton High School being built on Crowell Road, which is another bonus in addition to its close proximity to Interstate 20.

“It’s got location; it’s got the education, got the employment centers, so we’re really excited about it,” he said.

The development is significant for another reason, as local home builders have said for years newly constructed homes will not even sell at the price they cost to build. As of last fall, local builder Bob Goucher said a new home could be sold for about 60 percent of its cost to build. He said that national home construction companies could likely build and sell standardized homes for more than their building price, but he questioned whether the homes would appeal to more upscale buyers, including employees moving to work at Baxter International’s $1 billion medical manufacturing facility.

Crown is banking on the fact buyers will be sold on the development.

Corley said the company plans to offer up to 12 different types of floor plans at Silver Ridge.

“We want to create a community that’s unique to the county and one that homebuyers gravitate toward,” Corley said. “We are the second largest builder in Atlanta area, and we build a value that the consumer recognizes and they choose to purchase. That’s really what it boils down to — the value is built into their new home and the quality. I will put our product up against any builder in terms of quality, including features (granite countertops, hardwood floors, etc.) and price per square foot.”

Bell said once the plat is approved, Crown will renew the land disturbance permit and make any needed repairs to the infrastructure of the development. The company will then be ready to submit a final plat and, once that is recorded, obtain building permits for homes, she said.

Corley said Crown hopes to break ground in mid-April and roll out the development in three phases. The second phase of the development will include an active park with walking trails.

How the times have changed
The 110-plus acre property was purchased in 2006 by Silver Ridge Development for $5.25 million, during the time when house prices were inflating at a rapid pace as evidenced by the property’s selling price almost exactly one year earlier of $3.54 million by another company, Neely Manor, according to the Newton County Tax Assessor’s website.

The property was foreclosed on and transferred to The First State Bank in May 2009. The property was being marketed by Atlanta-based Resource Real Estate Partners with an asking price of $795,000, but the caveat of “all offers considered.” The purchase price by Crown Communities was not disclosed and has not been recorded on the tax assessor’s website.

Almon Overlay enforced
The development is also significant because it’s the first major subdivision to be built under the county’s new overlay zonings.

The county passed the Almon Overlay in early 2010, and it calls for high-quality construction standards, such as home exteriors made of brick, stone or cement, as opposed to vinyl siding. In addition, all the homes in Silver Ridge will have side entry garages, because the current lot design was not able to accommodate front-facing garages that required larger setbacks under the overlay.

The overlay requirement also required Crown to reduce the number of properties it was going to build. In 2007, the original company had a subdivision plan approved with 223 lots with an average lot width of 70 feet; however, the revised plans call for 211 lots with an average width of 80 feet.

One other interesting provision of the overlay zoning is the possibility of mixed-use residential and commercial development. Commissioner Schulz said she’s encouraged the developer to consider the possibility of having a couple of small shops in the subdivision, such as a barber, small dry cleaner, sandwich or coffee shop — uses that are appropriate in neighborhoods.

“I’m very optimistic that Silver Ridge will be a good partner. (Planning Director Scott Sirotkin) spent a lot of time with them emphasizing the overlay and the quality of the development that we expected in that corridor, and we held very firm on what we expected and they committed to that,” Schulz said. “It’s going to be the benchmark hopefully for future development in that corridor.”

Corley said Crown found value in the fact the county has a long-term strategic plan that will enhance the entire area.

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