New housing considered for Walker County

CITY OF HUNTSVILLE, TX ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT / GIS DIVISION

Mapping of the proposed Public Improvement District by Waterstone Development Group, LLC.

Walker County’s rapid expansion is full-speed ahead in 2022, as a motion carried during last Tuesday’s city council meeting to consider the idea of forming another Public Improvement District in Huntsville, adding a proposed 462 patio homes to the community.

“The ground swell of development just continues to come to Huntsville and the developers see the value we have here,” said Kevin Byal, director of development services for the city of Huntsville.

Waterstone Development Group, LLC. presented plans at last Tuesday’s council meeting for its proposed PID projects, The Villages of Magnolia Farms and Westin Meadows. The developer said he is hoping to off-set the rising costs of construction and offer budget-friendly homes to the community with the use of PID funding, while taking the time to rework complications at their Crown Point development in north Huntsville.

“Like everything, the costs have just skyrocketed in the last year,” said Charles Von Schmidt, managing director with Waterstone Development Group, LLC. “We operate with a smaller margin than most developers, but we still have to continue raising the prices.”

Von Schmidt said he’s seen a 31% to 32% increase in cost between his other developments outside of Huntsville, adding that it’s forcing the prices of lots to increase.

“We’ve started looking at alternatives, one of which is a PID bond, or a cash-flow PID, depending on which the city might support,” Von Schmidt said. “It’s just another financing methodology that allows us to access money at a lower cost, allowing us to build a better subdivision, but charge less upfront for the homes, less upfront for the actual lots, so people can get into them and they pay them off over this extended period of time.”

The developer is initially requesting a PID bond from the council to fund the Master Planned Community. A tax exempt PID bond is issued based on the projected assessments from the PID and is issued through the city with zero liability to the government, leaving no effect on the city’s bond rating or debt issuance ability. Repayment is only secured by the PID area and in no way can the city ever be held responsible for this obligation. The benefit to the developer is they are reimbursed for expenditures as they are made, versus over 30 years.

“It is a tool that, while we have a lot of learning to do as we go through the process, many cities have successfully used (PIDs),” city manager Aron Kulhavy said.

In Huntsville, Schmidt notes that they would have to charge $72,000 for each lot with current construction costs, however, with a PID, the amount would lower to $52,000, which would be reflected in the reduced price of the house.

The proposed development would provide about 462 patio homes to the community that will be targeted to meet the budgets of Huntsville’s large population of civil servants, with prices ranging from $200,000 to $300,000. However, Von Schmidt noted that while the lots are considered patio home size in Huntsville, they will be sized to their regular subdivision lot homes in the area, which are considered single family residences elsewhere.

The Villages of Magnolia Farms and Westin Meadows development is planned to be around 117 acres, located at approximately 350 FM 1791 North, immediately adjacent to the city line. Von Schmidt notes that the property can be annexed by the city, if they so wish. The community will feature five ponds distributed throughout the development, in addition to various recreational areas for the residents to enjoy, to encourage a more natural feel, provide more walking trails and better space planning.

Century Communities would be building the northern Magnolia section and D.R. Horton will be building the southern section, both of which will be developed over the course of eight years.

The developer is hoping to close on the property around Jan. 21 and is aiming to have families in their homes by November.

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