Construction on two major subdivisions set to bring an additional 1,600-plus homes will begin in July after months of delay due primarily to the economic downturn from the COVID-19 pandemic; and despite the Sanford City Council’s refusal last week to support a special assessment pitched by the developer to help fund the project.
The first phases of the 995-unit Galvin’s Ridge subdivision — located on Colon Road just off U.S. 1 in northern Lee County — and the Laurel Oaks subdivision — located just south of Sanford not far from Carolina Trace — are expected to start this summer, according to Criteria Development LLC’s Marion Uter.
Construction will continue at about a 200-home-a-year build rate through 2023 for Laurel Oaks and 2024 for Galvin’s Ridge.
Criteria representatives requested the Sanford City Council consider special assessment district financing for the projects during a public meeting held on May 5 (via Zoom). “Special assessment district financing” would have helped fund the construction by assessing a portion of the infrastructure costs to property owners over a specified time. Construction on Galvin’s Ridge was originally scheduled to begin in February or March until the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on Criteria’s plans.
“When we started putting these projects together a year ago, we reached the point where we were ready to go, but unfortunately, the world has changed,” Uter said. “There are no conventional banking sources right now to do developments of this nature. Most of our banks are tied up doing payroll protection loans and keeping their customers afloat.”
Rather than “give up on the project,” Uter told the council, they wanted the city to consider this option. “We believe in the city and these projects, but I’d hate to see the project go by the wayside because of difficult times in the market,” Uter said.
According to Joe Lucas, a public finance attorney from the Pope Flynn law firm in Charlotte, special assessment bonds have been utilized twice in North Carolina since 2013 — in Mooresville and Hillsborough. The legislation allowing them, created in 2009 during the housing crisis, is set to expire in North Carolina on July 1, hence the need for this month’s meeting and the city’s quick action.
The city’s action was quick. After going into closed session on May 11, the council promptly canceled a special meeting scheduled for May 12 to discuss the project.
“Although I cannot go into the details because this action occurred in closed session, I can tell you that the council unanimously decided to not move forward with the request by Criteria Development LLC for a preliminary assessment resolution,” Councilman Chas Post told The Rant.
Representatives from the developer did not respond to a request made by The Rant last week to comment, but Sanford Mayor Chet Mann confirmed Wednesday that Criteria will continue on with the development despite the city’s refusal to further discuss the special assessment.
The Sanford City Council first paved the way for the project when it passed a rezoning measure back in November, championing the new subdivision and its mixture of homes (single-family and townhomes), commercial space, greenways, dog parks, playgrounds and a clubhouse. If Galvin’s Ridge and Laurel Oaks and their 1,600-plus homes ever reach capacity, the city is looking at an instant 6- to 7-percent population increase.
Chip Pickard, director of North Carolina operations for Criteria Development in Daphne, Alabama, said his company submitted the original application for rezoning for Galvin’s Ridge in 2019, because the land met five benchmarks for residential planning: the city’s overall need for housing, Sanford’s current economic status, future prospects in the city for economic development, the affordability and cost of living in Sanford, and the overall “community atmosphere” or “desirability” of people looking to move to Sanford.
“These things are important in attracting new residents to your community,” Pickard said. “And geographically, Sanford’s proximity to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Charlotte and the coast makes it an extremely attractive location. With all of this considered, this area stood out as a key gem for us and what we believe to be a good opportunity. We met with your various leaders in the Sanford community, and there was a strong desire expressed [by them] for the need for more housing.”
The community itself will be a mix of single-family homes, townhomes, commercial parcels and “extensive open space and community amenities,” according to plans provided by WithersRavenel. The single-family home building program will consist of no less than three distinct D.R Horton home series, the “Express,” the “Horton” and the “Freedom” series. As the community is developed, additional home series may be offered.
While target prices of the homes are not set in stone, it is anticipated that the townhomes will run in the high $100,000s, while the single-family homes will run from $200,000 up to $400,000.
As for those “community amenities,” developers are promising over three miles of public and private greenways, a neighborhood swimming pool, a clubhouse, playgrounds, two dog parks, a “sports court” and picnic area. The trail system will incorporate benches and pet waste stations and will be peppered with open spaces. Every street will have a sidewalk on one or both sides, according to site plans, and every street will have a designated planting strip that will have trees planted an average of 50 feet on center.