VOL. 111 | NO. 130 | Tuesday, July 15, 1997
By LAURIE JOHNSON
The home-building community ponders the possible ramifications of the annexation issue
By LAURIE JOHNSON
The Daily News
During the past two weeks, four areas of Shelby County have announced their intentions to incorporate in response to a new Tennessee law that makes it easier for them to do so.
Because it threatens Memphis annexation powers, the issue has been quite a controversial one, to say the least local officials, state legislators and others representing the city and areas in question have been actively voicing their opinions about the rights of small communities to control their own destinies vs. the right of a large urban metropolis to preserve its ability to expand.
Although the local home-building community has no official stance on the matter, its members say that the prospect of allowing communities like recent applicants New Forest Hills, New Berryhill, Independence and Hickory Hill to incorporate brings with it some interesting ramifications, some good and some not so attractive.
Builders and developers alike agree that the most detrimental aspect of the process is the turmoil and uncertainty involved.
"From a builders standpoint, Im not looking right now at trying to figure out what will be happening two years down the road," said Tom Moss of Moss Construction. "Im concerned about the next six months, whether this is going to confuse people who are trying to buy my inventory."
Moss pointed out that many people are leery of buying a home in an area where the future is uncertain.
"Weve found that its much easier to sell a house thats backed up to a shopping center than it is to sell one that backs up to a piece of property where a shopping center could be built," he said. "People can deal with stuff they can touch and feel, things that are already in place.
"This is not a case of Germantown going out and annexing some big piece of property that was just sitting there ready to be developed," Moss said. "People are familiar with Germantown. Can someone unequivocally say they want to be a citizen of New Berryhill at this time? They dont really know, because they dont really know exactly what that will involve."
It most likely will mean more attractive surroundings and higher priced homes, said Home Builders Association president Charles Morgan.
"We have put a lot of thought into this issue during the past week and a half," Morgan said. "If the incorporations are successful, it will mean a higher quality of living at a more expensive price. Thats it in a nutshell."
Morgan explained that if these smaller communities are allowed to incorporate, their appearances will be enhanced because they will have more control over the things that affect their aesthetics, such as sign ordinances, landscaping requirements and building facade design.
The costs involved in running these towns, however, most likely will result in higher impact fees for builders, such as sewer, permit and water tap fees.
"It will essentially amount to a hidden tax on their own citizens, as they will be ones who end up paying all of the fees indirectly," Morgan said.
"On the one hand, we feel like it will create some very desirable communities, where people will want to pay what it costs to live there.
"But on the other hand, it is going to create another class of elitism where you are going to have people not able to afford it. People looking for more affordable housing are going to be hard-pressed to be able to find it in these new communities."
The price differential between a building permit in Memphis and Shelby County and a small incorporated town such as Germantown, Bartlett or Collierville is pretty wide, Moss said.
"Memphis and Shelby County do have extremely affordable fee structures," he said.
In the city or county, a building permit for a 2,500-square-foot home costs about $130. A building permit for the same type home in Bartlett or Lakeland, however, costs more than a thousand dollars, he said.
Mark Snyder of Snyder Homebuilders, who builds and develops primarily in Collierville and Arlington, said the incorporation of these towns would make them more attractive to developers because there currently appears to be a pretty strong market for homes in these small towns.
"From what Ive seen in Collierville and Arlington, you have more of a community spirit," he said. "People seem to feel more like they belong to something when they are in little incorporated towns like these. Incorporating seems to increase their attractiveness to community-oriented people."
While the issue is being hammered out, which could be a protracted process, the big picture for builders is indeed uncertainty, said Dave Reel, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Memphis.
"Things are literally changing from day to day. First of all, people are just having to get a handle on exactly what has happened. Beyond that, theres just the question of Where do we go from here?"
Memphis balanced growth policy, the collaborative effort between city and county officials and the home-building community to extend sewer service further east, also may be affected by this issue, building professionals said.
The City Council has suspended work for three weeks on one sewer extension project that it was doing in conjunction with a developer into the New Forest Hills area, near Windyke, city officials said.
The future of the first leg of the much-anticipated Grays Creek interceptor also is uncertain.
"Weve taken bids on the first run of the Grays Creek interceptor," said Memphis city engineer John Conroy. "That has not yet been presented to the City Council.
"Bids were taken a week ago Friday and that will go to Council in its normal course. I truly dont know what action they will take."
Conroy said committee meetings would be taking place today to discuss sewer extensions into these areas.
Communities seeking incorporation include:
New Forest Hills Bounded by Hacks Cross Road to the west, Houston Levee to the east, Nonconnah Boulevard to the south and Germantown to the north. The area would include the Aintree Farms, Southwind and Windyke communities.
New Berryhill Includes the area west of Houston Levee Road and east of the Countrywood community. It is located between Cordova and Eads.
Independence Includes the Stonebridge area between Memphis and Lakeland.
Hickory Hill Includes the area between Memphis city limits, Lamar Avenue and the Mississippi-Tennessee state line. Includes parts of Winchester, Raines, East Shelby Drive, Germantown Road, Germantown Extended, Mendenhall and Hickory Hill Road.