County updates development rules

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, February 6, 2019

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Wise County commissioners have approved changes to the county’s development rules and regulations in their last two meetings.

The biggest point of contention was the use of performance bonds, when allowing developers to file a final plat before the subdivision roads are complete.

Under the new regulation, a developer may file the final plat under special or unique circumstances that delayed road work but must also obtain a performance bond for 120 percent of the road construction cost.

If the developer has not completed the roads in one year, the county calls the bond and uses the money to finish the roads.

Although state law allows for performance bonds and other counties use them, Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White wanted to strike them from the local rules.

“And if it’s ever brought up again, we just say, ‘we don’t do those in Wise County,'” he announced.

White was worried a developer would abuse the opportunity. Commissioners approved two performance bonds in January, although it’s usually a rare request.

“We’ve done two in the last month, and there’s other developers around here, they follow suit,” White said. “It’s like word spread. ‘I can buy this property in January and even though I can’t build roads til June, I can still sell lots off it and get a bond.'”

Commissioners discussed that without a performance bond in the rules, it could leave them in a lurch if a situation arose where roads couldn’t be completed but they had no formal way to address it.

White said he trusts the current developers in the county, but he’s worried about future developers.

“I think your concerns are well placed,” Judge Clark said. “The way it’s in there now is as if it’s a viable option for anybody. It at least needs to be tighter in scope about when it can be invoked and for what reasons.”

Clark said adding the words “special and unique” was a signal to developers they need to “plan on doing it the normal way.”

Commissioners unanimously approved keeping a performance bond in the regulations and changing the wording associated with it. They also approved several other changes, some of which are highlighted below:

  • definition of a manufactured home was changed to match the state’s. The definition includes that the home is more than 8 feet wide. Wise County’s old rule said more than 9 feet wide.
  • definition of a recreational vehicle. This is a new rule written to match the state’s, part of which says an RV is 400 square feet or less and is not designed for use as a permanent dwelling.
  • modified the requirement for preliminary plats. If it’s three lots or less and is not in a flood plain, a preliminary plat is not required.
  • added requirements for private roads. Private roads should serve an average lot size greater than 5 acres. Construction plans for the roads and lots will be required.
  • added requirement for a breach analysis. This is to cover homes that are not on the same property as a dam, but on nearby property in the breach zone.
  • added a requirement for no rise in 100-year flood elevations.
  • clarified requirements for driveway culvert designs. They should be designed to help keep water off the roads by channeling flood waters.
  • added recommendation to coordinate with the Wise County emergency management coordinator and/or Wise County fire marshal for best practices for fire mitigation.

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