Clinton Utilities and developers talk ‘growth’

The Clinton Utility Board board of directors met with members of the public last week to discuss how to make the county more developer-friendly.

Many developers, real estate agents and government officials came to attend and voice their opinions.

Clinton resident Joe Hollingsworth, known locally for his expertise in development and business, was complimentary of the board, but said that “we can all improve as times change.”

“We all live in this community,” he said. “I’ve known most of you all my life. We love this community. To say that CUB isn’t run well is wrong.”

He said that when he developed Carriage Hill and Carriage Trace apartments in Clinton, CUB was very helpful in waiving certain fees.

And it’s the fees that are scaring off potential developers, according to a number of developers in the room.

“Where we choose to do this,” said Hollingsworth, “we’d love to do it in our communities, but if it becomes too hard, if there’s a threshold, it becomes easier to do it elsewhere. The time is now. What’s happening here doesn’t happen very often. It’s a beautiful time.”

One issue that Hollingsworth brought up was the cost of single power poles. For a residential customer building their own home, that pole fee is waived. For a developer, it costs $2,500.

“So if we have 172 separate lots,” he said, “you will spend roughly $420,000.”

The lowest cost per pole he found was in Sevier County, which costs around $200-$300 per lot for developers.

“That difference is extremely high,” he said. “... it’s punitive to the developers.”

Developer Tim Duncan agreed. Duncan is building a subdivision on Miller Road in Clinton. He said that he is selling them quicker than he’s building them. It’s the first time he’s built a subdivision in Clinton, despite the fact that he lives there and has been building since 1974.

“That’s part of the reason,” he said, citing the cost of individual poles and a number of other issues stemming from fees that Anderson County has and other counties don’t. Anderson County Water Authority and Powell Clinch utilities, which provides the natural gas in his development, have both been “super nice” to work with, according to Duncan. The director of Powell Clinch told him they would waive the fees for the main line installation. For Knoxville Utilities, that would have cost around $425.

For the electric poles through CUB, he paid $8,100.

“I just don’t see anything fair about that,” he said. “I just don’t understand beating up on the developer.”

The pole fees increase the cost of the lots he has to sell, according to Duncan.

“I think there should be some give and take, because you’re going to get your money back,” he said. “But that’s why I’ve never developed here, for that reason, when I can go to Knox County.”

Still, he’s running out of lots in Knox County.

“There is a demand for homes here in Anderson County,” he said. “I sell them before I get them finished, but we as developers need your help.”

Robert Campbell, developer with Campbell and Associates, had a long list of items he presented to the board that adds to the cost of building homes in Anderson County.

His items ranged from manhole requirements for sewer — 300 feet apart compared to 400 feet apart in other counties — to easements.

“Your easements are 20 feet, and most are 15,” he said.

“That does take up some space a house can be sited on.”

CUB Board Director Charles Price was open to all suggestions, saying that they would respond and take it all into consideration.

“This won’t be a session where we argue, dispute people’s ideas and try to convince you that what we’re doing is the right way right now,” he said at the beginning of the meeting.

“We want to hear any suggestions you have. We want to get your input into things you think we can do better that will encourage more residential development in Anderson County and Clinton.”

Brandon Clark, with Knoxville’s Maddox Companies, came simply to hear what was being said at the meeting. Maddox is currently building the largest residential subdivision in Knoxville in 25 years, according to Clark, and they are eyeing properties in Clinton.

“The main thing we look for is not just availability of water and sewer, but how quickly we can ascertain what it would be like to work with the utility companies,” he said, referring to their fees and regulations. “We really do have to look at every cost; we can’t just pass it on to the lot buyer. We have to be competitive.”

Price told the audience that they do have the ability to do waivers and make concessions, and said that they probably don’t use that enough.

“When we do that, we want to do it prudently and in conjunction with the Chamber and city to make sure that what we’re doing is financially sound in the long run, and that it promotes growth to the city,” he said.