Home sales begin at Independence development between Parker and Elizabeth

Residents concerned about promised road improvements


Model homes are up, landscaping is in place, and the old barn at the Bentley homestead has been restored at the new Independence community located at 1001 Hilltop Road between Parker and Elizabeth.

Craft Companies, the developer of Independence, is offering tours of model homes and accepting offers for new homes in what it calls a conservation community, which when completed will include 920 single-family homes, as well as several parks, community spaces and eventually a recreation center, school and fire station.

Sales of the first homes in the community have some Elbert County residents concerned that county officials have disregarded what they see as an apparent violation of the subdivision improvement agreement, which mandates that developers improve Elbert County Road 158, including acceleration and deceleration lanes, before they pull the building permit for a single home in the community.

“All improvements to County Road 158, including acceleration and deceleration lanes and a left turn lane (traveling west to east prior to the property’s entrance at County Road 5) shall be constructed and paid for by Subdivider (or a District) prior to the issuance of the first residential building permit within the Project,” states the SIA dated Sept. 7, 2017.

Social media was abuzz with concerned citizens calling for action against Tim Craft, the developer, and county commissioners to honor the clause in the SIA. While Craft acknowledges the clause in the SIA, he said there’s more to the issue that has been overlooked by his critics.

“We do have an obligation to make acceleration and deceleration lanes prior to the first building permit according to the SIA,” said Craft. “But if you read a little farther into the SIA, it states that we can remove the building permit restriction at any time if we post good funds with the county for the work. We posted a performance bond, a financial guarantee that the work will be getting done.”

Section 5 of the SIA states: “At any time Subdivider may offer substituted security or collateral, by letter of credit, bond, cash or cashier’s check in the amount of 115% of the total cost of the Improvements within a Phase to assure completion of all or any portion of the public Improvements in that Phase.

“Upon receipt of such collateral, all restrictions on building permits and certificates of occupancy set forth in this Agreement and the Final Plat with respect to that Phase covered by the substituted security or collateral will automatically be released.”

According to Craft, required improvements to CR 158 are estimated to cost around $450,000, and they provided a bond to the county in excess of $1 million dollars. Craft said they have also met their obligation to chip seal the road, and made a payment in the amount of $100,000 to the county recently to cover the cost.

The poor condition of the existing county road, according to Craft and Commissioners Chris Richardson and Grant Thayer, has proven to be a big problem, leading all parties to work together to find a good, long-term solution.

“No one considered how bad of condition the road was in,” said Craft. “Chip sealing isn’t the best option, it’s just basically recoating. We are looking at expediting the full improvement of that road. The county has asked us to look at a grander solution, repaving more than just our section of the road. Over the last six months we’ve been working with the county to figure that out, and looking at pavement designs and working with geotechnical engineers.”

A letter from Thayer in response to community concerns states: “Public Works advises that the existing CR158 is not currently satisfactorily constructed such that the turn lanes contemplated would not meet Elbert County construction specifications. The Public Works department is currently in discussion (negotiation) with the developer to contribute to the reconstruction of 158 between CR13 and County Line. The total rebuild of CR 158 will greatly improve transportation access in the area!”

“We are absolutely going to hold the developer accountable for their obligations to the county based on their SIA,” said Richardson. “The road doesn’t currently meet our quality standards, and the developer has committed to improving with a long-term solution that will provide better access and less risk for our citizens.”


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