James City County Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve an agreement that will help the failed subdivision of Westport on Centerville Road become a reality.
Westport, formerly owned by Ford’s Colony developer Realtec but now in the hands of lender Meridian Construction Capital, is a by-right subdivision (by-right means the land can be developed without legislative approval by the Board) with 102 lots of three to five acres. The development is outside the PSA, the limits of county services such as water and sewer, so the original plan included a private well system to supply water.
Since the development stalled in 2010, nine people owning Westport lots have been unable to build because there is no infrastructure in place. County Attorney Leo Rogers explained to the Board Tuesday that the homeowners are threatening to take legal action against the county unless it agrees to collect on the $2.4 million bond held on the development and then get the project underway.
Supervisors agreed Tuesday to a partnership with Meridian that would allow for the construction of Westport. The county will use the bond to pay for part of the project; Meridian will manage the project and will need to post another bond to complete the improvements due to a miscalculation on the part of county staff. The nine landowners will then need to take up any future grievances with the developer, Rogers said.
The County holds surety bonds from developers to cover the costs of making sure a subdivision is completed according to the original agreement (this is not money paid by the county or taxpayers; it is generally secured through a bond company by the developer). Normally county staff over estimate the cost for completing a subdivision, Rogers noted, but in the case of Westport staff underestimated the cost of development.
Though Realtec had asked for Westport to be connected to county water, Rogers said the development would proceed with the original plan to have a well system installed. James City Service Authority General Manager Larry Foster told the Board that nearby development Liberty Ridge has a similar well system that cost roughly $2 million.
The current $2.4 million bond will not be enough to cover Westport’s development costs; otherwise, the development would have been solely a county project, according to Rogers.
Though the construction can go forward if the bond is collected, the nine lot owners aren’t guaranteed the same amenities they expected when they first purchased land.
Paul Cieurzo spoke to supervisors on behalf of the Ford’s Colony homeowner association Board of Directors; Westport will be part of the Ford’s Colony homeowner association and the two were slated to share amenities. He said the Board was concerned about the lack of a second access road to Centerville Road and also about the amenities originally promised to Westport buyers, including a marina on Gordon Creek and an activities building.
The county was not a party to the original proposal, Rogers told supervisors, so if landowners have any issues with a change from the original proposal it won’t be a county problem. Meridian has no obligation to build exactly to the original plan, he said.
Supervisors seemed satisfied that the PSA would not be changed and that there was space in Westport for the needed well system; they did not seem happy with the idea that the original surety bond amount was not high enough.
Supervisor Jim Icenhour, who represents Westport’s Powhatan District, said his main goal was to make sure land owners had buildable lots. He suggested the developer work with the Ford’s Colony homeowner association in order to work on the issue of amenities.
There are still some hurdles to go through, according to Rogers – the county needs to work on collecting the bond, which could take 100 days or more, and Meridian has not foreclosed on the property and doesn’t yet hold the title.