Panel eyes change in development security

Jan. 30—The Cumberland County Planning Commission is considering changes to its surety requirements, with a public hearing planned for its March 16 meeting.

At issue is the use of letters of credit to ensure projects get completed according to county requirements.

"I know that I, myself, and Kyle (Davis, planning commission secretary), we don't like letters of credit," said Tommy Lee, Cumberland County's planner with the Upper Cumberland Development District. "I know they're easier for the developer. And the one thing we don't want to do is discourage development in Cumberland County."

Currently, the planning commission accepts letters of credit, escrow accounts and performance bonds. But many developers prefer a letter of credit, which comes with less cost than the other options.

"If you get something signed by two officers at a bank that's irrevocable, plus 10% inflation, how is that a problem?" asked Cumberland County Attorney Philip Burnett during the panel's January meeting.

Lee said letters of credit often include an expiration date. Burnett said the panel could require letters of credit that do not expire.

"Or, you can get a guarantee or surety bond. The statute gives this body the leeway to do what you feel comfortable with," Burnett said.

Davis said options other than the letter of credit would provide greater protection for the taxpayers who could be left with the cost of unfinished infrastructure.

The discussion comes as the planning commission grapples with complaints from residents about unfinished roads in their subdivisions.

In November, the commission heard from David Bell with Fairfield Glade Homes regarding paving in Chestnut Ridge subdivision. The base of the road is in place, but Bell said new home construction is ongoing. The developer intends to complete the road with a final layer of asphalt once the subdivision is about 85% complete.

The planning commission asked for a schedule of completion and a new letter of credit to the unfinished road work.

During the December meeting, Bell said a new development schedule for paving had not yet been established. He did submit a new letter of credit, though the amount had not been verified by County Road Superintendent Stanley Hall.

Residents of another Fairfield Glade subdivision were at the December meeting questioning when their roads would be finished. The Hickory Ridge Development was established around 2007. Around 2009, the roads were added to the county's road list even though they were not completed.

Bell said Wyndham Properties was the original developer for the subdivision, which was later sold to Fairfield Glade Homes.

There is no surety instrument on file to ensure the completion of the roads, and the development is estimated 95% complete.

"That happened before any of us were involved," Lee said. "But their representative said they did plan to put the final coat of asphalt on those roads."

The panel requested Fairfield Glade Homes prepare a paving schedule for Hickory Ridge, as well. However, a representative of the company was not present at the January meeting.

The panel tasked Burnett with sending a letter to Fairfield Glade Homes to seek updates on the roads.

When surety instruments have expiration dates, Burnett said the planning commission needs a method to go back and check up on the status of work before those letters expire.

A solution going forward could be to eliminate the two-year time limit, Burnett suggested.

But any changes to the planning commission's rules requires a public hearing. Members of the planning commission suggested inviting local developers and representatives of the banking industry to share their comments in March.

In other business, the panel sought more information before it considers a subdivision request on Fuller Lane off Claysville Rd.

Property owner Wendy Fuller has sought to divide her seven-acre parcel with a two-acre plat. The new owner wants to place a home there.

But Fuller Lane is not a county road. It's a private drive serving three homes. The Wendy Fuller lot is land-locked with no access to the public road save the private lane, which crosses two other parcels.

An additional division would be a violation of the county's subdivision regulations. And while the county has granted a variance in the past, it was for an existing structure.

The proposed subdivision would increase the number of homes served by the small access lane.

Burnett said the buyer needed to consult an attorney and ensure the deeds for all impacted parcels included an easement to access the land-locked property.

The panel tabled action on the variance request pending further information.

The panel is set to meet again Feb. 16. There will be two public hearings at that meeting, the first to add Mountain Preserve Parkway to the county road list and the second to remove a section of East Keys Road from the county road list.

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at