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The cost of new development - who really pays?

January 31, 2024 - 00:00
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Something has been on my mind for a while now so I’m throwing it out there to see if it’s as bothersome to others as it is to me. In full disclosure, I may not be in possession of all the facts, but my opinion was formed based on what I read and what people say. My concern is about developers who’ve discovered our jewel of a county but have little regard for Grimes County residents and taxpayers.

I’ll start with Pecan Hill Acquisitions, LLC, acquired by Pilot Grove Management, LLC, in 2021. That’s the proposed 1,100-plus acre development off SH 90 between Navasota and Anderson. We got a glimpse of their ethics when they chose to run the required public notice for their MUD application in the Houston Chronicle instead of the Navasota Examiner or The Bryan-College Station Eagle. Thanks to councilman Bernie Gessner who reads the Chronicle for the heads up!

Business is business, you say, and you may be right but the Pilot Grove folks added insult to injury when it was communicated by City Manager Jason Weeks that Pilot Grove would charge Navasota ISD full market value for land to build a school in their development. These aren’t people hurting for money! They’re Las Vegas casino owners who’ve amassed a fortune, some of which is off the misfortune of the addicted. This isn’t a crusade against casinos, I can take them or leave them. My point is that they will use that “sin money” to line their pockets now without so much as a lick and a promise for the future needs of the folks buying their probably overpriced homes. It may be considered good business but it’s certainly not neighborly!

Contrast that with the 2,600-plus acre Millican Reserve development across the Navasota River. It lies in Brazos County but 85-90% is in Navasota ISD. This developer has publicly stated he will donate land for a school if NISD will build it. This developer understands the importance of schools to growing families and I call that good business!

Just when I thought I’d heard everything, NISD held a Special Meeting Jan. 22 attended by Navasota city council members. If you want the professional presentation, read Matt Ybarra’s article in the Jan. 24 Examiner; otherwise, this is my less professional, more expressive CliffsNotes version.

Kept Property Group wants to buy — oops, my mistake — wants NISD to sign over property it owns on Stacey Street so it can build twenty-one 1,000 square foot apartment units. They describe it as “affordable housing” with monthly rent estimated to be $1,450. I have to agree with Councilman Gessner that “affordable” means different things to different people and since “affordable” is often considered code for “low income,” who really is the targeted population? And is $1,450 really affordable in this economy for the young professionals Navasota wants to attract?

But wait — there’s more! Not only does Kept Property Group want free land, it’s asking for “a full tax abatement from Navasota ISD and/or the city both during construction and once complete.” AND they want both the city and the county to waive all fees “related to platting, building permits, water taps and other related fees applicable to the project.”

In my humble opinion, that’s a slap in the face to those developers who took a chance on Navasota when others wouldn’t, paying the fees and following sometimes contentious subdivision rules. What I’d like to know is if Kept Property Group will be laughing all the way to the bank with federal tax credits and incentives while Grimes County taxpayers pick up the tab for the company’s tax obligations and cost of doing business?

Not being in the position to vote yea or nay myself on this questionable project, I have to rely on city council, school board trustees and county commissioners to vote for me. I’m making my opinion known right here. I suggest you ask your own questions and do the same.

The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Connie Clements. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner. Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.