Builders slowed by old surveys

Builders slowed by old surveys

The Olney Economic Development Corporation board discussed problems keeping new housing construction on track due to monthslong delays in getting the City to draw easements and locate utilities on newly replatted lots.

The delays are frustrating the two builders who purchased lots in Olney last year with plans to build at least ten homes each, OEDC Executive Director Tom Parker said.

Crombie Properties of Jacksboro is “at a standstill” in starting its first two homes because it needs the City to create easements and locate utilities on the newly drawn lots, on which the planned houses had to be reoriented to face a different direction because neighbors had built unpermitted structures over the lot lines, he said.

“Four of the first six lots had issues for Crombie and the replatting hasn’t been done,” he said. “They have done $60,000 worth of dirt work … and a double survey.”

Crombie and the OEDC worked with Brazos Title, the Young County Appraisal District, and Assistant City Attorney Dan Branum to clear the titles but now is held up by the City, which has no one on staff with expertise in drawing easements and locating utilities, he said.

The builder needs clear titles to insure and sell the completed homes, Mr. Parker said.

The second builder, Lance and Corey Groves, completed one home, were facing issues with an Oak Street lot where the second home will be located, and recently cleared property on Howard Street for construction, they said.

“On the two lots we have on Howard Street, that subdivision was drawn up in 1909 and so when you’re doing something like what Crombie’s doing and what we’re doing with these infill lots, you’re going to run into issues where lot lines are changed, people built into this easement [or] reconfigured that easement,” Lance Groves said.

He said the City of Olney “needs a full-time person to deal with this stuff.”

Olney, he said, “will have an opportunity to build a plan on how to do this for small towns that no other town has. It would be adopted immediately all over the state. You need to find some way to find out what you have that is available to build on today.”

OEDC board member and former Olney Mayor Phil Jeske said the City may face further problems with new construction on the older lots where houses have been razed because they may not have been surveyed in decades. It is also possible that non-permitted structures may have been built encroaching on neighboring lots.

Mr. Parker suggested that the City create a Building Department to help homebuilders navigate problems with the lots. The City has been trying for years to entice builders to supply lowcost housing for families who work at Olney’s major employers, Tower Extrusions, Air Tractor, CEMCO, Olney Hamilton Hospital, and Olney Independent School District.

Many Olney workers live in surrounding cities and commute to work because they cannot find local housing to buy or rent. The City has a supply of approximately two dozen foreclosed lots for sale, and has plans to demolish approximately 50 condemned structures this year.

Mr. Parker said he met with and discussed projects with several other firms interested in building homes in Olney.

Crombie spent $52,000 on ten foreclosed lots in May of 2023 with a plan to build single-family homes and a couple of duplexes. Kara and David Crombie, the chief operating officer of Nine Energy Services, have restored and modernized approximately 50 properties in Jacksboro.

The Crombies did not respond to a request for comment.