By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
Mike Emmons of B.A. Emmons Construction Co. points to the House Creek North subdivision in Copperas Cove and calls it a shining example of the cost efficiency and speed that can result when cities, schools and all others that have something to do with big projects work in harmony and assist each other.
He takes all the more pride in House Creek North since Copperas Cove prides itself on its small-town atmosphere and not all parts of the community are in favor of growth. He said the Cove community was less in favor of it when the project began in 2002 than it is now.
"But the fact is that everybody pays the same prices for fuel and everything else, and when prices go up, if a city hasn't added sources of sales taxes, they have to raise property taxes. When things go smoothly, everyone wins," Emmons said.
The House Creek development, begun in 2002 as a partnership of Emmons, Coy Charping and Lee Richter, laid the groundwork for 1,100 homes on 300 acres in three phases on the north side of town. Emmons said all the sites have now been sold, although work is still going on with the last phase.
"What made it so easy was that the city and school district were proactive with things that needed to be done," he said.
"Governments can drag their feet about necessary paperwork and other things and delay a project endlessly. They can fail to install enough infrastructure and then have to go in and tear up people's yards. But in this case, we all worked together and did everything on time and did it right the first time."
He mentioned in particular that the city installed water and sewer lines in a way that would serve future developments to the north and west, where the Lampasas school district is already considering a new school to serve an expected population increase.
"Richter was able to buy the land from the Summers family at just the right time, and the needs of the city and schools all came together," he said.
"The city got engineers working on the base elevation flood plain to make sure it was right. They did some things they didn't have to do, not just doing their job but thinking ahead. We didn't fail a single test with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and didn't have to do anything over."
He said, "I've already put in bids on some small commercial projects that are planned around there. The roads needed a lot of work on them, and we're seeing churches and houses renovated in the area."
Sonny Monroe, assistant superintendent for finance and support services for the Copperas Cove Independent School District, said that if streets from Fort Hood's gates are extended now to the vicinity of the development, "Soldiers can easily live anywhere up or down Highway 116, and their children will go to school here."
CCISD now gets $11 million of its $65 million budget from the federal government because 37 percent of its student body is made up of military dependents, and street extensions would enhance that position.
The district partnered with the developers' group to build a retention pond for drain water and took the dirt from groundwork for the houses to level a location on the northeast corner of the development area where the district may build a school, probably an elementary school. The 2008-2009 facilities committee will consider that project along with all other needs of the district, but the land is ready.
Cove homebuilder Terry Neiman, vice president of the Central Texas Homebuilders Association and its public information officer, said, "This development opened a lot of roads up there. Cove made a lot of good management decisions. This is one of the biggest subdivisions in Cove in five or six years. When developers go in there and do what's right, it helps us get along with the cities."
Cove Chamber of Commerce president Marty Smith said, "This really is a great example of cooperation between everyone involved. It's an example of doing things as inexpensively and quickly as possible, and it's something that will really help us."
Emmons pointed to Market Heights in Harker Heights and to Killeen's efforts to prepare for the proposed Texas A&M-Central Texas.
"Killeen is already building infrastructure in that area and planning to keep it attractive, safe and clean. Maybe nothing of that scope will be planned in Cove," he said, "but those are major examples of the need to work in tandem. If people don't, you wind up with patchwork-quilt kinds of arrangements that send costs out of sight or stall projects until they can't happen at all. If you plan together, you'll get what everybody needs."
He said that even now, his company and homebuilders Jerry Wright and D.R. Horton, which has become a major player in House Creek North, are cooperating in keeping the construction area clean.
"There are people who criticize all new development as destroying vegetation and the environment. It's true that there's disruption at first, but the people who live in the houses will take care of it. They plant grass and shrubs, and they'll plant trees where there weren't any before," he said.
"Nothing in this business can be done overnight. It takes careful planning, and it takes years. If you give it that and all work together, everyone will get what they need."
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.