By Sarah Chacko
Killeen Daily Herald
NOLANVILLE As frames for the first houses in the Bella Charca subdivision begin to go up, hopes for what the upscale housing development might bring to the city are high.
Although only Section One of the project has been platted, Bella Charca developer John Blankenship said that with four more sections in the making, the total build-out will be close to 600 homes.
Blankenship, president of Bare Land Development Corporation, said the unique quality of the homes and the neighborhood developing around them put these houses in the $200,000 to $400,000 range.
Nolanville Mayor Mike Carter said the average value of homes in Nolanville now is around $60,000 and about 60 percent of the residences are mobile homes.
The new neighborhood will up the average home price along with the population.
"Eventually this place will have more people than the city," Blankenship said.
That is something officials of the 2,000-person town are looking forward to.
Nolanville has seen a small but significant increase in its property tax revenue over the past few years. According to the Bell County Tax Appraisal District's records, from 2000 to 2004 the assessed value of property in Nolanville has increased nearly 18 percent and the city's tax revenue has increased 68 percent.
After Section One builds out with nearly 120 lots, the city can expect more than $170,000 in additional revenue, which will match what the city budgeted in tax revenue this year.
Mayor Mike Carter said he hopes that more service industries will follow the community Bella Charca will bring.
"I think anytime you expand by that much and with that type of housing, you change the dynamics of a city," Carter said. "People are what bring business."
Other cities in Texas can understand what Nolanville is anticipating.
The city of Frisco has experienced enormous growth in the last decade. Considered one of the fastest growing cities in Texas by the North Texas Council of Governments, Frisco went from a population of about 6,100 people in 1990 to nearly 65,000 this year.
Frisco Assistant City Manager Jason Gray said part of the growth was the city's location and available transportation to neighboring business centers. But the visionary planning and attitude of the residents also contributed.
"The city tried to embrace growth rather than fight it," Gray said. "Everybody here in Frisco has the idea that growth is happening and growth is good."
Gray recalls hearing about one of Frisco's first housing developments, with homes averaging $600,000 or more, that brought in nearly 2,000 new residents.
He applauds the residents who were there who really made an effort to make ties with the older part of Frisco instead of separating from it.
As for economic development, Gray said Frisco didn't see significant business increases until 2000 when a mall was built in the city.
"Now people had a reason to come to Frisco from outside of Frisco," Gray said.
After that, retail in Frisco grew as rapidly as its size. Gray estimates that between 1999 and 2000, more than 100 restaurants opened. While Frisco may be a far cry from Nolanville, Gray said it's all relative.
"It's just as major a deal for them as it is for us," he said.
Builders can tell it's already a big deal for Nolanville, too.
All of the 50 lots currently developed for building have already been sold. Builders who have started working on the lots say the extra effort put into Bella Charca really makes the difference.
Builder Dustin Dewald said he doesn't consider Bella Charca necessarily as a rural subdivision because it is located close to the conveniences of town.
"The most important thing to me was the thought that the developer put into the identity and common area to make the neighborhood look so good," Dewald said.
Unlike developments concerned with utilizing every square inch of already small lots, Bella Charca homes are focused on the green space that surrounds them.
"It would be impossible to do this type of full-blown aesthetics here and put these houses in a lower price range," Blankenship said. "And we're leaving money on the table. But you have to ask yourself, 'What legacy do you want to leave behind?'"
Along with the spring-fed pond entrance at Bella Charca, white limestone rock drainways and planned parks within the community, the estimated 300-acre development will offer easy access to major roadways and schools.
"We're not building a neighborhood," Blankenship said. "We're building a community. A community has closeness ... a neighborhood is just a place to live."
B&W Homes owner Sam Berndt said that in addition to the city's lower taxes, the subdivision's upscale atmosphere attracts people to the area.
"There's nothing around here like that," Berndt said. "Builders feel real energized for this project."
With three houses sold already, Berndt said Bella Charca shows a lot of potential for the economic development of Nolanville.
City Planner Darryl Holmes said that along with the 370 lots being built in Nolan Ridge, the city's growth has raised interest from outside businesses.
"We have a great deal of optimism," Holmes said.
With the rise in housing development and the revenue brought by it, the city will be able to help provide better infrastructure for the rest of the city and keep taxes low, Holmes said.
Though it may mean a lot of work for the new faces of Nolanville, Holmes said the city is prepared for change.
"Government evolves as the community evolves," he said. "And we're just trying to be the best rural community we can be."
Contact Sarah Chacko at firstname.lastname@example.org