ECB Publishing, Inc.
After a lengthy lull, the City of Monticello appears to be experiencing a mini boom of building activity, with the Crooked Creek Subdivision leading the way and finally beginning to live up to its promise after well more than a decade.
On Monday evening, Nov. 18, the Monticello Local Planning Agency (LPA) made short work of recommending for approval six applications, five of them for new houses, and four of the five in the Crooked Creek Subdivision.
What's more, another house is already under construction in the subdivision, and at least one more home construction application is in process, according to city officials.
To date, not counting the new applications, the subdivision holds a little more than a dozen houses – far short of the 74 houses that developer Riley Palmer promised when he proposed the project in 2005. But then, he couldn't exactly foresee the future.
First and foremost, it required a lengthy Comprehensive Plan amendment process to rezone the 85 acres just west of town. The change was to rezone the property from mixed-use suburban residential to low-density residential. That's because mixed-use suburban residential allowed four houses per acre, and Palmer's goal was one house per acre.
In March 2006, the Monticello City Council approved the Comp Plan amendment, and in May of the same year, it approved the subdivision's preliminary plat. But other obstacles yet remained, such as negotiating city water and sewer service to the subdivision.
As Palmer negotiated the various legal, procedural and development hurdles to final approval of the project in the ensuing months, he once presciently remarked at a council meeting that he felt as if a correlation existed between his level of risk-taking on the subdivision and the failing health of the general economy. It seemed to him, Palmer said, that the farther he stuck his neck out on the project, the more troublesome the economic signs.
Palmer, of course, was getting inklings of the impending Great Recession that hit about 2007 and essentially put a stop to almost all development. And so the subdivision came to a standstill and remained for years, complete with paved streets, lighting, sidewalks, fire hydrants and platted lots, but eerily absent of any houses or inhabitants.
The late City Attorney and Councilman Brian Hayes, who lived nearby, liked to call the subdivision Chernobyl, a dark joke referring the l986 nuclear power plant disaster in northern Ukraine that caused the evacuation of more than 100,000 people and left the area a wasteland.
Palmer eventually sold a part or the whole of the subdivision and a different entity has been promoting and developing ever since. It appears too that the effort is paying off, and the subdivision is finally on its way to becoming a viable neighborhood, if belatedly.