|Trinity Standard - Local News
Stories Added - May 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company
County considers subdivision lawsuit
Trinity Standard -
GROVETON – Charging the developer may be in violation of county regulations, Trinity County Commissioners on Monday agreed to “investigate” their options regarding the Twin Oaks subdivision. Located off Pinecrest Road just south of Trinity, the subdivision is being developed by Ted Garrison of Trinity. During their meeting, commissioners voiced anger over “lies” they believe Garrison presented when he applied for a plat from the county last year. A plat -- a detailed map showing property lines, roads and utility easements -- must be approved by the county before a developer can legally sell lots. During Monday’s meeting, Arlene Matthews appeared to ask for help in obtaining water to a Twin Oaks lot she purchased in December. She told commissioners that while the water lines have been laid throughout the development, Trinity Rural Water Supply Corporation (TRWSC) has declined to provide water until Garrison pays about $20,000 in fees stipulated in a contract. That contract, along with other documents, was presented to commissioners last year as proof that Twin Oaks residents would have access to water, sewer and electrical services. At that time Garrison and Joe Ball, former TRWSC manager, told commissioners the water contract had been signed and water would be available to each Twin Oaks lot. The contract in question called for the developer to pay meter fees of $875 per lot up front and for those who purchase the lots to pay $516 when they actually connected to the water system. However, after commissioners approved the plat, the contract was never executed because, according to Matthews, Garrison failed to pay the required meter fees. She told commissioners that without water, she cannot use the property and is now forced to make payments on both her Twin Oaks land and on her current rented residence. Matthews told commissioners when she purchased the lot in December, she was assured by Garrison the water would be available in a week or two but repeated requests since have failed to produce results. “He told me that I was the only one out there that wanted water and asked if I expected him to pay $20,000 just so I could have it,” she said. Matthews added she has since learned other buyers also wanted the water but when it failed to appear, they were in strong enough financial positions to find other places to live. She noted she is a retired nurse living on disability payments and cannot afford to just walk away from the Twin Oaks lot after having invested much of her savings. “I think that is what he wants. He wants us to default on the land so he can resell it,” she said. “Can we subpoena him (Garrison) and make him come back in here,” Pct. 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham asked. “I’d like to get him up here because when he was here before he just lied to us. I’d like to get him up here and let him lie to us again,” Worsham said. Trinity County Attorney Joe Bell said commissioners have investigative authority and can not only issue subpoenas requiring witnesses to appear, they can place then under oath to testify under pain of perjury. County Judge Mark Evans agreed the lack of water at Twin Oaks was a violation of county regulations and said action was needed. He asked Bell to investigate all of the county’s options and said he would convene a special meeting of commissioners later this month decide what to do. Bell told commissioners that one step the county could take would be to seek a permanent injunction in district court that would prohibit the sale of land in the development. He added that Matthews and others who are purchasing Twin Oaks lots also have the option of filing criminal complaints against the developer in the Justice of the Peace courts. When contacted Tuesday morning, Garrison said he is working to have the water connected and expects it will be flowing into Twin Oaks in the near future. “My lawyer is talking to Trinity Rural Water’s lawyer trying to work out the details,” Garrison said. Part of the problem involves both the $20,000 “up front” payment as well as an $8,000 per year fee TRWSC is requiring to flush out the subdivision lines. Garrison said the TRWSC is requiring him to pay the $8,000 each year until 80 percent of the lots have water connections. “I’ve developed two other subdivisions in and around Trinity and neither of them have yet to reach an 80 percent connection rate,” he said. The first development, Robb Hill, is located partially inside the City of Trinity and was begun in 1994. The other, Colony Park, was started in 1998 north of Trinity. He noted that in all of his subdivisions, the lots range in size from five to 10 acres. “We have people in Houston who buy property for when they retire and we have people buying more than one lot who will only ever have one connection. I could be struck, or rather, my children could be stuck having to pay the $8,000 fee for the next 20 or more years,” he said. That is one of the points that the attorneys are trying to iron out, he said. Another is what happens to the $20,000 up front meter fees Garrison is required to pay TRWSC. The developer said TRWSC officials told him he would eventually get that money back as the residents of the subdivision connect to the system. “However, that wasn’t in writing and I want to have that clarified,” he said. “All I can ask is that nobody panic. This will be worked out and water will be available in the subdivision,” he said. Garrison noted that these problems did not occur during his development of Robb Hill or Colony Park because these requirements were not in place when they were built. “I was about a year into putting together Twin Oaks when the county came up with new subdivision regulations. Then I got hit with the up-front fees from Trinity Rural Water and the $8,000 a year flushing fee. “I am trying to conform to county’s new rules and my attorney is trying to work out the situation with Trinity Rural Water,” he said.