San Angelo Subdivision Developers Say the Fire Marshal is Harming Economic Progress
While the residential real estate market in San Angelo thrives, there is for the first time in many years a need for more than a street or two of new home development.
To meet the demand, several new housing developments have sprung up over the past couple of years.
Now, some land developers are saying that the City of San Angelo Fire Marshal, Ross Coleman, is overzealous, enforcing City code requiring that these new subdivisions have a second access road into them—some built out into former dry ranchland. That will drive up costs, and in some cases, shut down development, they contend.
Land developers complain that the wording of the Ordinance leaves too much up to interpretation by the Fire Marshal, forcing developers to endure unwanted extra capital outlays, driving up the cost of lots and housing in San Angelo.
The Ordinance, Section 503.1.2, which Coleman is enforcing, is derived from the International Fire Code, said Assistant Chief of Operations Scott Farris. The Chief wants to find a reasonable compromise. Tuesday, Mayor Dwain Morrison requested that the entire issue be placed on the Council agenda for discussion and possible action.
David Darnell and partner Michael Mees are developing two housing developments to the west of Southland off Twin Mountain Drive. One subdivision, for higher-end homes, is called Saddle Club. Phase I of that development features 47 lots. The other, for more modestly priced homes, is called Baker’s Ranch with 31 lots.
Both developments are affected by the Ordinance because they each have more than 30 lots.
In the past, Darnell said, the City would allow subdivisions sized over 30 lots to not initially have an extra access road if there were future plans and subdivision plats to show that the next additions will incorporate the additional access.
Adding the access road, that Darnell said was nothing more than a graded caliche road through adjoining property that he doesn’t own yet, will add an additional $3,000 to $4,000 to the price of each lot sold. Saddle Club lots, at $43,000 each and up, are already high enough, Darnell said. Baker’s Ranch is in the $31,000 to $34,000 range.
San Angelo Home Builders Assoc. Executive Director Lynsey Flage said that the way the Ordinance is being interpreted today has more ramifications than just added cost to the homebuyer. It can shut down additional home building in existing developments that do not physically have an economical way yet to incorporate the extra access roads. That’s what will happen to Butler Farms, she said.
Chief Farris countered that there is never any guarantee that the housing market will remain as strong as it is today, and the additional development and the promised second access road may never be built. He said to ensure the safety of the residents in those new developments he wants two ways in and out from the start.
Land developers, the Mayor, Councilman Rodney Fleming, city officials, and Chief Farris met last Thursday afternoon and attempted to hammer out a compromise. “Some said we’re getting close to a deal,” Chief Farris said. “But I am not too sure of that yet.”
On the City Council agenda Tuesday is “Discussion and consideration of possible options on matters related to amending Appendix D regarding Fire Apparatus access roads of the International Fire Code and Section 503.1.2 Additional Access, related Code sections, and any action in connection thereto).”
Update 2:56 p.m.
Assistant City Manager Michael Dane said: "I am in favor of bringing stakeholders together to work on solutions. We coordinated two meetings last week in an effort to develop a compromise that Council could approve. I believe we made progress."
In the original article, I attributed the San Angelo Fire Dept. side as coming from Chief Brian Dunn. That was my error. I was actually talking to Asst. Chief of Operations Scott Farris over the phone. The quote attribution to Dunn has been changed to Farris.
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