A proposed 72-home planned unit development could be built in Hilliard.
Hilliard Land Use Administrator Janis Fleet outlined the proposal at the town council meeting Jan. 7.
The Hilliard Planning and Zoning Board recommends approval of Whisper Ridge with nine conditions. The proposed PUD would be located on the east side of Kings Ferry Road south of Old Pineridge Road. The vacant property is roughly 26.09 acres, according to information from Fleet.
She listed seven of the nine conditions that addressed the P&Z board’s concerns and those submitted by area residents. The Record requested the other two recommendations, but they were not received by press time Tuesday.
The property owner is B.A.M.S. Properties, LLC of Callahan, which is managed by G&H Land and Timber Investments, LLC and Michael and Amanda Horton according to the LLC’s articles of organization filed in March 2019.
Before the PUD can be council-approved, landscape requirements must be met. An installation of a 6-foot fence along Kings Ferry and Old Pineridge roads is required. Also, the Kings Ferry Road entrance must be aligned so that headlights from vehicles exiting the development “shall not impact the existing residential structures,” according to the recommendations.
“All infrastructure (water, sewer, drainage, roads, etc.,) must be completed to the town’s standards and accepted” by town officials before any dwelling units are built. The developer must submit all copies of approved permits. Sidewalks must be installed on both sides of the development. And, the developer asked that three model homes be completed before certificates of occupancy are obtained.
Councilman Kenny Sims asked what would happen to the model homes if the development fails to prosper afterward.
“Hypothetically, they build three houses,” he said. “They go belly up. They can’t get (certificates of occupancy), what happens to those three houses?”
Fleet said that she recommends a development agreement that includes a bond, a line of credit or funding that town officials will receive to complete the infrastructure.
The first public hearing will be held Feb. 4. The council meeting begins at 7 p.m.
In an item related to development, the council voted unanimously to approve on first reading Ordinance No. 2021-01 to amend the town’s comprehensive plan. A public hearing will be held March 4.
The proposed Whisper Ridge PUD is currently zoned A-1 Agricultural under the town’s current Future Land Use Map. The property is proposed to change to medium density residential and will be included in the updated comprehensive plan along with other pending building projects.
“Once adopted, then all of our developments, it changes the zoning,” Fleet said. “It takes precedent over the zoning, so that’s why it’s important for you to make sure you feel comfortable with anything that’s on the plan.”
In another item, the council reappointed Dallis Hunter and Wendy Prather for new three-year terms on the P&Z board.
“I will say I am glad that they are considering wanting to continue to serve on the zoning board,” Councilwoman Callie Kay Bishop said. “For the future, I just wanted to recommend the zoning board to consider advertising just so the citizens are aware, and that they can have an opportunity to serve also if they have interest in applying.”
Beasley asked Fleet, “Has there been any other interest of anybody wanting to?”
“Not that I’m aware,” she replied.
Bishop reiterated the need for advertising to raise awareness of openings.
Before the meeting’s close, Town Attorney Christian Waugh alerted the council to a pending lawsuit.
“In late November, the Town of Hilliard was sued,” Waugh said.
“We were served with a copy of the complaint in December. And what the complaint is for is essentially a quiet title action by John Ryan Hern and Heather Hern. And what they’re claiming – is when you do a quiet title action, what you have to do is you have to sue every entity or person who might have an interest in the property to quiet the title in your name. And so, what the Herns are doing is, they are interested in acquiring a 30-foot-wide access strip that, in my legal opinion is town property.”
He said that the couple’s legal theory is that they “allegedly own property that surrounds it. And what they’re saying is that the only reason that 30-foot strip exists is because of a platting error.”
Waugh added, “I don’t believe that that’s true.”
He investigated the couple’s claim.
“I actually think that one of the pieces of property that they claim to own actually is town property,” Waugh said. “I don’t know if they’re aware of this. I think this is a problem for them. In other words, I think it may actually backfire on them. And I need an opportunity to talk to you, the town council. I need to seek your advice. I need to properly brief you on my legal analysis. In order to do that, I am requesting that a town council member move to have a shade session.”
During a shade session, an attorney can advise the town on litigation costs and discuss strategies to resolve the issue. Shade meetings are not open to the public.
Waugh said the town can “litigate it to the death,” which is expensive.
“And you need to make the determination whether or not that’s in the town’s interest, or possibly come up with a settlement strategy, which would be where maybe everyone can get everything they want. I do think that’s possible here. It’d be a lot cheaper and it’s possible that both the Herns’ and the town’s interest could be protected. But that’s something I’d like to talk with you outside of the public exposure.”
The shade session with the council, mayor and court reporter will be held following the council meeting Jan. 21.