Leaving Tuesday night’s Crothersville Town Council meeting, Matthew Conway didn’t get what he anticipated.
To establish a 12-home addition in the 600 block of East Walnut Street in Crothersville, the southern Indiana real estate developer hoped to have the town accept the sewer, which currently is privately owned.
After about 45 minutes of discussion between Conway, four members of the council and a few town residents, council President Lenvel “Butch” Robinson made a motion to accept the sewer. That motion, however, died when he didn’t receive a second.
Robinson said he was OK with adopting the sewer line because Mason Boicourt, the town’s wastewater superintendent, had tested it. He also knows the person who put in the sewer line and drains a few decades ago and felt those are OK, and he felt Conway would ensure water continues to drain the way it should.
Some of the other council members and residents, though, weren’t as confident about water properly draining.
“When is the last time you had a new house built in this area?” Conway asked. “I’m talking about doing an $800,000 development up here, and you all are pushing me away for some dirt?”
He was referring to bringing in dirt to raise up the area around the homes so water drains.
“I have investors that want to come up here and bring brand-new homes,” Conway said. “That school right up there, you know how many of those kids could walk to school (from the addition)?”
Rex Kovert, who lives just north of the proposed addition and owns 65 acres, said Conway can’t guarantee everyone who buys one of the homes would have kids attend Crothersville Community Schools.
“But I’m going to guarantee they pay taxes, and I’m going to guarantee it’s a brand-new freakin’ home here, and I’m going to guarantee you’re going to have $800,000 in revenue with it sold on this property,” Conway said.
“You know what? I don’t need this permission to come here (and build). I’ll take on that freakin’ water line and build those houses,” Conway said.
“I don’t know if you’ve got the temperament to do the job,” Kovert replied.
“I’m honestly going to still do it,” Conway said. “I really think that it’ll make it, and I’m going to do it. I was just hoping to get the sewer.”
Conway can move forward with the housing addition without the town’s acceptance of the sewer. He would just have to pay the $350 fee to tap into it and incur costs if any repairs need to be made in the future because of a sewer-related issue.
In November, Conway met with Robinson, Boicourt, Street Superintendent Chris Mains and local resident Scott Black, who would place the homes, at the proposed site of the addition.
A paved portion of East Walnut Street from Preston Street turns into a gravel road and currently contains four homes. Then there is acreage on both sides of the street to allow for development.
Conway said his plans involve purchasing 12 homes from Clayton Homes, where he worked for about seven years before getting back into real estate.
The brand-new manufactured homes would be move-in ready with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a block foundation, a graded yard, two decks and electric. They also would be Energy Star efficient.
A 28-by-48 or 1,400-square-foot home would cost around $85,000, while a 28-by-56 or 1,600-square-foot home would be about $92,000. He hopes to sell six in 2017 and six in 2018.
Councilman Chad Wilson asked Conway if he has developed other properties. Conway said he was the superintendent for a Louisville, Kentucky, company that developed patio homes and he has experience with land development, but this is his first time doing manufactured housing.
While the cost to place the homes is going to cost a little more money than he initially thought, Conway said he planned to move forward with the addition.
“I still think the risk is worth the reward,” Conway said.
Before work begins, Conway wanted the town to accept the street and sewer. That would involve the town paving the street and ensuring the sewer correctly flows.
When Boicourt ran water and dye through the sewer, it flowed to the correct place, and there were no problems. Robinson said residents connected to the sewer had not reported any issues.
Placing one home at a time, Conway said the land would be built up around it, and a ditch behind the home would be extended to ensure water goes where it’s supposed to and doesn’t affect other properties.
Kovert said he’s OK with the housing addition as long as it doesn’t result in water on his property. Robinson said that shouldn’t happen because concrete catch basins and ditches carry water out of the area.
But Kovert said more houses would result in more water.
“When that water is coming off of roofs and everything, it will come off faster than it will on just the bare ground,” he said.
Kovert said in the past 30 years, a couple of people have tried to develop the area of East Walnut Street, but they never moved forward because it’s too wet for homes.
In terms of paving the street, Conway said once all of the homes are placed, money could be allotted to the homeowners to take care of the road.
During the November meeting, Robinson had asked Conway about putting sidewalks in front of the homes. But Tuesday night, Conway said he didn’t think he could do it because of the added cost.
“My costs are just coming up more and more every time,” Conway said. “What I’m getting ready to do is going to be a luck of the draw come February putting two homes out there and seeing if they sell. Putting $60,000 into that area, it’s a lot of money to me and my investors.”
Ardell Mitchell, a town resident and former council member, said while he’s not against development and growth in the town, East Walnut Street hasn’t been developed because of how wet it is.
“You want to portray it as it’s a simple fix and easy to drain,” Mitchell said to Conway. “I understand your positivity and salesmanship, but the fact of the matter is it has sat that way for a long time, and you’re not the first developer to come through the doors of this building asking to develop it.”
Mitchell cautioned the council about taking ownership of the sewer or street without an engineer or some entity reviewing the area, but that comes at a cost. He said there are several tests that should be performed on a sewer.
“I think that should be a certified engineer’s sign-off that ‘Yes, it’s suitable for public use’ because now, we’re talking about it’s not just a private sewer, it’s public use,” Mitchell said.
He added the developer should pay for any certification costs related to the development, not the town or taxpayers.
Since Crothersville doesn’t have zoning, Conway said he would have to go through the state to obtain building permits and have the homes inspected to ensure they are properly placed.
“I just can’t feasibly say I’m responsible for this sewer because one sewer problem, if there ever was, which who knows if there could be, would destroy any investment or profit that I thought I was going to make,” Conway said.