Calera City Council holds public hearing on Dunsmore subdivision plans

Published 4:37 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

HELENA – After having its previous iteration withdrawn by developer John Reamer in September, the proposed development on Highway 70 previously titled Waterford PUD South and now known as the Dunsmore subdivision was the topic of a public hearing during a regularly scheduled Calera City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.

Chief among the discussion was the proposed approach by the Calera Planning Commission that the Council approve the ability for Reamer to construct new homes, but that construction be limited to 150 new homes until the Waterford development received its long promised secondary entrance. In all the new development calls for some 450 total new homes that are planned to be constructed.

The lack of the secondary entrance, and Reamer’s continued non-construction of the entrance was among the primary reasons for both the lack of public and council support in September.

Early in the public hearing, Calera Mayor Jon Graham commented that such an allowance is not out of the ordinary for developments.

“It’s typical that the county would let a developer that’s accessing the county road build 100 houses, for example,” Graham said. “Then they would be made to put the turn lanes, main road modifications, second entrances and stuff like that. So it gives us a starting point, but it also gives us a benchmark.”

However, public support again quickly turned against Reamer. Citizens brought up heavy traffic, which already exists in the area prior to the proposed development, ramifications to existing easements and properties and a loss of small-town atmosphere as reasons for their disapproval of the development.

Above all, the overwhelming concern was the lack of trust in Reamer and his past inability to produce the second entrance. Despite being integral to an agreement made on July 7, 2014 with the city, the second entrance to Waterford has not even begun construction and is currently without a bond.

“I’ve been here almost 15 years,” said Jennifer Flournoy, a Calera resident. “One of the main things that you all are voting for is to make sure that we have the infrastructure for us to get around in all these subdivisions. There is a clause for them to put the second entrance in. Why not make him put it in before he starts? We need that infrastructure before all of (the construction), or it is going to be chaos.”

Flournoy was not the only resident to cite their lack of trust that Reamer would produce the second entrance unless he was made to before being allowed to move forward.

“You need to do research on this particular developer, all of those things that are not in writing are going to come back on you all or whoever else is in office,” she said.

Others citing the agreement included Tray Oliver, representing Adams Homes, which is currently in litigation with Reamer.

“(The) agreement that is currently on the table would allow for 150 lots to be built,” Oliver said. “(The time it takes for) 150 lots and homes to be constructed is a significant period of time. You’re talking three or four years, potentially, maybe longer.”

Oliver also cited the long-standing public call for the second entrance and the impact its absence has had on traffic mobility and safety.

“What we are hoping for is that the committee and this council would consider making the second entrance go in so that the northern portion of the Waterford subdivision can be completed,” Oliver said. “(That) is what all of the Waterford HOA and many of its citizens have requested and similarly allows for the southern subdivision, which is now Dunsmore, to be completed and built out.”

Oliver also mentioned that the agreement proposed by the planning commission did not provide “bookends” or limitations to the proposal that could guarantee the secondary entrance would be built.

Reamer was steadfast in his position that without the capability to construct additional homes and subsequently sell the lots he would not have the finances required to bond and construct the entrance.

Despite this position, Councilmember Earnest Montgomery raised the point that the estimates for what it may cost to build the second Waterford entrance were relatively small in relation to the amounts set to be gained from the development and sale of more homes in Waterford and the proposed Dunsmore subdivisions. While another speaker likened the issue to the “beating of a dead horse.”

Councilmember Kay Turner was also opposed to the proposal that would allow Reamer to construct the additional homes prior to the entrance’s completion.

“You promised to have this entrance done in 2014 and it would have been cheaper for you to get it constructed in 2014,” Turner said. “We keep going back and forth with these excuses and we have an indefinite timeline. That’s a slippery slope for us. we don’t have a second entrance, and until we get a second entrance, this shouldn’t be approved, in my opinion.”

Graham and others made several vague and non-binding suggestions to Reamer that included the selling of lots in Waterford without the homes being constructed. However, no deals or official solutions were settled upon.

“It seems that you and your bank need to come back to an agreement that we can handle,” Graham said. “We’re not going to make the agreement for you.”

Members of the Council, including Cost and Turner, directed Reamer to take the conversation to his attorney and to work out a deal and plan to construct the second entrance before moving forward.  At the adjournment of the meeting, no agreement was in place or suggested in any detail.

At the meeting’s close, frustrations at the situation became apparent on the Council and after multiple comments and questions between the Council and Reamer, Graham ended the public hearing and Councilmember Cost called for the adjournment of the meeting, which was quickly seconded.

“I’m not interested in talking about Dunsmore,” Cost said. “I’m interested in talking about you coming back to us with a plan to get that second entrance started. We can stand here preaching at each other all night long, but I’m through with it until you bring it back. You know what to do.”