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   SELECTING YOUR COMMUNITY
 
 
 
2011 - Volume 1 Issue 2
Casas Bonitas
New Home Construction
 
Article: Bob Skolnick
Photos: Bob Skolnick
 
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The building of a new custom home is done with the expectation of enjoyment by yourself and your family. Making the right choice of which community to reside in is a very material part of the ultimate enjoyment of your home. Giving thought and consideration to where you want to reside requires investigation well before you look for the person or company to build your new home.

    In developing this
article, I consulted with
Bob Pofahl, president of
Picacho Mountain in Las
Cruces, Justin Chapman,
senior vice president of
Hunt Development Group
in El Paso and with David
Steinborn of Sonoma
Ranch Partners in
Las Cruces.
A developer has purchased a large parcel of land and has developed a plan to convert that land into a community. Preparing the land for building requires the developer to make many decisions along the way. I recommend you take the time to look at the history of the developer and see what neighborhoods and communities the company has planned and developed in the past. Take a drive and view these existing communities, as they are the finished product that might be similar after several years to the new community you are considering.

Not all community developments are equal by design. As in most areas of life there is a direct correlation with amenities and benefits, and the cost to get them. In master-planned communities, the developer may create their design by establishing neighborhoods with different profiles, or create the entire community with the same profile. When I refer to profile I am addressing the use of the property for strictly single-family residences, or a mixture of single family, patio homes, estate home lots and possibly some commercial zoning for local retail. The early decisions by the developer are done with a vision of the physical community, and also an expectation of return on investment. A developer is making a significant up-front investment in purchasing and placing the infrastructure such as roads, sewer and utilities. Lot size determines the lot price and, as a collateral result, often the size and type of single-family residence or patio home is driven by lot size. This is a conscious decision by the developer providing a lot product intended for a specific homeowner and price point.

In developing a community the developer has to work with the local government with the jurisdiction over development of the land. These development costs are established most often with high visibility of public and building industry input. This assures you, the purchaser of the lot, that certain acceptable and minimum standards are met. Often the quality of the community is determined by the additional decisions that the developer makes above the minimum requirements. The covenants that are filed with the plat are a good indication of what the long-term community life will be. A developer, after determining the density and the lot size, should also master-plan with neighborhood parks and walking trails. It is important that you do not have to get into your automobile and drive to an area to recreate or simply enjoy the fresh air. A well-planned community will have street and lot orientation that will maximize views.

Many communities design to take advantage of the natural topography. In doing so they provide for water runoff during heavy rains to flow naturally through existing arroyos. Also, the covenants and the community layout should respect and minimize the development impact on native vegetation. Many choose to live in the high desert for the mountain views, but also for the native vegetation, which gives a desirable look to the community. If you are purchasing an estate size lot of an acre or more, then it is much easier to maintain the native vegetation, but even in higher density communities, native vegetation can be incorporated in a lesser way into the community plan along entry roads, along community boundaries and in arroyos that are part of the master drainage systems.

A well planned community will have utilities that are positioned underground. This may be mandated to the developer by the government body they are working with, but how this is done and the planning for growth in technological service should be a part of the development considerations. The placement of these utility and technology resources underground is a large investment typically born by the developer. The approach to lighting in a community is set by minimal standards by the governing body, but often the developer makes choices in the style and appearances of streetlights, keeping a balance between safety and night skies ordinances. The Niland Company of El Paso has worked with the City of El Paso in developing attractive neighborhood street lighting for residential communities.

Look at the developer’s safety plan. Do they have the minimum of fire hydrants? Are there provisions that make it easier for fire and police responders to have easy access and egress to the entire community? In the master plan, where will the nearest fire station be located? Even though this is not a developer decision, knowing this detail is just as important as knowing your proximity to schools and shopping.

Always secure a copy of the community’s covenants before making your lot decision. A well-drafted set of covenants spells out oversight procedures for the actual construction by builders. The developer will monitor and approve new home construction in the community. You may have a highly professional builder, but you only can affect your own lot. Adjacent lots are subject to the owners and their builders. Well-written covenants often define the type of front landscaping and the level of maintenance and care expected. Many community covenants prevent or discourage grass front lawns. Grass well maintained is attractive, but unattractive when not maintained.

Covenants address parking of vehicles by type and numbers for each residence. Covenants typically prohibit the parking of RVs in front of the home on the street or in the driveway for any protracted length of time. Covenants also address house colors and trim. You certainly do not want adjacent residences to have a visual impression well outside of the neighborhood norm. Visibility of roof mounted items such as air conditioning, satellite dishes and solar panels are addressed in a good set of covenants. Yes, your community covenants will have a tremendous impact on the long-term visual attractiveness of the community. Read them before you make your lot decision.

Determine how the community will be managed after the developer completes lot sales and turns the community over to a homeowner’s association or to a municipality. Homeowner associations typically require monthly fees from homeowners but do provide assurances of community appearance and adherence to covenants by the community residents. The most successful homeowner’s associations are those that hire a professional management company to oversee the association’s common area responsibilities and enforcement of covenants and codes. ///
 
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