County commissioners hold housing market roundtable

The Moore County Board of Commissioners held a special meeting May 24 at the Senior Enrichment Center to discuss the housing market, infrastructure, permit processes and system development fees.

Moore County Manager, Wayne Vest, said it was the first in a series of meetings to start the conversation.

Travis Greene is President of the Moore County Home Builder’s Association, and he and his brother, Brad Greene, own Legacy Homes Construction. Travis Greene listed several concerns.

*Supply shortages and shipping delays

*Labor shortage

*Drastically behind in market demand

*New construction costs are at an all-time high

“And if prices do drop, everyone who bought houses this past year will be upside down, and we’ll be in a housing recession,” said Travis Greene. “We don’t know what an affordable home is anymore. We don’t have options other than complexes.” He said new-construction homes are now starting at 180 per square foot, and a 2,000 square foot home is $360,000.

Jacob Sutherland is president of the Mid Carolina Association of Realtors. He shared statistics that showed the county needs more homes:

*In 2019, 2,186 homes sold, and 458 were new and 1,728 were resales

*In 2020, 2,960 homes sold, and 575 were new, and 2,115 were resales

*In 2021, 2,610 homes sold, and 539 were new, and 2,071 were resales

*As of May 2022, 848 homes sold, and 179 were new, and 669 were resales

“Currently in Moore County, there are 154 homes for sale on the multiple listing service,” Sutherland said. “Of those, 60 are new construction and 94 are resale homes. Prior to the housing market heating up, we maintained a balanced market between one thousand to twelve hundred homes for sale. Today’s inventory is just 12.8% of the needed inventory.” 

The process for building begins with permits. The timeline for attaining permits was hindered by the loss of two 30-year employees, and applicants do not have on-site experience. Retirees have been hired on a part-time basis, and the permit process is making progress on the backlog.

“We made agreements with Richmond, Hoke, and Lee County,” Interim Health Director Matt Garner said about acquiring help. “And we added an environmental tech position to assist them. Our goal is a two-week processing time.”

Chief Building Inspector Chuck Hill works with four other inspectors in seven of the eleven municipalities. Aberdeen, Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Pinebluff have their own inspectors.

To expedite permits, a new pathway is open. Soil scientist Sloan Griffin said developers may hire independent soil scientists and engineers.

Garner said soils play a role in timing. One problem is the soil maps were made in the 1970s on paper with markers and are not completely accurate. He shared an example lot in West End on the map, which showed Candor soil series, a good, sandy soil, but nearby, the lot had clay, and the owners had to repair the septic system.

In contrast, Garner looked at a lot on the Northeast end of Moore County that had Triassic-based soil, which is variable, with low activity. The septic needed 800 feet of drainage space whereas the other lot with Candor series soil only needed 150 feet.

In the Vass and Cameron area, a septic system with clay failed after three years. They helped the property owner create a conservative-cost repair with a sand-line trench.

The problem with developments in areas with low-active soil is that contaminated groundwater leaves property lines.

Assuring environment concerns are properly addressed takes a team of soil scientists, planning directors, and engineers, and that is why the permit system is not instant.

commissioners hold housing market roundtable

 Moore County Public Works Director, Randy Gould, discusses the system development fee at the Moore County Commissioners meeting on May 24

Public Works Director, Randy Gould, discussed the system development fee. The fee is determined by jurisdiction analysis to determine the rate, and it was implemented in 2017 by state law. It must be updated every five years, and the fee schedule is due to be evaluated again in July.

The main issue with maintaining the public works, the water and sewer, is the same for construction — supplies.

“We have eleven brass meter valves left to make taps,” Gould said about searching for materials and said they were also low on PVC pipe.

Professional Planner, Bobby Sills, said the water rates were still lower than Southern Pines’. The system development fee was $1,300 and will increase over a two-year period to $1,573.

Moore County resident John Zumwalt said the fees were set by management. He said a lot of people cannot afford to pay rent somewhere while they wait for permits.

Vest said the system development fees are included in the budget, which is open to the public. The fee was required to be higher than it was.

“We’re barely breaking even,” Vest said.

A Carthage resident asked who will pay for widening roads.

“State roads are taxed anyway through gas taxes and such. We encourage growth and guide growth and try not to burden areas but have in certain places,” said Moore County Planning & Transportation Director, Debra Ensminger.

A West End resident said there was farmland on N.C. Highway 73 with developments going up, and she lived near there with well water and could not afford to hook up to county water.

“We’ll have two hundred on one side, and two-hundred and fifty on the other. We have trouble getting kids to school. It takes me an hour to get to Pinecrest and back, and I’m only five minutes from the school,” the West End resident said. “Y’all directed the traffic out of Pinehurst and brought it out to us. And when you build all around us, we can’t afford to live there. Y’all are pushing us out.”

Moore County Commissioner, Nick Picerno, said they want to bring the community together and believes they should “love neighbors as thyself.”

Among groups in attendance were Habitat for Humanity, Partners in Progress, elected officials, school board members, the Mid Carolina Association of Realtors, developers, and the Moore County Home Builders Association.

County commissioners held housing market roundtable

A crowd of approximately one-hundred and fifty people attends a Moore County Commissioners meeting on May 24.

Feature photo Moore County Planning Director Debra Ensminger explains the development areas on the map to citizens at the May 24 board meeting.

~Article and photos by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].

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