Sherman approves improvement district for Bel Air development

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Site plans show the proposed layout of Bel Air Village. The city of Sherman has approved a Public Improvement District for the development that will help developers offset the cost of some of the site's infrastructure and amenities.

Developers with Bel Air Village now have a new tool to help finance amenities and improvements in the the nearly 290-acre proposed development. Sherman City Council formally approved the creation of a Public Improvement District over the Bel Air site, which will put responsibility on those living near these amenities to finance them.

The creation of the district comes as developers for the mixed-use development quickly are approaching ground breaking for the first phases of the project, which has been a years-long priority and dream for the city.

"In general the public improvement district provides opportunities for developers to recoup some of their costs for infrastructure like roads, water, sewer and drainage, etcetera," City Manager Robby Hefton said.

The Public Improvement District allows developers to assess a one-time free one individuals who purchase homes or other properties in the development as a way of offsetting the cost to the developer itself. In the case of Bel Air, situated at U.S. Highway 75 and FM1417, city officials previously said the fee would be used to finance a proposed lagoon-style public water feature that is expected to be included in a future phase of the development.

The city started work on drafting the district in October whn it contracted with MuniCap Inc. to conduct studies for the agreement. At the time, city officials said this was a first for the city and potentially a change in how it approaches larger developments.

"This is absolutely uncharted territory for the city of Sherman," Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said. "Public improvement districts weren't even on our radar two years ago and now we are ready to take the first steps into creating our first district."

Strauch said the fee would only be assessed to initial buyer, unless it was not fully paid off. In this case, the new buyer would foot the remaining portion of the bill. Strauch noted that various financing options will likely be available, including a flat payment or including the fee into the initial loan.

Hefton said the cost of the fee has yet to be determined, but said it will likely be based on the size and value of each lot.

Strauch noted that the fees may not be attractive to some prospective homebuyers, noting the increased cost. However, he said that the ability to live close to these types of amenity may have an appeal to some.

"Any time you are trying to balance paying off some sort of amenity with the people really close to the amenity footing the bill, it is going to be someone what of a dance to figure out what that right number is," Strauch said.

"How much is that worth to somebody? How much is being able to go to a five- to seven-acre swimming pool any time they want for free? For some people that is going to be worth a lot," he added. "For some others, it might not be."