I would like to address the opinions expressed by Columbia County Commissioner Diane Ford and Planning Director Jeff Browning in the April 13 Columbia County News-Times editorial, "Slam the door on more townhome parks."
Let's start with a little history of typical townhome development. A local building company began building them around 1987 in Augusta-Richmond County. In 1987-88 these homes were primarily built for the older resident (widow, widower) who, being left alone, didn't want or couldn't afford a 3,500 square foot home, much less the taxes or yard work. These townhomes were affordable alternatives to retirement communities or trailer parks. The base price in 1988 was $42,900. ...
These townhome developments all have a mandatory homeowners association which requires, on average, monthly dues of $25. A large portion of this money goes toward outdoor maintenance, leaving the homeowner the luxury of not having to perform yard work or landscaping. Additionally, each homeowner, at the time of purchase, signs and is thereafter bound by a strict set of covenants and restrictions which serve to keep the community clean and, among other things, the exterior of the units aesthetically pleasing.
...The average mobile home loses 12 percent of its value in the first three years. The average $175,000 home has appreciated 15-18 percent over the past 12 years. The average fee-simple townhome has appreciated more than 105 percent over the past 12 years.
The editorial cites the tax revenue base for these townhomes as compared to the average detached home price of $175,000. Now for some math: Zoning allows eight to 10 townhomes per acre. The current average price for a townhome in Columbia County is $80,000. This is $800,000 compared to $175,000 on an acre-to-acre comparison.
As far as overcrowding in Columbia County schools, please take all aspects of these townhomes into consideration. They are 1,100 square feet, two-bedroom, two-bathroom dwellings with little to no private yard space. Do these descriptions sound conducive to a family with school-age children? ...The average number of children in fee-simple townhomes is .004 per household. The average in the $175,000-250,000 home is 1.95 plus. Again, do the math: More houses per acre does not make the number of school-age children residing therein equal or higher.
"Builders and developers have found a niche with attached homes," Browning states quite rightly. These homes are the niche that today's home buyer needs and can afford. The rising cost of living and taxes are forcing this market to flourish.
... I feel that these townhomes are a boon to any county. ... If Columbia County doesn't want housing that is affordable to first-time home buyers, retired people or investors, there are plenty of townhomes being built in Richmond County, Aiken, Greenwood, Florence, Anderson, and Columbia and numerous other areas that welcome the growth and tax revenue these types of homes provide for the community.
Glenn S. Caron
(Glenn S. Caron is a local builder.)
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