Owners of undeveloped lots in Heritage Farms Subdivision on South Highway N say they still do not have power that would enable them to build houses on their lots.
The subdivision, approved in 2004, was platted for 37 homes. There are 19 lots that remain to be developed.
Lawless Homes, the original developer, abandoned the project and Paramount Properties LLC became the successor developer. But by 2009, Paramount also abandoned the development and was in default of its letter of credit guaranteeing completion of the subdivision improvements.
Three local builders bought a total of 11 lots in the incomplete subdivision, planning to build homes for sale there.
Mike Gallagher, Ray Gullet and Brandon Hofstetter say they each bought undeveloped lots and started building homes in the subdivision, but could not build on some of the lots because there are no streets or utilities.
In the fall of 2011, the builders began to petition aldermen to put in the streets to the undeveloped lots so they could build homes. The request for streets included bringing electricity to the undeveloped home sites, according to the builders.
Using the developer’s letter of credit, the city built streets to the lots, but did not install conduit for electricity.
“The normal way subdivisions are built is to put in the utilities before the concrete streets are poured,” Gallagher said.
The city said it could not put the conduit in when the street was poured because it was not at the site. Conduit and other materials for the power had been on the site when the first section of streets was built but after home-building activities ceased Ameren removed the materials.
Following a dispute between Ameren and the city over who should install the conduit for the lines in the utility easement, Ameren agreed to return the materials, but the parties did not agree on who should install the lines.
In March of this year, City Attorney Dan Vogel said he was trying to get Ameren to do what it was supposed to do and deliver power to the building sites.
Eventually, the electric utility agreed to install the infrastructure and deliver electricity to each lot, but there was no action on the promise and the three builders said they continue to wait for power.
“You can’t build houses without electric power,” Gallagher said.
The stand-off between the city and the utility company is costly for the builders who do not own their lots free and clear and are faced with paying interest on the lots.
“This cost me $7,000 a year in interest and I guess I’ll keep paying until I go broke,” Hofstetter said.
City Administrator Harold Selby told The Missourian he had not been aware of the delay.
“I did not know they were still having a problem,” Selby said. “We talked today with Ameren and believe there is a communication problem within Ameren. We have a commitment from Ameren’s attorney that they will run the wire and conduit. The local workers say they won’t and we have sent over to the local workers what the corporate attorney agreed to. We’re waiting now for their response.”