MOUNT VERNON – A developer with Knox County roots is eyeing 72 acres on Mount Vernon's east end for a new housing development.
Schlabach Builders, a Millersburg-based company that got its start building homes in Apple Valley, is looking to develop three parcels of mostly wooded land off of Upper Gilchrist Road, half a mile north of U.S. Route 36.
The company is planning to build 111 single-family homes on the land, according to sales director Jeff Schlabach. They will likely range from $250,000 to $450,000, depending on the size and location of the lot. Ten acres will be set aside for a potential condominium development.
"We have preliminary acceptance on the offer we’ve made for the land," Schlabach said in an interview last Thursday. "Everything seems to be moving along well. We’re excited to have a project in Knox County, where we started out as builders."
The development, titled "Gilchrist Estates," will sit next to the "The Village of Colonial Woods" condominium complex. Visitors will be able to enter the neighborhood from Upper Gilchrist Road and travel along five different roads within the property, including two that intersect to form a cul-de-sac.
Schlabach said the company plans to conserve as many trees as possible during the construction process, making it a "wooded development." The development will likely be comparable to the Woodlake Trail neighborhood off of Yauger Road, he said, or the Struble Circle neighborhood in Fredericktown.
“You won’t see most of the development from the road," Schlabach said. "You’re going to see the entrance, go back and it’ll open up to a very nice development."
Schlabach Builders has signed purchase agreements for all three land parcels, according to city records. The company will pay $673,390 for the land, which is currently zoned Planned Neighborhood District.
The next step will be to receive approval from Knox Public Health on the proposed water/sewer layout for the development. The Municipal Planning Commission will then need to approve the company's predevelopment plan (which includes a proposed lot split) before construction can begin.
"It’s sounding very promising," Schlabach said. "Nothing’s set in stone, but the city has been working well with us on getting it approved."
The first phase of the construction process will involve building the road that will lead to the rest of the neighborhood. Electric, water and sewer services will also need to be installed. Then the first houses will be built near the front of the development.
“Our plan would be to put in the first phase, which will get us back there," Schlabach said. "And once that starts filling up, we’ll get to the back and do it in phases.”
Schlabach Builders will act as the developer and builder in this project. Once the neighborhood's lots are ready for construction, the company will begin fielding calls from potential customers. Then it will build the homes as well.
"We are a smaller builder. National builders will typically go in and develop lots and sell them. Generally, we might do a little bit of that ... but our goal is still to pre-sell most of the homes, and that allows us to keep that custom feel, with each home picked out by the buyer ..." Schlabach said.
"Most will be what we’d consider custom homes – you choose the lot, the type of house, and we come in and build it for you.”
Schlabach said the company would like to begin developing the property this year, although there are still several regulatory hurdles to clear. The company is also aiming to strike affordable deals on utility installation and building materials, so that customers can enjoy lower lot prices.
"I think we’re optimistic there may be a chance of us getting started by the end of the year. It may or may not happen. More realistically we’re going to be seeing more happen in the spring of 2022 ..." Schlabach said. "I think the next month or so is going to tell us a lot. It’s still early.”
Schlabach Builders has expanded its geographic footprint since it began building homes in Apple Valley decades ago. The company now develops properties throughout Central Ohio, with projects in Licking, Delaware and Muskingum counties.
But Schlabach said the company still considers Knox County home base.
“What we always tell people is that if we were to draw a radius around the homes where we build, Knox County would be in the center. Knox County has been one of our top counties to build in ..." Schlabach said. "Knox County is still where the bulk of our work is."
This new project feels personal to the company, Schlabach said. Given Knox County's housing shortage, he believes the development will be mutually beneficial.
"We saw this as an opportunity to give back to the community ..." Schlabach said. "Right now there is a major shortage of building sites, so it’s an advantage to the community and to us because we’ll have lots to offer.”