Residential development approaching 1,200. 2-year period highlights massive economic growth.
Published 12:20 am Friday, August 11, 2023
In the near year since the announcement of the $8.5 billion Golden Triangle Polymers project in Orange County, more than 1,200 residential, business and industrial development plans have been either approved or are pending.
But even observers and officials have to be in shock as project-related development figures from the Orange County Drainage District show just how much construction activity has been going on.
“We estimate the number of the new units that have been constructed, are under construction or are planned to be constructed as part of pending subdivisions under review to be approximately 1,200 new units,” said Douglas E. Manning, assistant general manager for the drainage district. “This does not include additional units added as part of RV parks, mobile home parks, duplexes, triplexes or larger.”
Those figures include all of 2022 until the present, he said.
Orange County Judge John Gothia previously said approximately 500 new houses are needed, although it was too early to tell if that was enough.
“We know we need a lot of houses,” Gothia said. “We just need to make sure that they are being built by the right codes and plans.”
But as Gothia and other officials have said, neither the county or area cities are in the business of developing residential or building properties.
That is where the drainage district comes into play.
All developers, whether inside or outside of an incorporated city’s limits, must submit drainage plans to the district for approval, Manning said.
“As you know, Hurricane Harvey and Tropical Storm Imelda, approximately two years apart (September 2017 and 2019, respectively) decimated a significant portion of Orange County and resulted in tremendous damage to the homes of residents of our county,” Manning said. “The homes of a substantial number of our residents were flooded in both events.
“Although these two storm events caused extreme rainfall that was undoubtedly epic and historical and certainly caused the residents of Orange County to have a heightened concern about future flooding.”
Recently, the district has drastically changed how it operates the maintenance and improvements to man-made and natural ditches and channels as well as its criteria for residential and commercial developers, Manning said.
While residential subdivisions either approved or awaiting approval make up just 10 percent of the recent 103 projects, officials and observers expect years of future growth.
The district broke down the 103 projects as follows:
Residential subdivisions approved, 6
Industrial developments approved, 1
Commercial developments approved, 33
Small developments approved, 31 (2022-23)
Residential subdivisions in progress, 4
Industrial developments in progress, 1
Commercial developments in progress, 21
Although the Golden Triangle Polymers was announced in late 2022, some residential developments were in the works years before.
“We have seen several new subdivisions that have been developed over the last few years, which is allowing for current and future growth for residential properties,” said Orange County Chief Appraiser Scott Overton. “With all the construction work in our area, including the work at Golden Triangle Polymers, we have seen several new RV parks being built as well.”
From a market perspective, Overton it is just too early to tell what the future residential impact from the GTPP will be.
“We look at the market each year to determine how values will be affected, so it’s hard to determine what the market will be like from year to year,” he said.
Growing pains vs. economic gains
Dr. Ray Perryman, president and CEO of The Perryman Group, said anytime a new project is developed — especially one in the billions of dollars — housing needs rank at the top of most needs.
“Housing needs will depend on a variety of factors,” said Perryman, who has 40 years experience in consulting on large-scale projects and working with governmental bodies. “One primary factor is the degree to which the local area can supply the needed workforce, both during construction and when the facility is operational.”
Perryman said he believes that the regional labor market already has a “significant proportion” of workers in the area.
“At the same time, additional well-paying jobs will certainly lead to demand for housing,” he said. “How all these factors come together with the existing housing supply will determine the extent to which new construction will be needed.”
A substantial increase in housing has economic ripple effects with hotels filling up, new ones being built, an increase in the property tax base, expansion of existing businesses and future increases in area school enrollments, although the latter is less likely to occur overnight, Perryman said.
“Communities are almost always growing or shrinking,” he said. “There will be consumer spending which will ripple through the economy. Even though a major project of this kind will doubtless present some challenges at times, the overall economic and fiscal benefits will clearly be substantial.”
— Written by Dan Bledsoe