Beyond Expectations: Pinehills Exceeds All Estimates

November 09, 2009     In The Media

When The Pinehills development was first permitted, officials from Pinehills LLC anticipated the average selling price of a home there at full build out would be $275,000. The average price in 2009 is $540,000. Three new homebuilders are now continuing what started in June 2001 with the sale of the first Pinehills home. When Town Meeting approved the zoning for the property, known as the OSMUD (for Open Space Mixed Use Development), the development was allowed to build just less than 3,000. Utilizing the allowance to increase that number, a total of 3,052 homes are now allowed. For every 1 acre purchased, one home can be built.

Pinehills President John Judge said the town took a risk on an unknown (Pinehills LLC) when the innovative OSMUD zoning was created. It’s a partnership, he explained. “We felt an obligation to try to deliver on our end,” he said. “Together, I think we have achieved something we’re both really proud of.”

Judge recently sat down with the Old Colony Memorial to talk about the progress of the development. More than 1,200 homes have now been constructed, plus an additional 101 apartment-style homes on the Village Green. The recent closing on number 1,200 also marks the beginning of construction on what Judge describes as a whole new family of cottage-style homes.
“We’re excited to hit that benchmark,” he said.

A new builder, the Barefoot Cottage Company, led by Bill Wennerberg, a landscaper and Plymouth Planning Board member (who does not vote on matters related to The Pinehills), is one of three builders currently doing construction at The Pinehills. The other builders are the MacKenzie Brothers Corp. and Whitman Homes.

Judge said many companies would love to build at The Pinehills, but the chosen few have demonstrated they can add value of the development.
“We generally ask the builder to describe what they think they could bring to the table,” he said.

Management will do its due diligence by visiting completed developments and developments in progress, Judge said, and it’s amazing what these site visits reveal.
The Pinehills is comprised of 23 neighborhoods – soon to rise to 25. Two of the neighborhoods are age-restricted, with at least one of the occupants required to be at least 55 years old. The Pinehills offers a wide range of housing types, from condominium-style homes to single-family homes to custom-style homes, as well as apartments.

The prices range from $300,000 to $3 million. There are choices within each type in each price range, Judge said. Choice, he added, is good.

Given its size and its continued growth, Judge can’t say for certain when The Pinehills will reach full build out. “None of us have a crystal ball on the economy,” he said. “The length of time it will take to meet build out is a function of the economy.”

Judge said he thinks The Pinehills has exceeded expectations, whether it’s the net tax revenue it has generated or the national awards for excellence it has received. The anticipated net tax income to the town at full build out was originally estimated at $6.4 million. And The Pinehills has already exceeded $7 million in tax revenue.

“I think, by any measurement, we have exceeded what anybody could have hoped in terms of overall value and what has been accomplished,” he said.
A fiscal impact study prepared by Connery Associates and released to the public in September 2008 provides residents and local officials with an understanding of the fiscal implications and economic benefits of The Pinehills looking forward.

Planning and Development Director Lee Hartmann said The Pinehills has been a great neighbor and a great developer. Even in a down economy, it has continued to grow.
Of the 97 building permits issued as of the end of October this year, 45, or almost half, were granted to The Pinehills. In 2008, 86 building permits were issued for development at The Pinehills. In 2007, 79 permits were issued.

“They are one of the top economic generators in the country,” Hartmann said. “It’s been a great addition to the community with minimal impact to town services.”

For every 10 cents the town spends, The Pinehills returns 90 cents. As stated in the Connery report, “to provide municipal services to The Pinehills, it costs the town of Plymouth 10 cents from every $1 of revenue generated by The Pinehills.” While presenting his findings, Hartmann said John Connery reported that he hadn’t witnessed that level of return in his career.

“In the 10 years Connery Associates has prepared fiscal studies for both public and private interests Pinehills clearly stands out as the single most fiscally favorable mixed-use development from a cost to revenue ratio perspective and in terms of actual net dollars returned to the community on an annual basis,” the report states.

The impact on schools is minimal. At last count, with new figures expected soon, just 19 school-aged children live in The Pinehills, out of a total of about 2,500 people. The average age is around 50 and most residents are empty nesters.

It’s also an award-winning community. The National Association of Home Builders presented The Pinehills with awards for “Best Smart Growth Community” and “Best Master-planned Community.” Walking and nature trails connect its neighborhoods to The Stonebridge Club and The Village Green, which includes 1.3 million square feet of retail and commercial space (also written into the OSMUD zoning). The Pinehills also boasts two championship daily-fee golf courses, one by Rees Jones and another by Nicklaus Design, and the development also pays for the maintenance of its 25 miles of private roads and its landscaping.

Company officials are excited about new opportunities to publicize The Pinehills name. One of the most recent is HGTV’s decision to feature a home at The Pinehills as its 2010 Green Home. Judge said HDTV could have chosen any home in any development in the country, but picked The Pinehills in Plymouth. Efforts by The Pinehills to support the “green” concept starts with zoning, Judge said. Seventy percent must be reserved as open space, leaving just 30 percent to be developed. Walking trails essentially unite the entire campus.

During site planning, one area of focus was energy efficiency. A movie studio next door was certainly never anticipated, Judge said, but it will add value to The Pinehills. Judge remains excited about the possibilities for the future. “We believe we offer a unique lifestyle here at The Pinehills,” he said.

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