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2009-01-01

Commissioners give Cielo Rio 4th extension

By Judith Pannebaker

Bandera County Commissioners begrudgingly approved developer Don L. Apostolo’s request for an unprecedented fourth extension on a letter of credit necessary for completing roads in his upscale subdivision. Everyone involved hoped last month’s extension would prove the charm for the developer of Cielo Rio Ranch.

Commissioners’ Thursday, Dec. 11, decision on extending the $438,376 letter of credit would enable Apostolo to complete roads in Phase 2 of the subdivision on Highway 16 South. However, Apostolo’s quartet of requests for an extension virtually assured that commissioners put him through a wringer before eventually granting his appeal.

According to commissioners, however, granting the request seemed the lesser of a trio of evils. Alternatives included requiring the developer to adjust the letter of credit to current prices or having county crews complete the project, drawing on the letter of credit.

According to County Engineer Ray Rendon, since the San Angelo Banking Center issued the original letter of credit in 2006, the court had given Apostolo extensions in December 2007 and twice last year.

According to Apostolo, since another of his subdivisions, Hills of Bandera, was completed in July, he can now give Cielo Rio his undivided attention. Hills of Bandera Ranch is located off FM 1077 next to Hill Country State Natural Area in Precinct 4.

Last June, Cielo Rio residents had complained to the court that this second development had siphoned funds and taken work crews away from completing their development.

One disgruntled homeowner decried living on a “dirt road” after building his house; another expressed irritation because previously promised “lakes” had failed to materialize.

At that time, Evans told the water-loving resident the court had no control over lakes promised to homeowners in a private subdivision.

In turn, Apostolo assured the court last month that the man was no longer “living on a dirt road.” In addition, Apostolo assured commissioners he had no plans to begin another development before completing roadwork in Cielo Rio.

According to Apostolo, a four-inch base and culverts had been installed on the previously unpaved roads in Cielo Rio. “All that remains to be done is add more base and seal and prime coat less than two miles,” he explained. He predicted the roads would be completed by April or May at the latest.

Apostolo’s engineer, Alan Hoover of Boerne’s Matkin-Hoover Engineering Inc. made a guarantee to the court the nearly $440,000 letter of credit would be sufficient to complete the work. He estimated remaining costs to be approximately $210,000.

Rendon noted two crews were currently working on the roads in the tony subdivision.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King asked about the cause of the extensive delays. Blaming a declining economy, Apostolo said, “Developments are based on sales. In the last year and a half, we’ve had reduced home sales so we were unable to do what we wanted.”

According to Apostolo, a restructured business plan gave him a green light to complete Phase 2 of Cielo Rio. Now, borrowed money, rather than revenue generated from lot sales, will be used to complete the project. Apostolo also said he has no plans to initiate Phase 3 of Cielo Rio at this time.

County Judge Richard Evans castigated Apostolo for beginning another subdivision - the Hills of Bandera Ranch - before completing Cielo Rio. “People who came here raising Cain (last summer) made us look inept. I hope you complete those roads and don’t get in this situation again,” Evans said. “Surely this has to be the last go round. We have to make sure we’re doing our jobs.”

He also decried the fact that the county did not have the authority to ensure roads were completed within subdivisions prior to lots being sold.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Richard Keese added, “We’ve been told this story three times before. We don’t want to set a precedent and drag this thing out anymore.”

Referencing a faltering economy, Apostolo reiterated, “If the economy hadn’t gone south in the last two years, we wouldn’t be in this problem.”

Apostolo and Hoover promised the court to complete the road project by May - barring rain, of course. According to the court, however, precipitation would render all bets null and void.
“If we get a good rain, we won’t have a problem giving you extra time,” Keese said.