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Property buyers snatching up Lakeland lots

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Lakeland developer Gates Walcott (left) and Gene Stock, a business partner, stand in front of a map outlining the Lakeland Ranch subdivision. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Lakeland developer Gates Walcott (left) and Gene Stock, a business partner, stand in front of a map outlining the Lakeland Ranch subdivision. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB

By Chris Edwards
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HILLISTER – Lakeland Ranch property is already selling swiftly, with 66 of its first 94 lots sold, as of Sunday.

The subdivision, which will occupy the land that was Timberline Ranch for many years, represents “a step toward economic development in Tyler County,” said Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Blacksher.

Blacksher, whose precinct is where Lakeland is situated, is involved with the project in every step of the way as an inspector. 

The development of a subdivision, as well as future subdivisions, was something that Blacksher said that Tyler County Commissioners Court saw coming and began last year to adopt regulations.

The Lakeland developers saw an opportunity when the ranch, located near Hillister, in the south end of the county, became available. It was the home of iconic East Texas attorney

 Walter Umphrey, who died last September.

Gates Walcott, one of the developers with Lakeland, said that in constructing the community, its famous former owner will be, in essence, memorialized. Umphrey’s home will stay, and eventually be put on the market, and the lodge building, which was used to entertain guests and visiting dignitaries, will serve as a sort of community center.

“We’re not cutting any corners with this project,” Walcott said. Walcott said he is experienced in the process of taking ranches and subdividing them into residential communities.

Lakeland and its owner Clayton Signor, are offering prospective buyers lots ranging from half an acre to 11 acres, and marketing the subdivision as a quality, rural retreat from city life. They first released properties for sale to the public in December and used the appeal of “wide open spaces” and the proximity to Houston and the Woodlands as marketing tools.

The first section of the development process contains the 94 tracts of land, but according to Blacksher, the developers are anticipating approximately 620 total tracts that will eventually comprise the entire subdivision. The developers are planning to add several more sections in the coming months.

The complete plat for the subdivision was approved in late January by the commissioners, and an engineer, hired by the county, has worked with the Lakeland developers to ensure that the county’s requirements were met.

When commissioners approved the plat, the application provided a schedule of work for Lakeland’s section one construction, which gives a Feb. 25, 2024 deadline, which is the expiration date on the letter of credit.

The plat also specified that Lakeland Ranch, LLC, is responsible for paying all of its water improvements to supply water from the county’s Special Utility District, as well as financial guarantees for maintenance measures.

Blacksher said that the regulations adopted by the county are meant in no way to regulate personal structure and how they are built in the subdivision, but to protect the county’s citizens and future citizens.

“The county subdivision regulations are minimum standards that ensure property owners have safe drinking water, approved human waste systems, proper drainage and rights-of-way for utilities and quality roads that emergency vehicles can safely travel upon, at the developer’s expense,” Blacksher said.

The benefit that the new subdivision poses for taxpayers will result in a lower tax rate, Blacksher said, as new construction helps to add to the overall valuation of properties in the county, thus a lower tax rate.

Overall, Blacksher sees several benefits coming to Tyler County with the subdivision. “People are coming to our county, and we need to be prepared. This will help build our community and encourage the type of growth our county desperately needs,” he said. 

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