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‘Beech Bluff’ Homes Not Meant for Permanent Residences

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor

The Lafayette County Building Department is working with current and future landowners in a Harmontown subdivision living in homes that do not meet the county’s building codes and waster water ordinances.

Holiday Hills Subdivision, commonly known as Beech Bluff Resort, in Harmontown off County Road 2009 was platted in 1977 and was originally intended to be used for weekend camping with some of the lots as small as 40-feet by 60-feet.

“We’ve had quite a few problems over the years,” said Building Official Joel Hollowell Monday during the board’s regular meeting. “These lots have been allowed to be used as permanent residences.”

Hollowell said some of the landowners have purchased two or three lots to build homes.

“We have a lot of specific violations going on,” he said. “There are sewer and building code issues, some illegal occupancy of van trailers and we’re working on all of those.”

The broader problem, Hollowell said, is the lots being sold as permanent residences.

“There just isn’t enough room on those lots,” he said.

Hollowell said his department is working on a process to identify when the lots are being sold and try to stop the individuals who purchased them from moving in without the county knowing.

“When someone comes and asks for an address, we’re doing a thorough background check to make sure they own the property and are not squatting,” Hollowell said. “Admittedly, some people have slipped in.”

Most of Lafayette County receives its electric from the North East Mississippi Electric Power Association, which works with county officials and will not hook up power to a residence until they have received the go-ahead from the county. However, Hollowell said the county does not have the same working relationship with the Tallahatchie Valley Electric Power Association, which is the electric provider for the Holiday Hills subdivision.

“Having become reliant on North East to help us, we didn’t realize there needed to be some extra effort over there until we already had a few problems develop,” Hollowell said.

Hollowell said his department is working with residents who currently live there and new residents before they move in to educate them on what they can and cannot build, requirements of onsite sewer systems and more. The county installed a sign at the subdivision listing the county’s ordinances and codes that apply to the subdivision.

“We are trying to work on our partnership with TVEPA, but it’s been a difficult process,” he told the supervisors. “We’ve sent letters and emails and made phone calls. We have not been able to make that connection yet.”

Supervisor Chad McLarty spoke to Sheriff Jonathan Hill about having a stronger deputy presence in the area to watch for new residents moving in and notifying the building department.

“I feel like as a board we’re doing everything we can,” he said. “We’re not getting the assistance from the Mississippi Department of Health on wastewater systems that I’d like to see.”

McLarty said the MDH recently found E-coli in a creek near the subdivision from improper sewer disposal and have yet to act on it.

“We are trying,” he said. “There are agencies structured to handle some of this and personally, I don’t feel like they are being much of a benefit to us.”

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