New development to feature hundreds of smart homes

Published 10:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2022

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VALLEY — The Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting for a new housing subdivision Friday morning.

It was a special way of welcoming the first phase of Camellia Crossing. The first of ten planned phases his now under development. There’s a model home on the site where potential home buyers can visit and get an idea of the amenities that a smartphone can offer. The new home is located just off what’s thought to be Chambers County’s first roundabout. It’s on Camellia Boulevard, just off Combs Road.

The first phase of Camellia Crossing will have 28 new homes at build out. When those homes are sold, a second phase will be built. The cycle could continue until 10 phases are completed and 370 new homes are in what’s being billed as rural Alabama’s first smart village.

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The underway project is a collaborative effort on the part of Holland Homes of Auburn, Alabama Power, the Chambers County Development Authority and the City of Valley.

The new homes being built in phase one range in size from 1,255 to 1,448 square feet. They are priced in the mid $200,000 range and offer amazing comfort and sense of home to a new family starting out.

“Five or six years ago I wouldn’t have recommended building new homes, but it’s different now,” said Mayor Leonard Riley. “The City of Valley grew by more than 1,000 people over the past ten years. Per capita income has gone up.”

The land along Combs Road was owned by the city and sold to Holland Homes for development as a new subdivision. The city’s land purchase was part of three significant moves to have control over land near I-85. Approximately 1,200 acres were purchased, some off Combs Road, some behind the Lanier-Carter Mill and some off Fob James Drive, commonly known as the Burney property.

Riley sees Camellia Crossing as an important part of Valley’s future growth.

“We have people moving here, and they need places to stay,” he said.

“We now have John Soules Foods on the south end of town. It’s the most technologically advanced chicken processing plant in the world. We are so proud to be having Alabama’s first rural smart village here in Valley, and we will do what we have to do to make it right.”

Holland Homes owner Daniel Holland thanked the mayor for the city’s help with the project. Valley’s efforts in improving water and sewage on the site enabled the project to be developed on a larger scale. It allowed for an initial plan of 250 new homes to expand to 370.

“We are grateful to be here today,” Holland said. “We thank our partners for working with us to bring this about. We like to build communities and homes people are proud to live in. We think this new neighborhood will build on what you already have here in Valley.”

T.J. Johnson, Holland Homes’ director of community development, said that Camellia Crossing will be an ideal place to live. It will be a place with walking paths, bike paths and convenient places to shop. He said he would never forget the day the plan was first presented to city officials.

“It was April 24, 2020,” he said. “I can remember the date because it was the same day my daughter Eleanor was born. She is two years old now and growing up on us fast. I think this new neighborhood will grow fast, too.”

Chris Busby of the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) thanked everyone in the sizable crowd for being there.

“This is an exciting day for us,” he said. “It’s right up there with announcing a new business or industry.”

Several years ago, Busby said he and other members of the CCDA staff talked to a group of local realtors on what they thought the community needed.

“They told us we had a serious lack of product,” he said. “We needed more homes. We talked to Alabama Power about this, and they connected us to Holland Homes in Auburn. An ideal example of a public-private partnership has grown out of it. Camellia Crossing will be a wonderful new tool in our tool kit to recruit new business and industry.”

Busby had some kinds words for Kimberly Carter, formerly of the CCDA staff.

“This was her baby,” he said. “She really worked hard on this project, and I know she is super excited for us to be where we are now with Camellia Crossing.”

Stephanie Bridges, senior program manager for Alabama Power, talked about the Smart Neighborhood Builder Program.

“We are so excited to be here today to celebrate the many months of hard work that has gone into this,” she said. “Alabama Power has previously worked with Holland Homes in Smart Neighborhood programs, and we are enjoying working with them on this.”

Bridges explained that the Smart Neighborhood Builder Program promotes energy efficiency through collaboration with home builders like Holland Homes to build energy-efficient homes that feature energy products and home automation.

“These homes are designed to make the lives of homeowners more comfortable, convenient and connected through features that can be managed via smart devices and voice activation,” Bridges said.

“Our partner, Chorus Smart Secure, installs smart technologies such as smart thermostat, smart door lock and smart switches in each home. All of these connected devices are controlled through an easy-to-use application. The homes in a Smart Neighborhood are 50 percent more efficient than a typical home, leading to more energy savings and less home operating costs for these homeowners.”

Bridges drove down from the Birmingham office in a Tesla. While the ribbon-cutting ceremony was underway, she was recharging the electric car’s battery for the return trip home. It was ready for that drive long before the program was over, and she didn’t have to make a single stop for $4-a-gallon gasoline on the way home. Each Camellia Crossing smart home will be equipped with an outdoor car charger.

Robert Melvin, the director of sales and marketing for Holland Homes, said that Camellia Crossing is a construction zone right now but that he can visualize a pleasant and inviting neighborhood with children on bikes, meals being cooked and people coming home from work to a loving family.

“We are truly grateful to have an opportunity to build Camellia Crossing in Valley,” he said. “There will be 28 new rural smart homes in the first phase and 370 eventually.”

Six basic types of homes will be built in Camellia Crossing. The show home is the Todd. It is 1,395 square feet in size with three bedrooms and two baths.

There’s a large master bedroom with a walk-in closet, an open concept main living area, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a covered back porch. Other homes with similar amenities include the Telford, which is 1,255 square feet in size with two bedrooms and two baths; the Torbert, three bedrooms, two baths and 1,366 square feet in size; the Harper A, 1,425 square feet, three bedrooms and two baths; the Tate, three bedrooms, two baths, 1,440 square feet and the Trapper, four bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths and 2,073 square feet.