Sour Lake hopes school district, new housing additions will attract residents and businesses alike

The city of Sour Lake is banking on a string of new construction projects to attract new residents to the town of around 1,800 people.
Touting its school district as a means to attract new residents — Hardin Jefferson High School ranks 243rd out of 589 public high schools ranked in the 2017 U.S. News Best High Schools rankings (none of Beaumont’s high schools made the list) — Sour Lake is seeing new development to support its growing population.
“We’ve got a little expansion going on in Sour Lake and I think the school district has a lot to do with it,” said Jack Provost, city manager of Sour Lake. “We have a lot of people that’s wanting to get into our school district.”
“We just have a great school district. We’ve got great principals and great teachers,” added Sour Lake Mayor Bruce Robinson, when asked why people want their kids to come to Hardin-Jefferson schools. “We have teachers that really get involved. … Our teachers really care about the kids.”
Provost said the attractive school district has been key to growing the city.
“Two years ago in the city of Sour Lake we had three building permits; last year we had 17,” he said. “We’ve already had 10-12 this year.”
Builders are buying cheaper lots within the city, demoing the dilapidated homes and replacing abandoned trailers with new homes.
“Out with the old and in with the new,” said Provost, adding that new city ordinances don’t allow trailer homes in neighborhoods in Sour Lake, where the city is encouraging new construction. “They’re starting to make people in the older homes clean their houses up and remodel.”
The groundwork is underway for the Holly Trails addition, on Old Beaumont Road, south of Highway 105. Three builders — Faith Built Homes, CL Construction and D&H Custom Homes — are working on the Holly Trails addition, which is 50 acres, will include 129 quarter-acre lots.
“It’s going to be concrete streets and have curb and gutter,” Provost said. “They’re not in the city limits, but we will service them with water and sewer. We wanted them to do all the infrastructure and then once everything is done, we will probably try to take them in the city. … They hope to be selling lots sometime at the end of this year.”
Homes should start going up in August, added Dustin Hawkins, the contractor for the project.
“This property is high and dry and out of all the flood plains,” Hawkins said, when asked what sets the location apart. Holly Trails is phase 1 of new residential projects that will expand east down Old Beaumont Road, Hawkins added.
 On Highway 326 South, K.A.T. Excavation & Construction, Inc. is looking to develop property with 28 lots. The project is pending approval from Hardin County.
“It’s also going to be furnished with water and sewer through the city,” Provost said.
Robin Powell, a realtor with American Real Estate in Sour Lake, said land sales have doubled in the last two years.
“Also, we’ve been selling our houses right when they come on the market, some before we even pour the slab and have been getting full price, so there is a demand,” she said. When asked her opinion on the reason for an increase in home sales in the town, besides the popular school district, Powell added, “People want to be out in the country and get away from windstorm insurance. … I think we’re going to keep seeing an increase in people wanting to come out.”
The Yaupon housing addition has doubled in size, as far as homes built, in the last two years as well, Provost added.
The city of Sour Lake also has plans for improving its Lions Club Park on South Ann Street.
In 2016, the city bought the three-acre park, which already has a walking trail, and will soon have new lights, restrooms, a pavilion, and a splash pad.
 “We hope to have most of it done in a year,” Provost said, adding that the splash pad will probably be finished in 2018.
“We have a commitment from the EDC to spend up to $250,000,” he said.
With all the new residential growth in the town, Sour Lake hopes new businesses will follow.
“We do have a new Mexican restaurant that will potentially be opening up in the next six months or so we hope,” Provost said. Owner of El Habanero Bar and Grill in Beaumont Neno Chavez is considering a remodel of the old El Jalapeño at 104 S. Merchant St., the city manager said.  Also, Sour Lake EDC is buying property on 105 near City Hall that it hopes to attract new businesses to as well.
“105 going east and west is our commercial district, but there’s still a lot of residential houses there. Anytime anything comes up available we try to buy it so it won’t stay residential. It will be turned into commercial. We’re about to have four properties on 105 that, if the right business comes in, we’d love to sell them a piece of property at a good price.”
“It’s such a prime location,” added Rebecca Gardiner, executive director of the Sour Lake Chamber of Commerce, who said the chamber has added 35 new members so far this year.
“I’ve said for a while, and not just me — others have said it too — we believe we’re right there on the boom,” said Robinson. “We’re getting ready to explode. … I know we’re growing, but we’re still a small, country peaceful area and I think people like that.

Photo by Kevin King - Rebecca Gardiner, executive director of the Sour Lake Chamber of Commerce, and Jack Provost, city manager of Sour Lake, pose for a photo at the City of Sour Lake Lions Club Park on South Ann Street. In 2016, the city bought the three-acre park, which already has a walking trail, and will soon have new lights, restrooms, a pavilion, and a splash pad.