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Developer discusses eco-friendly, community project in Burnet County

Okei-Eco Villas

Houses in the Okei-Eco Villas condominium development, 1811 CR 340 (Mormon Mill Road) in Burnet County, an eco-friendly, community building project spearheaded by Jorge Sanchez. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley

A new Burnet County development, which has created some controversy, is expected to be the culmination of a 40-year building industry career for Austin-based developer Jorge Sanchez. 

“This is probably going to be my last big project, my life’s work,” he said. 

The project, the Okei-Eco Villas at 1811 CR 340 (Mormon Mill Road), is a different approach to condominium development in the Highland Lakes, Sanchez said. It will offer 70 eco-friendly and affordable single-family homes once finished.

The unusual look of the homes, which are clustered together close to the road, and an incident from Sanchez’s past have caused some concern in the community. 

Since construction began last year, the project has received scrutiny from residents, with some claiming the homes were barracks being built to house undocumented immigrants

That rumor likely started because of a previous project of Sanchez’s. Cristo Vive for Immigrants, an unauthorized immigration consulting firm, was shut down by the Texas Attorney General’s Office in 2013 for giving unlawful legal advice to immigrants, according to an article published by the Austin American-Statesman.

Burnet County officials assured the public during a Feb. 22  Commissioners Court meeting that Sanchez has been working within county building standards and regulations on the Okei-Eco Villas.

While much of Sanchez’s work has been in his home country of Mexico, he purchased the 10-acre property on Mormon Mill in 2021 with the intention of filling the need for affordable housing in the Highland Lakes. 

“When you live in a place where you’re happy and it’s not costing you an arm and a leg, your quality of life increases,” he said. 

Okei-Eco Villas
The kitchen inside the Okei-Eco Villas model home. Each home within the development has two to three bedrooms, natural lighting provided by 18 windows, and a front porch. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley

Condominiums in the development are being built in clusters of 10 single-family homes, which will be arranged to create a sense of connection and community, he explained. Inspired by European concepts, Sanchez plans to separate each cluster into groups of “like-minded people of similar age groups and life stages.” 

“One cluster might be older people without children, but another might be a group of families and children,” he explained. “I’m (planning to) make an outside space with a roof where people can get together. What happens is you create a family community.” 

Each of the about 1,250-square foot homes will have two to three bedrooms, natural lighting provided by 18 windows, and a front porch. Sanchez plans to lease homes to tenants for between $1,599 and $2,000 a month but intends to give residents the chance to purchase their home after living in the community for three years.

He hopes to find investors to assist in building the remaining clusters after he has finished the first one.

Okei-Eco Villas
Metal framework inside one of the condominiums currently under construction. Staff photo by Brigid Cooley

Sanchez has also kept the environment in mind. Each home is being built with eco-friendly materials such as galvanized steel (G60) panels, metal shingles and ZIP System wall and roof sheathing, a type of oriented strand board made of wood chips held together by waterproof and weather-resistant adhesives. 

The combination of these materials, he said, will make homes more durable, longer lasting, and more resistant to natural disasters such as wildfires. 

Once the condos are complete, a small parking lot large enough to house at least one car per home will be built for each cluster. 

Sanchez anticipates another six to eight months before the first cluster will be ready for residents, at which time he plans to advertise the condos throughout the Highland Lakes community. 

Find more information about the project as well as contact information to set up a tour on the Okei-Eco Villas website

brigid@thepicayune.com

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