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North Texas is home to some of the fastest-growing suburbs in the country. Towns that once were quiet bedroom communities or sleepy rural hamlets now attract Fortune 500 corporations and big entertainment complexes, along with all of the traffic and construction and urban problems that population growth brings.
Frisco, once the exurb outpost of Ikea, is becoming an expert on event security as its police department handles several massive entertainment venues. Allen residents are debating whether to welcome a cricket stadium. Plano is considering how best to educate its growing number of low-income students. The terms mixed-use development and garden-style apartments have taken on new meanings.
We sent to candidates in upcoming municipal elections questionnaires and their full answers can be found in our voter guide. To those candidates in suburban areas, we posed the question:
A growing number of residents are concerned about booming development eroding the suburban experience or lifestyle that brought them to their community in the first place. What is your point of view on this growing tension and how would you navigate the challenge?
My point of view on growing tension around concerns for erosion of the suburban experience or lifestyle in Plano is that moving from homogeneity to diversity has its challenges. Most days, I think about this — and not from a narrow perspective. Difference is more difficult to navigate than sameness. There is more to interpret, and our experiences and emotional language may not have equipped us to understand and accept the things that are different than what makes us comfortable.
I am of the opinion that people can talk about any topic as long as it is done from a place of respect and conscientiousness. We may never be able to have honest conversations about what many of us believe creates the suburban experience and why it might be preferred over the urban experience. We may never have a public discourse about why some people feel the quality of life in today’s Plano is less than what it was in 1975.
To one person, booming development may represent employment opportunities and tax revenue. To another, it may generate fears of population growth that bring more traffic and demands for services and housing that are different from that to which we are accustomed. Some people will fear that housing density will challenge available educational resources and introduce family units that do not contribute to our community in a favorable way. Others will embrace the idea of housing options as they seek to downsize or choose to avoid some of the responsibilities of home ownership.
I will navigate this challenge by encouraging honest communication; using fully engaged processes to make land use decisions; and following the city’s Comprehensive Plan. This plan, as have all others since 1963, was put in place to guide the city’s development. I will rely on what we collectively adopted, along with additional opportunities to resolve points of contention. I will encourage reliance on facts with appropriate levels of respect for opinions.
Plano has always had a mix of low-density residential, higher density residential and commercial-use property. However, recently Plano has had a boom in higher residential development. Some of the higher density residential property has been well done (mixed-use developments where people can live, work and play without having to get in their cars and drive) while others are purely high-density residential causing a negative impact on our streets, schools and services. Plano needs to do a better job of assuring that future projects do not adversely impact our public safety, utilities and services, revitalization, traffic, and overall quality of life.
Plano is a mature city and is almost built out (less than 6 percent of land is left). We are in a great location with a high quality of life. The residents in Plano are very highly educated and we have a highly skilled workforce. We should encourage projects that improve our quality of life. Projects should provide adequate green space, parks and infrastructure, and they need to minimize traffic congestion.
Michael Hogue/DMN Staff
We have high-density housing and mixed-use developments for young professionals already built or in progress. I’d like to see us attract developers building high-quality homes at lower price-points for newer families starting out in Allen, public servants who would like to live in the city they serve, and seniors looking to retire closer to their grandchildren. We may have to change zoning requirements to allow for smaller single-family homes and weigh the cost/benefits to increasing green space over excess development.
Each development in Allen should be a mixed-use development that is somewhat comparable to what we have at Watters Creek. I believe if we focus on family-friendly developments, like Watters Creek, that incorporate our award-winning parks and trails, we will construct a development that all of Allen can be proud of. I don’t see Allen constructing our final phase of buildout in the same manner as what you see in Plano and Frisco. Given Allen is a much smaller city than our neighboring cities, we need to engage our residents in the process which will avoid the urbanization of our city.
A big part of the frustration that residents feel from the growth in Frisco comes from their experiences in traffic. It is the primary symptom of growth. We had over 100 road projects this past year, including widening Main Street to six lanes, widening other key roads, constructing new roads, adding additional left- and right-turn lanes and implementing new technologies that allow traffic signals to communicate with vehicles.
There is a balance. I was here when Frisco was much smaller. At that time many residents complained that there were not many amenities in Frisco and that they had to leave Frisco for entertainment, sports, fine dining, etc. Those amenities take a population that will support them. Now we have many great amenities but yes, it has come with some other issues that we will need to continue to improve.
Reduce density where possible. Renegotiate zoning with existing landowner zoning rights.
Balance the approval of residential growth in areas where there is undeveloped land.
A balanced mix of homes, businesses, and multifamily or urban living gives us a stronger tax base. This diversity also helps to keep Frisco attractive to new residents so that we can stay ahead of changing trends. I think most people understand this, and mainly want to be sure that the voices of the residents are not being drowned out by the wants of developers.
Frisco will always be a suburban community. In order to keep our residential tax rates low and not put an undue burden on homeowners, we need the commercial developments, with the tax base that comes along with them and the sales taxes they generate, to offset the residential property taxes. A diversified tax base provides for more stability during slow economic times, and without the commercial tax bases, the property taxes on homeowners would be much higher.
To maintain our thriving economy, we will need to work closely with business leaders to attract quality commerce that complements our small-town atmosphere and provides well-paying jobs for working families. This approach will deliver economic stability while drawing new business tax revenue to reduce the burden on homeowners that currently fund much of the city’s budget.
The growth itself is natural and generally a positive thing, however the city needs to preserve the suburban character by slowing down and spreading out the high-density housing. There are other options or possibilities that could be explored and I believe it is shortsighted to continue the development on the current path of stack-and-pack.
The city did an outstanding job in creating a new comprehensive plan, taking into account the concerns of city staff, industry experts, and interested citizens. That plan will ensure that development over the next two decades reflects McKinney’s vision and values. The council should empower the city staff to implement the comprehensive plan, so that McKinney continues to be a great place to visit, live, raise a family and own a business.
Born in Dallas, and raised in Garland, I have seen firsthand what can happen with reckless growth and poor or relaxed zoning standards. All too often, developers overbuild, make their profits, and move on to the next town, leaving residents with increased traffic, slower police/fire/EMT response time, sporadic overcrowding in schools, and a decreased tax base per capita. Plano is mostly built out and is in a great position with a high quality of life. We have more jobs than workers and are well-positioned for the future.
With all the growth in the area, many developers want to redevelop areas with much higher density. This is not what our citizens want and there are many proposed projects that will erode our quality of life, not improve it. We do not need to be giving in to every development request. We need to insist on quality projects that provide adequate greenspace and make contributions to our parks and infrastructure and mitigate the congestion they create.
We have been very deliberate in the city to have comprehensive plans in place that delineate between commercial and residential development, and the types of commercial and residential development that can adjoin each other. We are very structured with it.
Tensions will always remain, and we listen and work with them. Sometimes we can ease the tension with changes in the development. Other times Texas property rights law is very clear and the owner can build what they desire on the land when it does not violate any ordinance or code. This means that we still listen to and work with the parties, but we must respect the law.
Elizabeth Souder is the editor of Points and the assistant opinion editor for The Dallas Morning News.
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