Form based codes are regulations. When applied by drab and unimaginative bureaucracy, drab and unimaginable developments are produced. Form based codes must be allowed to breathe while achieving the desired result. Common sense should prevail. Otherwise the form based developments become institutional, with all their attendant institutional charm.......like a high school cafeteria. When form base incompetents are charged to produce a safe environment, you get a jail. If ever charged to produce a safe automobile, you get a tank. There is little use for architects, except to implement span tables.
Below is the definition of the form based code as defined by the Form Base Code Institute and as copied from their website. ___________________________________________ "Definition of a Form-Based Code"
"Form-based codes foster predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. They are regulations, not mere guidelines, adopted into city or county law. Form-based codes offer a powerful alternative to conventional zoning.
Form-based codes address the relationship between building facades and the public realm, the form and mass of buildings in relation to one another, and the scale and types of streets and blocks. The regulations and standards in form-based codes are presented in both words and clearly drawn diagrams and other visuals. They are keyed to a regulating plan that designates the appropriate form and scale (and therefore, character) of development, rather than only distinctions in land-use types.
This approach contrasts with conventional zoning's focus on the micromanagement and segregation of land uses, and the control of development intensity through abstract and uncoordinated parameters (e.g., FAR, dwellings per acre, setbacks, parking ratios, traffic LOS), to the neglect of an integrated built form. Not to be confused with design guidelines or general statements of policy, form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory. They are drafted to implement a community plan. They try to achieve a community vision based on time-tested forms of urbanism. Ultimately, a form-based code is a tool; the quality of development outcomes depends on the quality and objectives of the community plan that a code implements." _____________________________________________________
Now, tell me what you just read. No going back. Tell yourself what you just read.
It's kinda fuzzy ain't it? Well, that's the character of form based codes. Everything's kinda fuzzy, but highly regulated when strictly followed. I want you to re-read some of the above. ________________________________________________________________ "Form-based codes foster predictable built results and a high quality public realm"--simply a self serving opinion. No facts. Blowin' smoke. Any positive results are based on properly utilized skill, not codes. The codes buttress authority only.
"They are regulations, not mere guidelines"--much more control by city government. The city is designing the exterior of the buildings. That's scary.
"form-based codes are regulatory, not advisory." All I can say is that Rowlett must have some pretty skilled people on staff. Approaching duties suggest they had better.....but they don't. To the best of my knowledge, no one on staff has built anything or designed anything of consequence in their entire life. Story at end of post.
Architects are a proud breed. The really good ones are very possessive of their creativity. I like to look at elevations of a good architect. To me, its like looking at a good painting. When the architect fills in with color, it is very much like a painting. Some of the architect's possessiveness is centered in his/her "creativity and originality." Form based codes, when strictly applied with a bureaucratic appreciation of art and creativity, usually produces a brick.
A Harvard trained architect that I know (yes, they have an architectural school) feels that it is a part of his duty to make his building fit into the culture and environment that best suits his new creation. He talks with city officials and his client to be sure he understands what is desired by both. Then, he goes to work creating. Can an untrained and inexperienced city staff completely strangle a good architect's design? Absolutely. I have seen my friend walk away from an excellent assignment because of the air being sucked out of his designs by bureaucratic egos strictly utilizing the authority granted by form based code ordinances.
Now, can form based codes be good? Absolutely. There is a situation in our own downtown that supports a form based code application. We have DART (TOD) and some old building charm, close proximity to the tollway to tie together as a cohesive neighborhood. These ingredients call out for higher residential density and commercial intergration, and some coordination is in order. I don't want to get into a complete case study here, but because of so many land owners in this area, some coordination by "officialdom" is in order. Form based codes work very well in these conditions. I also think there are conditions for form base codes in the Gateway area and the land east of the Community Centre. I think the Wellness (bad name) area is more difficult to apply form base codes disciplines. The housing and development is fairly new in the Wellness area and only small islands of undeveloped land exists.
Do form based codes work well on horse pastures that is immediately adjacent to the outer edge of the Dallas Metro area? Nope. Form based codes work where there is urban influence. In fact, form based codes are a major tool of the New Urbanization movement. I am somewhat a supporter of New Urbanization, but it doesn't work everywhere. There are still people moving to Rowlett to escape the urbanization of Dallas. Some of our new arrivals are coming here to escape urbanism and we're enforcing urbanism. I do believe that most people would not call Rowlett urban, unless they grew up in west Texas. Our controversial Northshore cow pasture area is contiguous with farms and ranches all the way to the Louisiana state line. So, we're going to urbanize it? I guess we're experimenting again.
I have a story. I am prepared to testify under oath to the accuracy of the following. Do you know you have a Form Base Code officer? You have one. He is never identified by name, but is referred to often as having reviewed submittals of developers. You can't find him in the city directory. I know his name. I wouldn't have known his name if I hadn't been on city council. Why so secret? He's a pretty nice guy. He is not embarrasing. He's an architect by education, I think. Why keep him under wraps? I don't know. However, I asked our previous city manager who he worked for. I said he wasn't a part of the original HOK team. To clarify my question, I asked, "Who is he going to be mad at if he doesn't get paid?" I was in a car driven by the then City Manager and there were two other city councilmen in the car also. The first answer I got made no sense at all. After an uncomfortable pause, I was given a second answer, only slightly different from the first. It, too, made no sense. Another uncomfortable pause, then a third answer came out. This one made sense. Apparantly, it was decided (by someone) that they needed a Form Base Code expert. After deciding who (by who?), the city went to HOK and asked that they hire him, but add it to Rowlett's bill. Apparantly, he is operating as another consultant. I hate that type of crap. If another consultant is needed, let the council know and if one is needed, get one without all the intrigue. I was on council and I didn't know about it, so I presume the magic 4 number was achieved to give a "consensus" and the deal was cut. Is it legal? Probably. Is it ethical? I don't think so. Anyhow, the above expert was in a later meeting that I attended about the form-based codes. I was going thru some of the more detailed items during the presentation and I noticed that one of the "rules" was that all houses had to have three steps leading up to the porch or entry to the house. Well, I've been a builder, too. I know the three steps favor a townhouse design, as well as a 1920's look. I raised my hand and asked our expert what he thought the extra cost of the foundation modification would do to the marketability of the townhouse. He seemed dumbfounded. There were round eyes and silence. I then said the extra steps would cause the beams around the house structure to be deepened another 21 inches. That would cost quite a bit of money. He finally responded by saying "they do it with grading somehow." I knew what he was talking about, but it was not a good answer. Grading would not solve my original question. If the lot is graded higher in the back, then lowered to the front, a condition is created whereby three steps will be needed to gain floor level. However, such a procedure would require a "step down" in the slab beam forming. Somewhere to the rear of the front of the house, the slab beam would have to be dropped down. It might only cost a few yards of concrete, but it would also cost extra steel. However, the big cost is the forming labor. It is a pretty extensive effort to build a "drop down" in the structural beams. On a 35 foot front of a townhouse, this endeavor, including extra grading, might cost $3500-$4500. That's quite a bit per step. The above problem doesn't even take into consideration the ADA problems. With the three steps, what do you do with handicaped owners? How does an unhandicaped owner sell to a proposed handicaped purchaser? Experts (?) say, "build a ramp." Do you know how unattractive a ramp is in a townhouse development? Below is copied from a staff report on a re-zoning application made earlier this month. It is nothing more than additional propaganda that is crammed down your throats every chance. .
FISCAL IMPACT Allowing for a residential subdivision to creep further into an area designated for future employment and commercial centers will further restrict the City last major undeveloped area for commercial developments. From the very beginning of the Realize Rowlett 2020 planning process, the ultimate goal was to provide a vision for development that is grounded in market reality that when achieved will help the City achieve fiscal sustainability. The City is saturated with inventory from housing products within a very narrow size and price band and cannot afford to add more of the same product to its inventory. In Staff’s opinion, allowing a conventional residential subdivision that does not follow efficient development patterns into an area designated for future employment centers will not help the City achieve fiscal sustainability The words "creep further" presents a rather creepy crawly type of language, huh? How about "further restrict......area for commercial developments" to inspire waste of land use? The words "grounded in market reality" is a joke. I havn't seen any reliable data proving up the need for an industrial park. In fact, I have seen a lot of evidence to the contrary. The real star in the propaganda dog and pony show is the use of the words "saturated with inventory from housing products." An often used phase by staff is "over built." We only have two viable subdivisions. We have scattered lots, but they are not subdivisions.....at least subdivisions where quality builders can build in volume. The average time for homes to spend on the market in Rowlett was 3.2 months. It is considered acceptable to have inventory to supply 6 months. This number is artifically held up because of less desirable houses. Any broker you know will tell you that any good quality house, priced appropriately, will be gobbled up in Rowlett in a few days. Any appraiser will know what the real meaning of "over built" means. I will donate $100 to the first of you in favor of your favorite charity if you find one real estate broker in Rowlett that describes Rowlett as "over built" with good houses. The paragraph cited above from Zoning staff is pure garbage. Now, I'd like to summarize a few things over the past few posts. First, I have not seen any absorption rates proving that Northshore will become an industrial park, filled with office buildings and distribution centers. It has been suggested by consultants that housing in Northshore can be interdisbursed amongst the office and warehouse buildings. But of course!! I should have thought of that!! Everybody wants to look out their back door and see where they work. If you only have a dollar in your pocket, don't bet it on that. Also, we have experts on form base codes and staff that doesn't know how to build. We have staff that is a little loose with the realities and definitions of market data. Would they try to minipulate us? NAW!! So, we are experimenting with new unproven markets for office and warehousing. We are experimenting with form based codes. Is there anything we're not experimenting with? Our staff is a little loose with the facts. People, this is no time for Rowlett to be experimenting. There is no need to experiment. There is plenty for the consultants to do without experimenting. This is probably the most important juncture in Rowlett's history. When I wrote in 2008 that I was concerned about whether Rowlett's ability to fend off bad decisions would be impaired, I didn't think I would need worry. It started going sideways in 2009.
At the very least, we ought to step back and take another look at what we're doing.........propaganda be damned.
Some say I am against Rowlett 2020. That is not true. I am for the assignment that I think Rowlett 2020 is expected to perform. Essentially, that means advise the Rowlett "officialdom" on our best marketing choices to maximize the development of our real estate resources. Such advice, when properly administered, will maximize our tax base and contribute substantially to a quality lifestyle. An excellent quality lifestyle adds to a high desirability of life in Rowlett, and by extension further elevates property values. In my opinion, Rowlett 2020 is not intended to engage in experimentation. Now, let's pretend that City Council is a generic Loan Committee. Any recommendation that the consultants may make to City Council should be accompanied by data that substantially proves their point. That concept is carried out every day by any development lender in the USA. As I have alluded to in other posts, the loan officer must present to loan committee the feasibility of any project he/she is presenting. This is usually done with a number of tools, one of which is absorption rates. The loan officer studies the rate in which the market is absorbing the same product that is in his/her presentation to loan committee. For example, if the proposed project is an office building, the loan officer will know the rates that office space is being absorbed into the market within a certain radius. The loan officer will also know the rate of how much vacant land suitable for office space will be absorbed within the near future. The loan officer will know the land pricing within the market area. All of this data is submitted along with the consultant's presentation. This is the "science" of the feasibility study. "Mathmaticaly" the data will forcast the need and the timeline to develop and rent up the project for the foreseeable future. The "art" of the presentation is the study of the physical features and desirability of the land in the immediate area. It would include any anticipated "flat spots" in the local economy. Some land is just uglier, more difficult to develop, and harder to get to than other pieces of dirt. Math at 50, 000 feet doesn't shed much light on the "art" of a development study. These features are used to demonstrate to any loan committees that, when positive, a development loan should be made. There are also "indicators" that are used as tools. Indicators are features that already exist and contribute to the identification of what should be built, or developed. A good example is our DART station. I gives some credibility to a proposed TOD (Transportation Oriented Development). This type of development suggests higher density, but it also lends itself to "charm." Our older downtown building, the DART station and the older homes in the area certainly suggests charm. Therefore, don't overkill density. Blend it in without damaging the charm that could be a great draw to the area. A four story parking garage and 150 apartment or condo units would be difficult to "blend" in, however a very talented architect/designer could probably do it. The "slam, bam, thank you" approach should be a jail time offense.
The downtown area, the land east of the Community Centre, the Wellness area, and the Gateway area are all blessed with "indicators" that help the consultants develop a plan. In my opinion, this is where the focus needs to be. Coming right on the heels above should be concentrated efforts to acquire Robertson Park. Obviously, it must be a financially sound decision, however it offers enormous opportunities. I would much prefer the consultants be working on above than pursuing an ill conceived market in Northshore. In my opinion, their efforts on Northshore are counter productive. They have actually harmed Rowlett by preventing at least development of a $1.2 million revenue stream. (See other posts.)
I am going to be writing about Form Based Codes soon. That should broaden your horizons. Be sure and read Chris Kilgore's comments on the previous post.
Thruout these posts, you have read about two upscale housing developments that had been rejected by Zoning, P&Z. and Council. These two projects, if approved, would have contributed about $26.5 million per year to the Rowlett tax base until fully developed. In about 6 years, they would then contribute about $1.2 million per year in revenue. Well, both were defeated. The most recent was defeated for some pretty bizarre reasons, one of which was an inquiry from some phantom credit card service company that nobody could remember anything about. The other reasons seemed to be collectively assembled and identified as anti-Rowlett 2020, or I just don't want to. With such facts, how could anyone go wrong? Well, it looks like the Rowlett Zoning Department is double dipping. The developer wants to try P&Z again. Of course, the Staff is dutifully recommending denial of the request again to P&Z. They cite pretty much the same reason(s). Once again, the consultants are going into Executive Session to discuss the request for zoning change. Be assured, the consultants will resist the zoning request. Once again, the taxpayers and citizens are frozen out of the picture. You will be told what is wanted that you be told. Below is copied from the tonight's agenda. Citizens, you will have no say in the future of your tax base. The tax rate is a little less arbitrary and must be set to pay the city's bills, but the tax base is something that every citizen should have a say, or at least be informed about. Tonight, they are talking about tax base.
"AGENDA DATE: 03/27/14 AGENDA ITEM: 2ATITLE The City Council shall convene into Executive Session pursuant to Texas Government Code, §551.087 (Economic Development) and §551.071 (Consultation with Attorney) to receive legal advice from the City Attorney and to discuss the North Shore Master Plan in relation to a proposed rezoning request generally located at 7400 and 7600 Liberty Grove Road. (30 minutes) " This same procedure was utilized in the other, more recent (Nov. 19, 2013) City Council meeting whereby zoning was denied. The consultants showed up for the Executive Session then, also. Citizens didn't. Wasn't invited. Then, the dog and pony show began. The city council reconvened for the public session. Three of the seven voters had something to say. Four on council never made a peep. Nada. The vote was taken and the request failed. It took a few weeks for the light bulb to come on. I believe the dog and pony show held for the public was scripted. It was an orchestration. The mayor made some neutral comments, Chris Kilgore made some comments "for" the rezoning, and Carl Pankratz made some comments "against" the rezoning.......very "balanced"..........then, the vote was taken. Request failed. The citizens were fed what was wanted. You were aced out. You will be again tonight. A marketing consultant from Denver will tell you tonight what it is thought you need to know about your city. You people HAVE to get involved. It doesn't matter that you agree with me. It only matters that you know WHY you do or don't.
Robert White sent in another comment on the Polls page. It is semi-sweet. Positive, kinda, but could use some Gro-Pup.
"I do have to admit that it's better now than when I moved to Rowlett 10 years ago. The Super Target Coming Soon sign sat in that field for years--I deployed to Afghanistan and came back and they had only just broken ground on it. In comparison the new car wash went in very quickly. But did Rowlett need another car wash? How many hotel beds does Rowlett have? (answer: zero). How many bookstores does Rowlett have? (answer: zero). How many movie screens does Rowlett have? (answer: zero). There are some really good restaurants here, but unless someone is passing through on the way to where they are really going (Rockwall, Garland, Dallas...) those will not get noticed. As it is, Rowlett is a bedroom community only and a destination for nothing. I think that's a shame, but someone, it seems, wants it that way. "
Robert, its not quite as slow as you think. We do have a motel, a pretty nice one, at the corner of I-30 and Dalrock Road. Of course, Target anticipated the tollway and got, in my opinion, the best corner in town. However, some of your other comments are quite worthy of comment.
Almost every new business that arrives in town, particularly ones who build a new building, goes thru an "underwriting process." That is a process of studying the demographics and market to see if it justifies starting a new business in Rowlett and risk hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new building. Not only does the business person go thru this process, his/her bank does also. The bank will be putting their money at risk, as well as the business person. It's all based on demographics and marketing skills. Depending on the business, if the bank doesn't agree with the business person, the deal doesn't get done.
What I have been trying to stress on these pages is that Rowlett needs disposable income. We need high income families that buy high income houses. The disposable income that these families bring to town create the demand for the businesses that you rightly point out we don't have. Our eyes play tricks on us. We see the big office buildings and the distribution centers at other locations and think, "Wow, we could use that!!" They would really help our tax base. However, take a little longer look. These big employment centers often require 10 years, or better, to start paying revenues to the city. If Rowlett doesn't grant the tax forgiveness, the owner will go somewhere else. Also, workers go home in the evening.
In my estimation, the market for these large employment centers have not yet been proven up. We hear opinions and glowing reports........but no substance; no absorption data. Not withstanding that fact, how much does a worker from Wylie, Sachse, Richardson, or Rockwall spend in Rowlett while at work here? Not much. Maybe a few lunches and an occasional drink after work. Then, the worker goes home to Wylie, Sachse, Richardson, and Rockwall. Who would spend money and make demands for the services you wish? I think it's the middle and upper management people who would live in Rowlett and work somewhere else. Rowlett is a town of 57,000 people amongst one of the hottest real estate markets in the USA, and we only have two viable subdivisions. We have turned down excellent requests to develop good subdivisions in order to preserve the land for? ........ Offices and Warehouses on a tollway, no less. We have hired some very expensive consultants that push this marketing plan. They need to redirect their skills....in my opinion, of course. There are numbers and observations coursing all thru these posts that I think bear up my claim. We have made our consultants our bosses. No oversight. Unless the above changes, you will not get more than lethargic growth.
It has been brought to my attention that the only reason I started this blog was because I was upset over not receiving a particular zoning request I wanted. That is pure rubbish uttered by someone that doesn't know what's going on or is trying to hide behind some cover. I was writing about Rowlett long before most of Rowlett's current "officialdom" was ever here. I fully intend to keep writing about Rowlett. Below is a Dallas Morning News article I wrote and was published on August 10, 2008. In the below article, I reference that I had written many articles about Rowlett and the Lake Ray Hubbard area. However, there are some key passages. 1. "Rowlett has a tremendous amount of shoreline." And, "but it has not one water oriented facility." We just didn't have the money to develop the shoreline. Does any of this sound familiar? We already had the highest tax rate in the area, and the tax base was not increasing. In fact, it was getting ready to take a nose dive. 2. "Clearly, Rowlett needs business development.....bad." However, there was no mention of a 1000 acre industrial park. Rowlett still needs business development, but we have to absorb the vacant business space that is already here. Then, we have to absorb much of the vacant business land that is available. We have to look at the office, retail, and warehouse absorption rates of developed space and land from Rowlett to North Central Expressway. That, and land prices, will tell us the probability of any major office/warehouse needs in Rowlett. Has anyone seen any data on absorption rates lately? I haven't. Where's the facts? Admittedly, there will be some commercial development, but the grandiose developments as portrayed by Rowlett 2020? Look, Rowlett 2020 isn't all bad. They've uncovered some good opportunities, but in my opinion, the wheels are beginning to come off. They are focusing on an Industrial Park when it's not proven to my satisfaction that there is a need. I think their time would be far more productive in downtown, the "Wellness" area (bad name), the Gateway area, and the acquisition of Robertson Park. Robertson Park and the Gateway area has far more potential for commercial development. Visibility alone is enough to raise them to the top potential. 3. "So, does Rowlett know how to get new business? A better question might be: Does Rowlett know how to avoid driving new business away?" Do you think I was apprehensive when I wrote this? You betcha. Anyone who says I am writing this blog because I am angry at a zoning misfire, is either unaware of the facts, or is hiding behind a rock. Hiding behind a rock is a good defensive measure if you think you might get "exposed" by talking about the facts. You have to know what they are, first. One more quote:
"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."
I am taking down the poll today. I will start a new one shortly. I was hoping we would receive at least 100 respondents, but we'll have to settle for 24. The larger sampling would have given more credence to the results. The question was: "Assuming the lake, DART, and the tollway are a main attraction for the additional development of Rowlett, do you think:?" The results were: 1. The amenities above influenced commercial development (1 vote) 4.2% 2. The amenities above influenced residential development (2 votes) 8.3% 3. The amenities above have not influenced any development. (2 votes) 8.3% 4. Development in Rowlett has been slowed by competition from surrounding cities. (3 votes) 12.9% 5. Rowlett development has been slowed by "officialdom". (16 votes) 66.7% Well, there's the numbers. I was surprised. I honestly thought the higher percentage would have been competition from surrounding towns, like Murphy, Wylie, Sachse, and Rockwall. I also thought the amenity package favored residential development rather than commercial. I knew there would be some resentment of "officialdom." There always is. However, I had no idea that such a large percentage would have such a low opinion of "officialdom's" participation. But, the biggest surprise of all was the one vote whereby Rowlett's amenity package favored commercial development. We citizens of Rowlett have been hammered over the past two years about the arrival of this immensely valuable commercial development heading our way. We are even restricting other development to wait for it. Apparently, a lot of people aren't buying into it. Maybe the fact that there is empty commercial space all over Rowlett has something to do with it. I don't think the citizens believe it. I have been told that Rowlett "officialdom" thinks I am writing this blog because I'm angry that I lost a bid to get a property rezoned. Apparently, it is thought there is no way "officialdom" can be at fault for anything. There isn't a number above that has anything to do with my rezoning bid. The above are facts; not my opinion, nor disappointment. Facts seem to be in short supply around here. However, we have plenty of experts and opinions.
When I last left you, Rowlett was going to lose a lot of revenue. Concern had registered some observations on the wrong land, but we got onto the correct land. Concern posed some legitimate questions that would occur to any homeowner that was unsure about what the real estate around them was about to become. Concern used declarative sentences, but I saw them more as questions.......valid questions. I am disappointed that staff or P&Z didn't take time to explain some of the issues a little better. They didn't say a word. Of course, they and the consultants were predisposed to recommend against approval, anyway. However, City Council is a different matter. That is the place where the academic discussion is shared with the citizens and taxpayers of Rowlett, pros and cons. There was virtually no debate. The presentation from staff was just awful. The mayor suggested some of the info presented might be a little misleading. He then emphasized that he only wanted facts during the discussions. He cleared up some of the staff representations.mmHowever, Chris Kilgore, with his excellent presentation whether you agree with him or not, gave his reasons for voting for the zoning request. Chris' opinion was borne out by the facts as he saw them. . Todd then announced he was voting for the request. Carl Pankrantz said something I didn't understand. He just rambled on and on, and voted against the zoning request. Carl even called his own witness from the peanut gallery (Jim Grabenhorst, Economic Development). I have never seen that before. Debbie Bobbit and Michael Gallups didn't say anything and voted for the request, and Doug Phillips and Tammy Dana-Bashion said nothing and voted against the request to rezone. Below is a link to the discussion. Go to about 15 minutes into 8-B part 2 of 2 to pick up Chris and Carl's comments. Go to about 18:30 of 8-B part 1 of 2 to see Todd's comments. It is worth your review. They made the only commentary.
http://rowletttx.swagit.com/play/03022014-984 Here's what I find extremely interesting. The rezoning proposal was to be a $80 million development when completed in about 5-6 years. It would begin immediately to place value on the tax base. It would average putting $12 million to $14 million a year, plus bring in the disposable income that the upper income families would have bought to the city. Yet, in the discussion period held for the benefit of the citizens, only three people had something to say. Four did not. Where in the world was any discussion?!! Didn't anybody talk about this thing before a vote was taken? Didn't they think the citizens had a right to know their reasons?!! Four councilpersons did not say a word....not a peep......but two voted for the proposal and two voted against the proposal. Where in the world did they decide on the pros and cons about an $80 million deal?
I have an idea. Ann Richter, one of the consultants, was at the November 19 City Council meeting. However, she did not appear in the public hearing nor the Work Session. I think she was invited into the Executive Session which is blocked from public view. Ms. Richter wasn't there that night just for a stroll thru the halls of city hall. The Executive Session is to allow City Attorney and City Council to discuss legal issues........not pros and cons of zoning issues that the public is entitled to observe. I think inviting Ann Richter, who is clearly hostile to anything other than Office/Warehouse development in the area, constituted an illegal meeting. I think that's where the discussion was held about the subject rezoning issue. The public was entitled to hear that discussion. The agenda said the meeting with city attorney on the subject property was for "legal adviceof fiscal remodeling and zoning." Case against rezoning per staff: 1. The residential would encroach upon commercial development. (When? What commercial development?) 2. "Area is waiting on commercial development." (When? 10 years? 20 years? 40 years? As stated elsewhere in other pages of this blog, Where's the facts?) 3. This is a good one. "excessive proliferation of use of residential development." And all this time you thought we didn't have smart people on staff. Who decided that? However, still opinion.......no facts. Below is my analysis. McEntee Ranch analysis: Site and plan: Stipulated. (52 acre and 16 acre sites, totaling 68 acres).
Current use: Pasture
Surrounding area: Large lot residential, average price in area estimated at $275-300K. Some units estimated at $500K. Surrounded on three sides by $250K+ houses. Pasture to north, new landscaped boulevard between proposed subdivision and pasture. Proposed housing is, on the average, more expensive than existing housing in neighborhood.
Market analysis: The land is poorly located for retail or office. The traffic would have to be circular in nature because only residential areas are available in which to dump “pass thru” traffic. Areas with drainage issues would be too expensive for industrial development. A more suitable commercial development would be apartments, however, considerable opposition could be expected. The land is more suitable for mid-density single family detached, ranging in price from $280K to $500K. There would be exclusive entry and 14% park land. Avg. sales price….$360K+. Market would be Tollway orientated.
Current resident questions/objections: Crime, Traffic, Real estate values, small houses and small lots, and small misc. was the basis for opposition. P& Z should have addressed these questions. They did not. Therefore, Council has no feedback from P&Z.
Crime: Potential purchasers will be as concerned about buying into a community with high crime rate as existing residents worry about the bringing in of crime…….perhaps more so. Potential buyers, spending $350K+ will drive the existing neighborhood looking for evidence of crime. They don’t want to move into a high crime area. Both sides have exactly the same question.
Crime is not considered an issue.
Traffic: Only very minor traffic will enter Toler Road and only to access the subdivision utilizing Berryman Road. This very modest traffic (if any) will accommodate traffic for a handful of lots located near the intersection of Berryman Road and the nearest street of the proposed subdivision. This traffic would only come from motorists traveling east on Hickox and wishing to take minor shortcut to new lots near Berryman. This traffic would be very modest…..perhhaps non-existant. It is suggested that anyone driving on Toler Road to access the new subdivision (other than the modest Berryman traffic) is not smart enough to purchase a $350K house. Toler Road does not go to the new subdivision. It circumvents it. The only access to the new subdivision from Toler Road is Berryman.
There is practically no anticipation of any increased use of Larkin Road First, Larkin is a terrible road. It is in great need of repair. Any new residents to the proposed subdivision will most certainly use the new, landscaped, boulevard exiting to the south. In fact, any existing residents suggesting the closure and fencing of Larkin Road at its current terminus will have successfully blocked off current Larkin Road residents from using the new landscaped shortcut to the tollway. This would not be my recommendation. It is my suggestion that southwest Larkin Road residents would welcome the new boulevard. It’s a shortcut to the tollway, and a heck of a lot smoother to drive on.
Traffic should not be considered to be a major concern to existing residents. There is just no reason to use Toler Road or Larkin Road, except for the modest Berryman traffic, if any.
Real Estate Values: Most of the concerns about falling property values seemed to center on the small dwelling size and small lot size on some portion of the development. Actually, these sizes were imposed by the City of Rowlett, not the developer. This writer happens to know that the smallest house the developer had in his portfolio at the time of application was 2,005 square feet. New product was going to have to be developed to comply with the city’s 1500 square foot requirement. It is the developer’s intention to design these smaller units for the much needed Senior Housing. This is also a need identified as sorely needed in Rowlett. These are not entry level tract houses, but very upscale, very well appointed smaller homes for Seniors that do not want to mow one acre of grass when it’s 100 degrees, or maintain 3,000 square feet of house when they only live in 1,500 square feet. This area could be gated, separately landscaped with its own HOA, and in my opinion, should have a golf cart recharge station.
These units would be very luxurious and be the lowest priced units in the subdivision.Prices would escalate upward from there.
It is estimated that in general, the average price of the proposed subdivision would exceed the average price of existing and surrounding homes by approximately $75K. Therefore, this writer’s nearly 50 years of experience is of the opinion that the proposed subdivision will enhance the values of surrounding homes by $20-$30K. These values might be further enhanced by improved access to the Tollway.
Real Estate values should improve with the development of the proposed subdivision.
Small Houses and small lots: It is felt the 1,500 square foot house ignited fears of entry level housing and lower price levels. As set out above, this size of housing is to satisfy a need for Senior housing in Rowlett. The requirement is specified by the City of Rowlett and fits the needs as identified by two research firms. This housing is not for basic needs housing. The units are expensive. Everything that is nice is installed. Seniors will buy down, but will not sacrifice comfort. Clearly, this project is for the more affluent Senior. Per square foot pricing may be the highest in Rowlett.
It is felt these smaller houses and lots will have no adverse effect on existing real estate values.
Benefits to the City of Rowlett:
1. $75-$80 million contributed to tax base from new housing.
2. $600-$750K in increased home values in adjacent homes. (Tax Base)
3. Substantially enhance value of vacant land adjacent and northeast of new proposed boulevard. Amount not known, but value in millions of dollars. (Tax Base)
4. Pasture land with improved access in (3) above will attract additional commercial development. (Tax Base)
5. Commercial Development follows rooftops………not vice versa. Therefore, in general, new homeowners in proposed development will have household income of $150K and up…….nearly double Rowlett’s average income. This additional disposable income will demand additional commercial development to service their needs and wants. The needed commercial development and sales tax generated by this new source of revenue is nearly impossible to calculate with accuracy…….but it’s a whole bunch.
A word about the developer: History Maker Homes is one of the top 10 developers in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex. The metroplex has some of the best developers in the world. It is thought History Maker ranks No. 8 in annual gross sales at the present time. The company has been in existence for many years and has survived several real estate downturns. The company is a survivor.
A word about Northshore and Rowlett 2020: A tollway is not a freeway. Clearly, the tolls make a difference on the development criteria. For example, an executive making $200K a year will pay $7-$10 a day to have a convenient commute to work. He can afford it and altho a toll is paid, the time savings and avoidance of stop and go traffic is worth the cost. On the other hand, if this same executive is a member of a corporate search team looking for a new location of their office to house 50 employees, he will not select a site close to where he lives unless his employees can get there for little or no toll expense. The resistance to tollways will increase if there are service vehicles or rolling stock entering or leaving the facility each day. The exception would be a location at a major intersenction, such as Renner Road, US 75, or Custer Road. Employees can get to work without tolls. Northshore has only Merritt Road and Liberty Grove as crossroads. These two intersections fall far short of the traffic handled by, say, Lakeshore. Merritt and Liberty Grove Roads just don’t link up with much beyond local traffic.
However, all is not lost. Rowlett can utilize commercial development, as best we can, the intersections and service roads where they exist. That still leaves a large portion of land. That land can be used to house the high income executives that work in employment centers near the high speed freeways and tollways in the metroplex. Acres and acres of high rise office and manufacturing costing over $10 million per facility is probably not in the picture. Executive housing can be further encouraged with lake development and lifestyle improvements.
The proposed subdivision does exactly that.
Rowlett 2020 is a good exercise with good intentions. I still recommend the study, however I think the original concept was diverted or corrupted. It needs to get back on track and advise and offer answers to questions of the City Council. They should not do the management or administration of Council duties.. The City Council was elected to make decisions, not subcontract it out to consultants. There was never any intention to create a “no growth” policy, but it seemed to have happened. As a citizen experienced in real estate, it was extremely painful to watch Rockwall, Sachse, Wylie, Murphy, and the Fire Wheel area suck all the economic development air right out of Rowlett over the past two years. Don’t take my word for it. Go look. However, it is still my opinion that Rowlett can benefit from a re-evaluation of Northshore and other more difficult areas to maximize use while maintaining an excellent lifestyle. Causing to shut down the obvious is nuts. Valuable time is being wasted. There are other areas in Northshore that are also residential in nature because of infrastructure, development difficulties, and market acceptance.
Clearly, the status quo is being disrupted for the current homeowners in the area. They have legitimate questions that deserve answers, but to stop development and preserve adjacent land, there is only one way: Form an HOA, buy the land, and deed restrict it. The other objections, when turned into questions, can be answered satisfactorily. In fact, the proposed subdivision will raise the property values of the current residents. The four answers to the existing homeowners, plus five other benefits the subdivision brings to Rowlett, plus other intangible benefits accrued to Rowlett by the proposed development seemingly has one opposing position. The opposition from Staff and P&Z seems to be, “We don’t know what it is until Rowlett 2020 tells us.” It is not thought we have to wait for Rowlett 2020. The evidence is lopsidedly on the side of granting zoning for development of the subject property.
Sorry for the long post. I didn’t have time to make it short.
Concern Rowlett Resident left a comment on the Poll page. Typically, I would have responded on the Poll page, but I have opted to respond here. You should go to the Poll page and read Concern's comment. Concern has every right to say what they think, however in this case I think they are commenting on the wrong piece of dirt. I think Concern's story is worthy of comment, but the land mentioned in the post of "Something's up" is 300-400 yards east of the Tollway on Liberty Grove. I think the land Concern is writing about is west of the tollway and bounded by Toler Road and Larkin Lane. The land in "Something's Up" has no adjacent streets. It is fronted by Liberty Grove only and all interior streets were to be built by the developer. However, the price range and product of both subdivisions were very much the same. The sales prices of homes in both projects averaged $340K-$360K In fact, the engineering firm was exactly the same. I know the engineer and both properties well. Concern's first comment charges that the proposed development was "low income housing," and it would pull down the value of the existing homes. My goodness.......if minimum pricing for the smaller units are approximately $200K and goes up from there with some homes in the $500K range, I wonder what Concern's definition of "middle income housing" may be. As far as the "small size of the lots and houses," those specs were mandated by the city.......not the developer. I happen to know that the developer's smallest house in their kit bag was 2007 square feet. They were going to have to develop some new plans to meet the city's criteria. The smaller lots and plans were to be specifically designed for seniors that want quality homes, but do not want the large lots and 3,000 sq.ft. to maintain. The Seniors want extremely well done homes without the maintenance. This is what the city wanted and the developer was trying to conform. The "Low cost housing" charge is simply untrue. The land is too expensive for low cost housing. Low cost housing would never recapture the raw land cost. If Concern's comment about the lowering of real estate values because of equal, or higher home prices, landscaped boulevards, parks, and ponds, they need to get in contact with the American Institute of real estate appraisers immediately and give them the proof of the claims. The Institute and the MAI's have been following the wrong appraisal methods for 100 years. As far as Concern's comments regarding traffic, I can't imagine anyone wanting to drive up that washboard street called Larkin. Also, if someone was trying to get to the proposed subdivision and was on Toler Road, they would be lost. Toler Road does not enter or cross the proposed subdivision. Any traffic problem is grossly overstated. The proposed subdivision had brand new, landscaped boulevards with cascading ponds accessing Liberty Grove and the Tollway. Why would new residents want to use either Toler or Larkin? It wouldn't be exactly "slumming" but it wouldn't be as nice. When anyone purchased a home along the north side of Toler Road, they would have a backyard view of a horse pasture. It would be a nice, bucolic scene. However, that land was not owned by the homeowner. It was owned by someone else. I feel certain that no one ever promised that the land would remain undeveloped until the end of time. If so, someone lied. Therefore, some risk is taken whenever buying a home next to undeveloped property. One is never certain what ultimately would be built on the horse pasture. However, a city can control the development with zoning ordinances. Not only does Concern have an interest in what is to be developed, the city also wants good property. Typically, the city wants to preserve values, enhance the tax base, and elevate the image of the town and neighborhood. In this case, the current zoning was for Mixed Use. The applicant requested zoning be changed to a suitable residential zoning. The proposal and the prominent developer was thrown on the trash heap. It is going to cost the city a lot of revenue. I have some more to say on this topic, but baby needs a new pair of shoes. There will be more on another post.
Got a call from a friend of mine. He owns some real estate on Liberty Grove. He said there was a zoning request coming up on April 15th, or so. The re-zoning was requested for the 58 acres that has been mentioned previously in this blog. The applicant is requesting a residential zoning. This is the same land that staff said was well engineered and designed, then proceeded to recommend denial of the request. The consultant flew in from Denver to add support to the blah, blah, blah, blah, and saving the site for a credit card processing center. That was all only about a year ago. Do you think staff will recommend denial again? Do you think P&Z will recommend denial again? Do you think the consultant will fly in to plead denial again? My goodness, how times change. Wha' happened? Fully developed, this project would contribute about $620K-$650K to Rowlett's annual income stream in about 5-6 years. It would average about $12 million a year in additions to the tax base. It should be of great interest to you to see who votes to deny the re-zoning request. Maybe the dam will burst and there will be a great out flowing of brilliance as to why it was denied in the first place. Oh, yeah. I remember. A credit card processing center and residential just didn't fit the Northshore plan for warehouses and office buildings...........and it's coming. Promise.