To the best of my knowledge, no developers of any consequence have approached Rowlett since the city turned down two significant residential developers several months ago. Fully developed, these two subdivisions would have each contributed $600,000 per year to Rowlett's income. I even asked the City Manager a couple of weeks ago for a list of developers who may have recently contacted the city inquiring about a development proposal. I never got an answer. I am assuming they are not lining up.
We have some inventory (two subdivisions), plus we have the development underway for the (I think this is funny) "Archie Bunker" homes, but no new inquires as I should expect for such a visible opportunity. This is unnerving. If one didn't know better, one would think the two developers of which we denied zoning had friends. They probably talk to other DFW developers. Do ya think??!!
So, potential developers might think why should they, even in a superb market, spend $100,000 and a year of time to engage in the quagmire, sticky wicket, Gordian Knot, of Rowlett........then still be denied zoning.........at least until the protected "Archie Bunker" homes are completed. It is clearly apparent that the developers have no sense of adventure.
Our Staff, P&Z, and City Council, collectively, deny zoning for homes costing $300,000 and up. This is flying in the face of an overwhelming metroplex market for homes, and a target market servicing 20,000 new jobs 15-25 minutes up the toll way. They zone our best residential land for offices and warehouses. That is unbelievable. They think the zoning is correct because they have pretty pictures. Usually math and absorption rates are better gauges of market need.
Now I want to change stories on you.......keeping in mind the story above.
I want to get a couple of things cleared up right at the start. First, I am totally loyal to Rowlett's Fire Department. I think they're the best in the metroplex. I also like Brian Funderbunk, the City Manager. I think he's smart, works hard, and one of the best numbers guys I know. I supported his promotion to City Manager, and I have not been sorry. However, neither Brian, nor me, are perfect. I know it's hard to admit, but sometimes I make mistakes. My strong suit is that when I realize I made a mistake, I admit it, without reservation.
Now, we have a bond election coming up. In the bond election, $2.6 million is allocated for Fire Department uses. The city wishes to build a training center for them. My sentiment is to give the Fire Department anything they need. But, there's a couple of thorns in the roses. First, there is an allocation of $5o0K to engineer and design a new and adjacent fire station. However, that fire station is not in the bond election. It is for sometime in the future. It's probably not a complete deal breaker, but I would like to see the $500K remain with the future project financing rather than in the subject bond offering. I admit that it would speed things up when the new fire station is proposed, but no one knows when that will be. The engineering fee of $500K is about right for a $5-$6 million fire station. Standing alone, this $500K allocation is not a deal breaker, but I don't like it.
My other objection is more sinister. It could be a deal breaker. I don't like the location of the training center. I think there is a possibility that the training center, if built where it is currently proposed, could hurt real estate values within a 500 yard radius. It is so darned high. It is four stories high. I went over to look at Garland's training tower. I must confess, they have cleaned their tower up quite a bit. It used to look like a bombed out, burned out hulk. Now it looks like a nice burned out hulk. Of course, they put their main Fire Department office right next to it. Even the "suits" didn't want to look at the earlier mess.
See Garland's training center below.
Now, the photo appears to be a three story structure. Rowlett wants to build a four story structure. Rowlett's training center will be approximately 500-600 feet west of the corner of Dalrock Road and Schrade and on the south side of Schrade.
Folks, that's going to stick up in the air like an Atlas rocket. Let's say you live in a $300-$500K house in the subdivisions across Dalrock Road to the east. What does the image above do your bucolic life style? What about the houses to the north? Sticking up 40 feet in the air, I presume you can see it from the high school. How would a real estate agent advertise your house, or land? "Great lake view; easy access to Interstate 30 and a boat marina; well maintained homes in the $250K-$500K price range; lovely small town feel; and a one iron shot to the fire department training facility...easily seen from your front porch or dining room table?" Boy, that should have buyers lining up outside your door. Everyone driving up Dalrock Road is going to see the training facility quite well.
I don't have any problem placing a future fire station there. You can put a fire station anywhere. However, I'm a little puzzled about another fire station located just a short distance north up Dalrock Road. The city manager says he wants a fire station closer to the new development of Robertson Park. That's probably good planning, but the proposed fire station, time wise, is not 20 seconds closer that the one that already exists. I would move the proposed station closer to the new Robertson Park development.
I contacted Brian Funderbunk, the City Manager. I have already told you I like Brian. Brian wrote that he wanted to take advantage of the "synergism" of the close proximity of the proposed fire station and the proposed training facility. He also said he wanted to be closer to Robertson Park, and that they already owned the land. He sent me a layout of the land.
I would like to agree with Brian, but I can't. I would like to see synergism between the proposed fire station and the proposed training center, but I can't. Each have very separate functions. I don't see where they have a symbiotic relationship. They may be setting side by side, but I don't see how they help each other.......any more than any other fire station in town. As discussed above, I don't see any significant reduction in response time to the Robertson Park area from the station a short distance north on Dalrock. At 60 mph, it can only be seconds.
When Brian says the city already owns the land, I think we're getting closer to the real reason for the location of the training center. Being cost conscious, he doesn't want to spend any money for land. That's noble. My suggestion would be to keep the land needed for the new fire station and trade the remainder of the 4 acres to someone for land in a better suited area.....where it's commercial or industrial. It doesn't have to be on a main thruway or well developed area. Garland has theirs in a commercial area on Hwy #66.
Now, contrary to, and after discussing the P&Z and City Council's denial of the residential subdivisions above, what do you think they would do to a business man wanting to rezone the Schrade land to a commercial operation of some kind with the appearance of the Garland training facility below? It would be one of the shortest zoning discussions in history. It would definitely influence real estate values within eyesight.
Just to play with some numbers, lets say 30 houses averaging $300K in value had their values effected by 5%. Therefore, the total value of the homes would be $9 million. At the current tax rate, just the erosion of tax base will cause the taxpayers to have to cough up another $67.5K per year in taxes. I don't know how many taxpayers there are in Rowlett, but just the erosion in value because of the fire training facility would cost each of 17,000 Rowlett households (@ 3.5 people per household) another $3.97 per year in taxes. I know it's not much, but look at the irony. A nearby taxpayer/homeowner will have to pay taxes to pay off the bond debt for something that cost his/her balance sheet $15,000 and they have to pay an additional $4.00 per year for that loss, as well as all of Rowlett.
Man, we can't afford too much leadership like that.
I think the city ought to drop the $500K design fee of a new station off the bond issue and consider changing the location of the training facility. I think they should consider a trade of the land to avoid spending extra money for land.
If Rowlett "officialdom" can't do that......I fear I will have to vote against the bond issue benefiting the fire department...........and I really don't want to do that. I want to support our firemen.