We have a number of people wanting to think for us again. That's okay. That's the representative democracy we have. However, it's still our job to decide who to allow to be our surrogate thinkers.
It's a popular mis-belief that if you voted, you have done your job. That's not quite true. You are supposed to think before you vote. Voting isn't hard. Thinking is hard. Now, I'm not going to tell you who to vote for. That's your job. However, I am going to share with you some of the things I think. Then, you can decide if I'm a crackpot, or not, and vote accordingly.
Unless you're deaf, dumb, blind, and have an IQ somewhere in the 60's range, you should know that Rowlett is in a very important part of it's life. It is the most important part of Rowlett's life since it's incorporation. I would ask you to refer to the blog posts just preceding this one.
In that blog post, I said I couldn't have written a better script for Rowlett. Now, you must decide who you want to "play the hand."
I can't think of a better set of circumstances to be given to Rowlett. However, we have a lot of people trying to steer the boat. Some I agree with, and some truly mystify me with their logic.
I would like to turn the clock back about three or four years. At that time, there were beginning to be rumblings about "form base codes" and "Rowlett 2020." I was one of the few in Rowlett that knew what "form base codes" were. "Rowlett 2020" seemed to be some marketeer's title for soap.
In those days, we had a city manager that I thought was the worst real estate analyst I had ever seen. She didn't even know lien priorities, assignments, or subordination agreements. All of this is very necessary for real estate structuring. However, to say that that city manager was "into" form base codes and Rowlett 2020 would be a gross understatement. That would be the same as saying Mount Everest was a bump on the countryside. In any event, that city manager was successful in creating a "dogma" that was inter-meshed with the Rowlett scene. Believers of that "dogma" are still with us. I don't think they're bad people. I don't suspect them of any chicanery. I think they are just wrong in not challenging some of the "dogma" that seems to be remaining in Rowlett's planning.
As most of you know, I am in the real estate development business.......as a bit player, not a developer.......even tho I have done some development for my employers. As a player in the real estate development business, I talk to developers, lenders, contractors, engineers, and borrowers every single day. I hear "stuff." City Hall and staff do not hear the same things I do.....for an obvious reason. You have to "play nice" to people that have control over the success of your business. Tell me a contractor that says he can tell a city inspector what to do, and I will show you a contractor that is not long with a job. To believe anything otherwise is extremely naive. When I tell you some new businesses are upset with Rowlett's way of doing business, I am not lying. Of course, we citizens are told it is all for the greater good. I haven't seen any evidence of that, yet.
Once the previous city manager had the bit in her teeth, and had control of the check book, any consultant knew who to dance with. The eventuality of form base codes and Rowlett 2020 was just a matter of time.
Does that make form base codes and Rowlett 2020 bad? Absolutely not. I happen to be a believer in form base codes *when used judiciously. I am also a believer in long range planning, such as Rowlett 2020, *when it doesn't stifle good growth. The two asterisks above are where the rub is.
Let's talk about Rowlett 2020, first. There was a housing project that did not receive approval of City Council on the last meeting. It was a 3-3 vote. It was a tie because Michael Gallops was absent and the tie breaker vote was not present. The three negative votes cited Rowlett 2020 growth plans as their rationale for denying approval. They said almost universally that the goals of Rowlett 2020 were not met, even tho they said it might be 10-20 years before it is known if the plan was working. It was also said, "the people of Rowlett approved (designed) Rowlett 2020." The three positive votes created a tie, and ties lose. I believe that some people on City Council didn't hear a damned word of what was said by the developer applicant.
Let's talk about the people of Rowlett first. I don't remember the exact numbers of Rowlett citizens that participated in the "charettes" that were the discussion phases of Rowlett 2020, however I seem to remember that the numbers were close to previous voting counts. If I am correct, there were approximately 1400-1600 people participating. Of those (say, 1500) people, not all were in favor of all conclusions. There was some varying discourse. So, lets say that 1,000 people were in unison about the final plan of Rowlett 2020. Folks, that a long way from the 56,000 residents that populated Rowlett at the time. When a politician stands up and represents that Rowlett 2020 was approved by "the people of Rowlett," it is a gross misrepresentation. It misrepresents to the point of being laughable. The politician that uses that language is just hiding behind a rock. Another empty bowl of Rowlett 2020 that is used is planning for the future. That is kinda correct, but horribly misused. For example, one can not MANDATE that a certain property is going to be something else in 30 years. At least, not in the real estate market. Things change. The secret to good long range planning is to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves while still not violating the overall goal of the plan. If the market calls for high quality, upscale housing, does it make sense to hold out for a McDonalds? Just because McDonalds is in the long range plan, doesn't mean its going to happen.
There is another thing that comes into long range planning. It is a concept that appraisers use. It is called "highest and best use." Some people are showing off when using the term without knowing what it means or how to use it. Our previous city manager used it erroneously and other members of "officialdom" picked up it's incorrect use. Appraisers use it right. Essentially, "highest and best use" is an acknowledgment by an appraiser after a study of all the factors influencing the development......or re-development.....of a property. There will be a litany of factors that can come into play. Infrastructure, employment centers, nearness of what kinds of businesses, cost of land, and cost of construction all come into play. Of course, these are the same factors that a developer brings into play. Most of it is common sense, but its amazing how often it is misused.
I don't know the developer that appeared before the City Council the other night requesting approval of his subdivision. However, I know the land. I also know the features that the developer was trying to incorporate into the subdivision design. It was a compromise between the city's edict about form base codes (trees every 30 feet instead of every 50 feet) and what the market and economic factors was molding into his land study. You can't put trees exactly every 30 feet with front entry driveways. It was the best presentation I have ever heard whereby the strictness of Form Base Codes was softened by dictates of cost and market. What he was proposing was the "highest and best use" of the property. It was a superlative attempt to meld the market concept and form base codes. Yet, it was turned down. Mark Kurbanside, city planner, even admitted that two previous subdivisions had been modified to meet market conditions. I didn't know that, but I was glad to hear it. The reasons given for the denial were abysmal. The project should have been approved. It would have been a valuable addition to Rowlett's tax base. Look up the City Council film for the night of April 19, and see who turned down the subdivsion and the reasons used to justify the denial.
Now, the land again is just setting there crying out for what was just denied. Go figure.
I like form base codes when used where intended. They were designed by a loose confederation of local groups, now organized, known as "New Ubanism." They were designed to help re-develop high density and older neighborhoods, usually in major inner city areas. In every manual I have read about them, it has always said on the front page that these codes are to be meant as a guide only. They must be used judiciously taking into consideration other (market) factors. Where densities are not a concern, they offer little aid. However, they can be buzz words for people that may not even know what they mean. The next time someone uses "form base codes" in a sentence, ask him/her to explain what they say. You won't get an answer. Instead, watch the tap dance. It's fun to watch.
You must read and listen to all who espouse their leadership qualities. I know people running for office that I like very much, but I won't vote for them because I feel they really don't understand development.......even tho they say they do. I know people that I think are impeccably honest and have the interest of the people of Rowlett at heart. However, I think their understanding of planning for the future of Rowlett is flawed.
I am disappointed in the availability of venues whereby the candidates can present their ideas. There have been a couple, but not much. The newspapers have been no help. There is some "rattle" on Facebook and some in email.
Who do I fault for this? The citizens of Rowlett. You have to demand that the candidates tell us what they think. And.....if you believe everything you're told, you need your butt kicked.
Voting is easy. Thinking isn't.