I moved to Rowlett nearly 43 years ago. We had no major east/west highways. There was US #66 (now Lakeview Pky) going to Rockwall and Greenville, but usually anyone coming from the west would use Interstate 30. We had no roads of any consequence going north. We used to find a few bewildered travelers to the north of Rowlett, but they usually became lost while trying to find the seven cities of gold. There was a lake, but it was almost a navigational hazard trying to get around it. The lake was hardly used. There were no traffic lights in Rowlett.......not one. You could walk down the middle of Lakeview Pky during mid day and not worry about getting hit by a car. Rowlett had one policeman. A vote was taken and he was made Chief. The fire department was volunteer. Forty three years ago, we had a clean slate. We could have built our town any way we wanted.
Now, what's happened and what can happen?
I like to divide any urban growth into two very general groups. One is Mechanical and the other one is Leadership and Planning. Mechanical is what I consider events that were going to happen no matter Rowlett's participation. Amongst other things, I would count DART, Bush Tollway, and Bayside and I-30. All were placed in Rowlett because of the needs of the DFW metroplex.....not Rowlett. DART could (and did) stop at Garland. There was a massive effort to route Bush Tollway around Rowlett to Rockwall. The people leading this fight to divert the tollway to Rockwall belonged to the group mentioned in the previous post. Its the group that knows all there is to know about everything. Bayside and I-30's incorporation into Rowlett couldn't happen because all the chips weren't in place, yet. For one, Bush Tollway had to be built. Be assured, the tollway was important. Bayside doesn't exist because of the Rowlett market. It exists because of the North Texas market.
Now we have to mix in a little of the Leadership and Planning ingredients.
Somebody said we need DART in Rowlett. That is forward, and good thinking. Rowlett voted to send 1% of our sales tax revenue to DART in return for extending the DART line from Garland to Rowlett. We have now paid about $100 million for this improvement. I applaud the Rowlett "officialdom" at the time for their forward thinking in this matter. However, I think they dropped the ball when we got our DART station. We should have gotten a real station with indoor plumbing and walls to keep heat and air conditioning for waiting passengers. DART ripped us on this one. We were among the first to join DART, but late in getting our station, and it was only a stripped down model. We certainly paid for it. So, on the DART rail deal, I give us a B+.
The Bush Tollway deal was a good deal, kinda. There was an early screwup when the Rowlett negotiators neglected to "hang tough" for the service road that any forward thinking person would know was needed. Now we have a serious development problem working out how to access any developable land in the area we now call "North Shore." For a private developer to pay for a state accepted service road to develop a project would add horrifically to the cost. So far, it has added sufficiently to costs, along with other issues, to keep all development to zero.....in what? five years, now? This was a monumental screw up. To compound the difficulties, Rowlett's "officialdom" zoned the area for Office and Industrial. They forgot they were on a tollway instead of a freeway. They forgot there was no "free way" to get to the sites. There were no major, and free, ways to get to work. Therefore, employers would have to pay an additional $1 per hour to get good workers. Any warehouse facilities would have to not only pay admittedly fewer employees more money, but each truck coming in and going out of their facilities would have to pay a toll. Those were all screw ups, but there is a good side to "officialdoms" planning. That "plus" would be the fact that the tollway came thru Rowlett at all. There was a pretty good fist fight going on about whether the tollway should come thru Rowlett, or not. Keeping the tollway in Rowlett alone will not win the day, but coupled with some other maneuvers, the tollway will help Rowlett a great deal. Rowlett "officaldom" did a good job getting the tollway. However, we still have a ways to go. We don't have enough suitable land for large industrial complexes, but we're just close enough to get many of the executives from the new massive offices and tech centers about 15-20 minutes up the tollway. A business executive may not pick Rowlett for his new large office building, but it's just right for his commute home. He probably has not enjoyed a 15-20 minute commute in years. He will pay $7-$10 a day to enjoy a 15-20 minute commute. All we need is the zoning in North Shore to build his $500K house. More recent Rowlett "officialdom" has turned this prospect down......for nothing as I can see. Not good. However, in total, I would give Rowlett a solid B.
Now, the tollway plays an important part in the Bayside saga. I have long thought the land at the tip of the Lake Ray Hubbard peninsula was the most desirable develop-able land between Dallas and Memphis. It was surrounded on three side by water, and the water also gave a geological divide to create the land's own identity and character. Bayside can create it's own image. However, all the parts were not quite there. I wrote a column in The Dallas Morning News in 2007 that Rowlett should purchase the Bayside land from Dallas and develop it. Some overtures were made, but it failed to bear fruit. Then, the tollway was built thru Rowlett and connected to I-30 just west of Bayside. That event seemed to fill the hand. Soon, Kent Donahue joined Rowlett in a maneuver that purchased the land from Dallas and it became part of Rowlett. It is currently under development that should create a value of $1 BILLION upon completion. Rowlett created a huge development project, providing jobs, and tax revenue, access to the Interstate system, and access to the northern employment centers from which the executive's homes are to be built. When all the good that Bayside can provide is considered, Rowlett's "officialdom" gets an A for it's efforts on Bayside.
Now, we have set the stage. The specifics follow.