First, I am a strong supporter of the development community. I nearly always come down on the side of the developer. I understand the hard work and costs incurred in trying to bring a development of any kind to fruition. Are there some sleezeballs in the development fraternity? Yes, but probably not as many as you think. Most are just trying to run their business as best they can. The money they earn is their paycheck........just like yours. Their risk is enormous, therefore the higher paychecks.
I consider one of my skills to be analyzing the highest and best use of land. I have long considered the land now called Bayside as one of the most valuable pieces of undeveloped land between downtown Dallas and Memphis. In fact, I wrote three columns in the Dallas Morning News, two in 2007 and one in 2008, advocating that Rowlett buy the land from Dallas and developing it themselves. In my articles Rowlett was to "partner up" with a prominent developer for expertise and advice.
What came to pass was something similar, however structured differently. What developed was that a developer purchased the land with Rowlett as somewhat of a partner. Rowlett was to provide city services and reap tax revenue, with some sales tax money flowing to the City of Dallas, in addition to $30 million purchase price.
What followed was a grand announcement about all the cool things that would be incorporated into the Bayside development. This presentation was supposed to include a much ballyhooed 8 acre clear water pond with sandy beach, towering water fountain, and small track train connecting all the important places in the development. This story was spread all over the metroplex, Texas, and to some extent, over the USA. It was a big deal.
I could see the new construction north of I-30. I drive by it nearly every day. However, I had heard little about south of I-30. The meeting Thursday evening was to update Council and citizens about the most current development plans. I had to go. What I heard was 70% okay and 30% pure el toro poo poo.......intended to "smooth over" major changes to the project.
During my career, I have been to many "dog and pony" shows. I had only set in this meeting a few minutes before I recognized a "dog and pony" show. It's easy to recognize. Just start looking for WHAT isn't being discussed. The main attraction to the whole development wasn't being mentioned. Everything BUT the main attraction was being discussed. Then, a triangular park for the public was mentioned in detail. The site plan showed no pool. However, an expanded marina with doubling of a kayak basin in which no one had heard about, anyway, was discussed. The bloviating was beginning to stifle the air.
When it was clear to Tom, the developer's statesman, that the question on the table was really about the pond, the discussion about everything except the pond kicked into high gear. It was actually boring.
If the pond is abandoned, and valued at $25/sq.ft., $8.7 million of land will become available for development as income producing. Some of it became townhouse land. To replace it, Tom, pontificated on the new design for the marina. Now, let me see. They just spent a bunch of money redoing the marina. I guess Tom was referring to a previously unbeknown Phase II. In this "redo" the marina provided 8 acres, instead of 4, for kayaks.
Now I have to tell you a quick story to exemplify my observation of the kayak story. I am a sailor. I have sailed on Lake Ray Hubbard since 1978. I also sail the Caribbean as often as I can. I have sailed the Caribbean so much nearly all major islands are a re-visit. One thing an ocean sailor wants is a "place to go." I can sail in circles around the lake anytime, but when going to the ocean, I want someplace to go. Now, the developer made great noises about Lake Ray Hubbard being too windy for the water fountain that was proposed. High winds are not good for kayaks and canoes, either. Kayaks and canoes are best in quiet waters exploring different and interesting places that other boats can't get to. That's the type of water Rowlett has. The developer of Bayview is proposing that kayaks and canoes paddle around presumably in a circle contained in a 4 or 8 acre "area." Now, they are free to enter the main portion of the lake, but the kayaker would incur less than quiet water with higher winds. That's where I want to be in my 27 foot sailboat. This was a dumb attempt to partially cover up the absence of the clear water pond and fountain. Tom also said it would cost the developers MORE to enhance the marina than build the pond. That is not true. I forgot more about costs while shaving this morning than Tom knows. In fact, the previous marina owner used to move boat slips all the time to keep the boats in deep enough water during low water periods. He did not spend money easily. Tom was bloviating again.
Rowlett, if they want to help kayakers and canoeists, has a better deal to offer than Bayside. Rowlett has Paddle Point Park as a base spot. They can then select 6-8 sites within the "take line" and up some feeder creeks for additional bases. That gives kayakers and canoeists places to go.......in quiet kayak friendly water. This improvement can be handled by Rowlett's Park Department. The city can purchase a used pontoon boat, and used lawn tractor mower, and a used ramp to get the mower off and on the pontoon boat. They could call it the Rowlett Navy, and their job would be to mow the sites 6 times a year. No street development, parking lots, porto potties, grills, nothing. Very, very cheap and would offer more than Bayside's program by a large margin.
After the presentation, Tammy, the mayor, went straight to the key question. "Where is the pool?" Right after that Debbie Bobbit posed questions about the entire concept that seemed to be abandoned. All Councilpersons were less than kindly to the presentation.
I honestly worried about whether the Council would see thru the presentation. They did......and I was proud of them.
Where was discussion on TxDot and I-30 and the traffic issues? Tom kept talking about areas for the public, but not mention of costs to the public. Do they pay for the use of kayak basin? the"beach like" parks? Access to green areas?
Let me tell you how stupid I think the current developers are. They released Kent Donahue, a guy I liked. The owners replaced him with Tom, and his retinue. Tom is a BS'er. He's more interested in talking about his earlier accomplishments than the project at hand. I guess that is supposed to impress the Council and allow them to believe anything he said. However, the real test of intelligence was the fact that the first thing the new developer does was piss off the project's partner, the City of Rowlett. The stupidity is compounded by the fact the developer pissed off the partner that has control on how the project is zoned and developed.
I guess that's what the meeting was for. If I was the owner, I would fire these knuckleheads tomorrow. In order for Rowlett to become a highly desirable place to live, and the land owner to make reasonable income commensurate with the high class development proposed, Rowlett and the owners have to work together. It's a symbiotic relationship. We may have to slap them around a little bit. If they can't placate Rowlett, they have probably made the worst investment in their business life.
The developers made representations to our City Council. They are defaulting on those representations.
City Council did well.