Well, maybe not so simple. There are approximately 37,000 registered voters in Rowlett. I think about 1400 persons voted in the last local election. That’s about 3.7% of the voters. Stated another way, each person that voted controlled the future of 26 other voters. That hardly seems fair, but only your involvement can change the ratio, and have a more meaningful and representative say in Rowlett’s future. Over the years, I have served on many committees and one term as City Councilman. Involvement in city affairs gave me some insight into the Rowlett’s citizenry and its participation in the city’s blood flow. The launching of this blog site hopes to provide an informal place to discuss our town. My unabashed goal is to coax, embarrass, or argue, in hopes of convincing citizens of Rowlett to take a greater interest in city matters. It’s not important that you agree with me. It’s only important to know why you agree or disagree. Stories without basis in fact aren't held in high esteem. Please believe me, if citizen involvement is engaged enthusiastically, the results will put money in your pocket. If done the right way, Rowlett’s real estate values will soar.
As far as city government is concerned, real estate means tax base. Tax base is what determines your tax bill. The higher your per capita tax base, the lower your per capita tax rate. Stated another way, the more valuable our collective real estate, the less our tax rate. Overwhelmingly, most of any city’s revenue comes from the real estate tax revenues. That’s what pays the bills. Some revenue comes from fees and sales taxes, but real estate taxes are the big kahuna.
There is a lot I want to write about. However, I can’t do it all in one sitting. My main emphasis will always be on tax base and Rowlett's lifestyle. I have nearly 50 years’ experience in real estate appraisal, construction, construction and development finance, solving “distressed” development loan problems, and I hold my real estate license. I know a lot about real estate. In all my many years in real estate, I never considered myself an academician. However, I have always considered myself as a pretty good practitioner. There is a need for both. The academician deals with speculation by researching data and forecasting forward. There are a lot of “what ifs” in the consulting world. Forecasting is beneficial to planning and can be a valuable tool, however it is subject to change as new data is derived and the more current the info, the better. That’s why re-evaluation of zoning is periodically performed. However, forecasting forward as some kind of “fixed dogma” without any consideration of new and revealing facts is perhaps unwise. On the other hand, a practitioner plays with the hand that is dealt. The practitioner deals with the current facts, whatever they may be. To the practitioner, the forecast is a tool only. It is not the 11th commandment. If the forecast compliments the facts, the practitioner will adapt to it.
I thought about starting my stories by turning the clock back a few years and coming forward. However, a more immediate concern is what is happening today. Therefore, I am going to start in the middle, with my main viewpoint on Rowlett 2020.
Rowlett 2020 seems to be the buzz word on all discussions of Rowlett’s future growth, and thus Rowlett’s anticipated collective real estate value. Therefore, central to any discussion regarding Rowlett’s future growth will be Rowlett 2020. This is overwhelmingly the domain of the consultants hired by the City of Rowlett. This is their turf. However, as in all democracies there are discussions. I will offer perhaps some different viewpoints on this site. However, I will state the facts supporting my opinion, and as often as not, will tell you where to find those facts. Some unsubstantiated opinion will creep in because of my experience, but as in most real estate analysis, common sense will shore up those unsubstantiated opinions.
I am not against the concept of what efforts our consultants are charged to do. I voted to hire them when I was on city council. But, in my opinion, they do better on some things…..but not necessarily on all things. Just exactly what new development has Rowlett 2020 inspired for us to date? There has been some development along Lakeview Parkway, but it’s my opinion that such development would have happened anyway. I don’t think the consultants, the Tollway, nor DART had anything to do with the new development along Highway #66. It would have happened anyway because the land is better suited in price and location for the businesses being built. I don’t think Discount Tire would have done any better with their site selection by locating on the Tollway…..probably worse. However, I do think the consultants have inspired a good plan for the downtown area. The consultants do better, in my opinion, where indicators exist that help in their analysis. I think they do less good on a nearly blank piece of paper……like Northshore. All presentations I have seen of future growth on Northshore are speculative and without basis in fact. In a future post, I will discuss these variables.
Remember, hiring a consultant is like hiring an employee. Based on your best analysis, you select an employee on the applicant’s merits. Rarely do you get perfection. They will be better on some parts of their job, maybe excellent, thus being a good choice of employee. However, some parts of their new job may need some additional direction by the employers. That is fine, if all else is acceptable. You never give the new employee complete control of the store. The same is true of consultants. You never let them be boss. However, the consultant's boss has to be informed enough to know when the consultants might be wrong. Absolute perfection is a myth.
In future posts, I will make reference to two real estate zoning proposals that should have been, in my opinion, approved and very beneficial to Rowlett. In both cases Rowlett’s consultants fought vigorously against the zoning and ultimately defeated the proposals. There is more to the story, but I will write about this issue in another post, complete with all the facts.
The two projects that were denied were discussed by Rowlett’s consultants and our city council. One of those discussions was in public. One was not. I believe the second discussion to be illegal. This discussion was withheld from public view. In fact, two councilpersons did not say a word in public discussion. WHY? Was their mind already made up? HOW? Furthermore, why was the consultant arguing against the zoning request, anyway? They were called into Executive Session. No one could hear what they said. It was the City Council’s job to discuss the pros and cons in public. That didn’t happen. Chris Kilgore was an exception. Whether you agree with him, or not, you know where he's coming from. We needed more discussion.
It’s an over-simplification, but the consultant’s argument has been that residential development in Northshore was contrary to their Rowlett 2020 plans for the area. The residential developments proposed above were upscale developments with homes averaging $350,000 and above in value. Not too shabby for a couple of neighborhoods. When fully developed, the two subdivisions would have contributed at least $160 million to the tax base. Essentially, the consultants to Rowlett have created a “no growth” policy for residential development in Northshore. The propaganda is “houses are bad…….commercial buildings are good.” Period. I have some math that will be produced in future posts that will debunk that myth. These two zoning denials will cost taxpayers $1.3 million per year in revenue. That is $22.80 per year for every man, woman, and child in Rowlett. A family of four will pay $91.22 per year to replace the revenue lost from these two zoning miscues and keep the two projects as horse pastures for many, many years. These missed revenue streams (taxes) will be made up by taxpayers every year until the land is developed. The land in which zoning was denied is far more suitable for residential than commercial. Some of this land would be decades away from commercial development. Our consultants should know that. If not......WHY? Do you know? I don't. More blah, blah, blah, blah regarding Rowlett 2020.
Our consultants, our Zoning department, P&Z Commission, and some of our City Council members have made any upscale residential development in Northshore unacceptable. Do you know who voted against the zoning requests? You should know. The question is WHY? You will see some practically worthless charts, but nothing that is site specific and proves up any particular office or warehouse market need. If you think Rowlett is going to get all the commercial development as presented by the consultants in the Northshore area, I am very sorry to report that you will not live long enough. But, you can (and will) pay the "make up" taxes from the denied revenue while you’re here.
Remember, a really good statistician can make the numbers say what they want. Selection of source data is the secret. Never abandon your common sense. We have an election coming up. We need good candidates. It’s time to rub the sleep from your eyes.
Let ‘er rip in the comments