We are residents of a place we call Rowlett, Texas. It is now my hometown. I have lived here 42 years. Nearly everyone here came from somewhere else. It is easy to become lackadaisical about living here. We are so used to it. We go to work. We come home. We go to kid and grandkid functions. We visit our favorite restaurants and friends, and generally do what we can to enjoy life.
You know what? They do the same thing in St. Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Omaha, and all points in between. The one thing the northern mid-west cities have that we don't is snowblowers. They have fewer full sun days, and a lot of cloudy days. Their summers are a little shorter, however they become excellent drivers on snow and ice. Comfortable swimming starts in early June and ends in late August.
I have been to all those cities and there are some really great things to do and see.......but they're nearly all inside. There are some river and lake activities, but except for ice fishing, they have a limited season.
At this point, one could make the case that we're a little spoiled; at least compared to our northern friends. But, it doesn't end there. How many of our Oklahoma and other Texas friends have only distant access to professional baseball, football, hockey, zoos, and water sports? Not many. Solitude was probably invented in west Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
Rowlett has all the "good stuff", plus Interstate highways to access the rural countryside from anywhere in 15 minutes. We have easy access to DART and a tollway which provides an easy path to most places worth visiting. Soon, we will have luxury living, upscale restaurants, and new business locations, all of which can be seen from a boat. We call it Bayside.
Rowlett should be re-branded as a resort town. Altho I usually think of resort areas as somewhere on the coast with palm trees, retirees further north consider resort area anywhere they don't sell snow blowers at the hardware store.
Now, before we go much further, we have to talk about "growth." A town can grow in size. It can also grow in population. But, neither is exactly what I'm talking about here. I am talking about growing in "lifestyle." We can't grow outward much, if any. Our population will not increase much more without growing upward. We're currently at about 60,000 and maybe under current growth plans we might achieve 85-100,000 population. Some population growth is inevitable as the metroplex grows. It is unavoidable.
What I'm talking about is growth in lifestyle and desirability. We are reaching a point where there is less and less of Rowlett to pass around; that is, to anyone who still doesn't own a piece of Rowlett. It's the old fashioned "supply and demand," baby.
Our problem is that not too many people know about us. We have not done a particularly good job of selling ourselves. It's my opinion that our "officialdom" has done a reasonably good job as "reactive" managers, but not a particularly good job as "proactive" managers. Some of our new growth is a result of plain old Dallas overflow rather than clever mining of available development. The more desirable we make Rowlett, the higher the bid prices for real estate. That's tax free income until you sell your property, and if you're over 55, it still is.
There are two remaining issues with good solid growth of Rowlett. One is tax rate. With increasing real estate values, "officialdom" MUST reduce the tax rate. Recently, "officialdom" kept all the additional revenue that benefited the city due to increased real estate values. They voted against even reducing the rate one single penny. The taxpayers didn't get a break. The reason cited was that the additional money was needed to give the citizens what was promised. Does that mean promises were made knowing full well they didn't have the money to deliver? I don't like that behavior.
Another issue with growth is that growth brings density and other "city problems." Many people, including myself, moved to Rowlett to escape the inner city problems. I loved the rural atmosphere, the open fields, the close proximity to the lake, and still only be 30 minutes from my office in downtown Dallas. It was great. Being in the real estate finance business, I knew what would eventually come. I told my wife that we would have at least 10 years before Dallas would "catch us." Well, I was off a little bit. There were a couple of hiccups along the way. In any event, the city has finally caught us.
I fully understand the citizens that want to keep Rowlett rural in nature. I do, too. But the 25 miles I kept between me and downtown Dallas has now grown to 50 miles for the same effect. When I moved to Rowlett, there was 1500 people in town. Now there is 60,000. I don't think you have to be a really good prognosticator to see what's coming. You can fight it, but all you'll do is muddy the waters and probably create situations that will hurt sensible and intelligent growth in lifestyle. If you want to continue this lifestyle, probably somewhere east of Royce City still has it. I certainly share the nostalgia, but intelligent realism must prevail.
So, what do we need? We have just about everything. There's a little tweaking that needs done, but most is now here.
We have 29 miles of shoreline on Lake Ray Hubbard that we have never really taken advantage of. We have I-30, the tollway, and DART, which are beautiful pieces of transportation availability. We have the new Bayside, which will introduce Rowlett to a new level of upscale living and shopping. We have enough vacant land to mold into additional housing and business expansion. The land situation is becoming limited, but sufficient to help the city's population increases. In fact, there is extremely well located land in North Shore to accommodate the new 30-40 thousand jobs being created 15-25 minutes away up the tollway. This is one of our miscues. This land is zoned for warehouses and office buildings. That ain't gonna happen. City Council has turned down residential developments in North Shore that would now be contributing about $700-900K per week to our tax base, at $300-500K each house sold per week. What a screw up.
We also need housing for people with good income, but still not be able to afford an average home in Rowlett. These are not low income people. (Please see previous posts.) We also need good housing for seniors that no longer want to maintain homes with large lots. Besides maintenance labor, the seniors are being hammered with increasing taxes, utility bills, insurance, and maintenance costs. Their Social Security checks are sure not keeping up. The seniors can become prisoners in their own homes. We need to take care of these two groups of very important people.
What we need most of all is a re-branding of Rowlett. We need citizen support that Rowlett, their hometown, is a really great place, and that it's going to get better. Then, you have to hold "officialdom's" feet to the fire and make them do the right thing and nothing stupid. Just because they're smart doesn't mean all their decisions are smart. Many times personalities get in the road. Lousy personalities and personal agendas screw up a lot of good opportunities.
You are masters of your own fate. Take control. The market area for Rowlett goes far beyond the boundaries of Rowlett. We have a lot to sell.