Once again, the Dallas Morning News real estate editor, Steve Brown, is writing about three new huge developments in Plano. We all know about Toyoto and the Fed Ex developments and now there is a new insurance office for Liberty Mutual. Remember Plano? It's about 20-30 minutes away. You can get there at 70-80 mph on Bush Tollway. There are no stoplights. By today's standards, that is a very nice commute.
The new projects for this week is named Legacy West and Liberty Mutual. I don't have enough fingers and toes to count how many millions of dolIars the two projects will cost, but it's a whole bunch. They are immediately east of the $350 million Toyoto Motor Corp's North American headquarters. Legacy West will contain high density retail, apartments, office and hotel projects. There will be 280,000 square feet of retail and office space and 621 apartment units. Over the 280,000 square feet of retail space, there will be 240,000 square feet of office space. Liberty Mutual will create 4,000 jobs.
People, I don't care where you're from......that's big. And, it's right up the road from us. The 621 units of apartments can't house all the employees. They gotta live someplace. The only thing between us and them is Plano, an expensive option, and Murphy and/or Wylie, that is almost built out and a little off the beaten trail known as Geo. Bush Tollway. Furthermore, they have to drive past the State Farm Building and the new City Line office building; after getting in line with the Toyoto people going to and from work. There is virtually nothing (or not much) between Rowlett and all of them.
Even an entry level real estate analyst fresh out of college could not miss that massive dose of data. Now, after $1.5 million of consultants, what have we done to prepare? The short answer is nothing. In fact, we have denied zoning for two classy developers that read the market accurately, applied to Rowlett to build about 500 houses priced at $300,000 and up. Both were unceremoniously denied.......one twice. The market suggests that each would be selling one house per week now.......maybe more. Assuming one house per week each, they would be putting a minimum of $600,000 per week into our tax base by this time. What a monumental screw-up!!! The City of Rowlett should go begging on their hand and knees to get those two developers back. It won't happen. Both are so angry at Rowlett they will never mutter the name again. And......of course, they would never tell their friends about their experiences in Rowlett. Yeah, right. I envision our name on many dart boards around the Dallas area developer's lounge.
How could this happen? We have smart people in Rowlett. I can give a mulligan or a pass to the consultants for not knowing all the facts because much had not been announced. But, any real estate analyst paying attention, or just reading the paper, should have seen the dam bursting. I saw it. Many of my friends in banking saw it. Certainly, our two denied developers saw it.
What happened? Our consultants abandoned the assignment given them by city council and started preparing a program designed by our previous city manager. They gave us what the city manager wanted, not what the market said we needed.
Well, let's go back to Rowlett 2020. That was a time when Rowlett was under the influence of the most dictatorial city manager I have ever experienced anywhere. We hired the consultant. I have to take some blame. I voted for hiring the consultant. I was on city council at the time. I knew we needed some pros. I find some comfort in knowing that what I bargained for is not what I got. I think things started out okay, but soon the wheels came off. In my opinion, the city manager hijacked the program. It became her program, not Rowlett's.
In any event, Rowlett 2020 was born, with all it's meetings with citizens. It was meant to look like a massive citizen participation. Actually, the participation wasn't all that great. However, I attended all the meetings. Some "buzz words" began to appear. Anyone who went to those meetings would recognize those "buzz words" if they heard or read them again.
Now, I'm an analyst type guy. I look at numbers, trends, costs, absorption rates, and all that goofy stuff. I started out being a little mystified of why citizen participation was considered important. I don't want to make anyone mad, but usually the general public is not a good place to go to discuss long term zoning plans. Long term real estate planning is kinda a specialty. Some people never get it right, and that includes some people whose livelihood is in real estate dealings. In any event, I began to get an uneasy feeling that the input of the citizens was being manipulated to achieve a desired result. There was no real solid proof. I had to rely on the reports and opinions of the consultants. They had the hard data. However, I had this creepy feeling. I felt something was wrong.
Now, I want to share a website link with you. It is a site I learned of after my tour of duty as a city councilman. A friend sent it to me. I watched it. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was hearing and seeing the same "buzz words" again, used exactly the same way they were used in Rowlett. The setting was in California. The meetings I went to in Rowlett seemed scripted. There was too much similarity for being 1500 miles away.
There is only one group of people reading this that can verify what I am writing. Those people would be persons that attended the Rowlett 2020 public meetings. If you did not attend, you will not recognize the words.
I am not a great conspiracy guy. I am not a big believer of most conspiracies. However, there is something called Agenda 21. Glen Beck even wrote a book about it. I'm not going to say that Agenda 21 really exists. But, I am going to say there is a whole bunch of concepts referenced in Rowlett's 2020 that Agenda 21 warns against. This confrontation is worthy of research.
There is something called "New Urbanism." It's not too bad an idea. It is basically a way to re-design an urban area that has fallen into some degree of decay. In an urban setting, I am somewhat a fan of "New Urbanism." Generally, it is efficient use of land in dense city neighborhoods. It promotes neighborliness, foot traffic, assimilating commerce and residential living together. Much can be studied about it. Just Goggle it. I think Rowlett has a need for this type of zoning in the downtown area. I also think some areas near commercial corners could benefit with this type of zoning. However, I do not feel that "New Urbanism" is needed or even desired in cow pastures. Rowlett's current zoning mandate is to make all new residential developments comply with "New Urbanism" rules, complete with Form Base Codes. I strongly disagree with this mantra. I feel there is a need for some urban style development.......but not the whole of remaining developable land in Rowlett. This type of high density housing is preferred by some people.......but not everyone. For example, I think it's good for seniors and up and coming young people. The restaurants, and shopping are close by and usually evening entertainment is, also. I could do just fine in such a setting, but I prefer a lot and back yard more. I think that a lot and back yard is more compatible with families with young children. I think I am not alone with that thought.
I think Rowlett needs some "New Urbanism," but not the entire town. It should be an option that we have.
Now, let's look at Agenda 21. Probably the best thing I could do is copy some language from one of their sites.
SOUNDS LIKE SCIENCE FICTION...OR SOME CONSPIRACY THEORY...BUT IT ISN'T.
UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development is the action plan implemented worldwide to inventory and control all land, all water, all minerals, all plants, all animals, all construction, all means of production, all energy, all education, all information, and all human beings in the world. INVENTORY AND CONTROL.----Rosa Koire
Have you wondered where these terms 'sustainability' and 'smart growth' and 'high density urban mixed use development' came from? Doesn't it seem like about 10 years ago you'd never heard of them and now everything seems to include these concepts? Is that just a coincidence? That every town and county and state and nation in the world would be changing their land use/planning codes and government policies to align themselves with...what?
First, before I get going, I want to say that yes, I know it's a small world and it takes a village and we're all one planet etc. I also know that we have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and that as cumbersome as that can be sometimes (Donald Rumsfeld said that the Chinese have it easy; they don't have to ask their people if they agree. And Bush Junior said that it would be great to have a dictator as long as he was the dictator), we have a three branch government and the Bill of Rights, Constitution, and self-determination. This is one of the reasons why people want to come to the US, right? We don't have Tiananmen Square here, generally speaking (yes, I remember Kent State--not the same, and yes, an outrage.) So I'm not against making certain issues a priority, such as mindful energy use, alternative energy sponsorship, recycling/reuse, and sensitivity to all living creatures. -
Please believe me, I am not a conspiracy advocate. There are parts of the Agenda 21 rhetoric that I do not buy into. It's best you Google Agenda 21 and make up your own mind. However, I will cite a true life example below of what Agenda 21 is objecting to.
New Urbanism and Agenda 21 advocates are two opposing ideals that are nationwide. They are each pulling Rowlett in opposite directions. Let me tell you what I think happened to Rowlett.
Clearly, New Urbanism is control oriented. City governments control far more under New Urbanism than at any other time in American history. The zoning restrictions and the Form Base Codes almost put the city in the development and design business. Cities are HORRIBLE at those businesses. However, because of the dictatorial nature of our previous city manager, New Urbanism seemed almost designed expressly for her. Therefore, when the consultants came in, she wasted no time wresting control of the study from Rowlett City Council. I have to admit, it was a clever and masterful manipulation. Of course, she controlled the check book. She often said she wanted the balance of the developable land to be done with Form Base Codes and high density zoning. So, zoning was denied for residential on our most developable land, North Shore. Consultants completely ignored what was happening in Plano. Instead, North Shore is now reserved for Offices and Apartments. Give me a break. We haven't been able to fill all the office space on Lakeshore Blvd., let alone North Shore. And, of course, users of distribution centers (warehouses) are just beating down the doors trying to buy land on a tollway where they have to pay their employees more to get to work, and all their trucks have to pay tolls to get to their workplace. That really helps the bottom line for the warehouse companies. That zoning is just pure nuts.
The only development that I can point to and say it is a pure result of Rowlett 2020 is The Villages apartments in downtown Rowlett. Even at that, it is going to cost Rowlett over $11 million to get to project to fruition. I really like the project, but really hate the amount of the give-a-way. That much money wasn't necessary. It seemed almost like a panic move to get something somewhere working. All the development on Lakeshore would have happened, anyway. It doesn't have anything to do with Rowlett 2020.
I can't write everything I have read about "New Urbanism" and Agenda 21. You must Google both.
What did our new zoning do for a friend of mine? Well, he owns one and a half acres. Rowlett zoned his land for multi-use and four acre minimums. Do you know what he can do with his land, now? Nothing. He can't sell it to anyone. He can't sell it to anyone to build a house. Zoning won't allow it. He can't try to develop it into multi-use because the site is not big enough. His land value has been reduced to zero. I mentioned this to one of Rowlett's resident zoning geniuses and he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well." Absolutely brilliant.
That, good people, is our city in action.