I went on line and researched growth patterns of Rowlett, Rockwall, Wylie, Sachse, and Murphy. The numbers below came substantially from the Texas State Library and Archives. These are all towns that I compare with Rowlett and they essentially surround Rowlett on three sides. I am not alone in observing what these cities have been doing to increase their tax base. Other citizens have commented on the growth of these comparable towns. These are interesting numbers and I think prove up a point. My point is we have completely fumbled the football on nurturing Rowlett's tax base and planning for Rowlett's future. This malfunction had opportunities to right itself, but was terribly mishandled about the year 2009.
Let's look at the data, first. Please familiarize yourself with some of the numbers below.
However, over those sleepy years, something began to happen in Rowlett. The long awaited Geo. Bush Toll Way and DART were coming to town. There seem to be a new awareness about Rowlett. Citizens began to think about what Rowlett could be. Someone noticed, "Hey, we have a lake in the middle of our town." We had a pretty nice town in 2009 and construction either had started or was beginning to start on the toll way and the DART station. Life was good. The future was bright.
Then something happened. Look at the statistics above. In 2009, Rowlett flat lined while our sister cities continued on with excellent growth.......and this was during the real estate recession. From 2009 to 20012, Rowlett dropped to an average annual increase in population rate of 0.7% while our sister cities continued on at rates of 5%, 9%, 11%, and 24%. Rockwall had the closest rate and it was seven times higher than Rowlett. Other rates were 13, 16, and Murphy's ridiculous 34 times Rowlett's growth rate. These growth rates were flying in the face of Rowlett's economic stimulus of the GBTW and DART. Rowlett was getting more stimulus than any other city and dying on the vine. It was abrupt, immediate, and nearly brutal. Rowlett just stopped..........as did the tax base. Actually, the tax base began to erode a bit because nothing was being added and the properties that were on the tax roll were depreciating in value. Our tax revenue was dying for lack of new blood, leaving the only options of raising the tax rate and take away much of the senior's exemption.
Wha' happened? Do you have a clue? Is it fixed? How do you fix something if you don't know the problem? The numbers above are not mine. They were compiled by the State of Texas. Those numbers are facts. There is no spin. You could not set off a nuclear bomb in Rowlett without harming Rockwall, Sachse, Wylie, and Murphy. However, somehow something happened to Rowlett that did not have an effect on the other towns. Based on their superb growth record, they were totally unfazed. What happened?
Aw. Come on, now. Tell me what happened.
Okay, now you say there is some commercial development in Rowlett. There is. All of it is on Lakeview Parkway. This development has nothing to do with GBTW or DART. It would have happened anyway because Dallas continues to spill out over it's cup.
The awesome wisdom coming out of 2009 provided for office and distribution centers built on toll ways. You don't build office buildings and distribution centers on toll ways without other free access some way. This wisdom has essentially deed restricted North Shore. Two major upscale neighborhoods were denied zoning. These two subdivisions would have produced $1.2 million a year in tax revenue. One other subdivision was approved if you like urban living. That is, houses about 12 feet apart and lots about the size of a souped-up throw rug. There will be parks, tho.
We have learned about 380 Grants. That way we can give away the store in the interest of "progress." My last count was about $11 million for The Village. We won't get any tax revenue from The Village for 15 years. We learned to give away valuable land in downtown Rowlett to applicants that have never run a restaurant, let alone the three restaurants promised. The citizens don't even know if the people the land was given to can even perform. Apparently, we have other apartments working thru the system somewhere. I don't know what we're giving them.
I think some good will come out of some projects, but I don't expect a glowing report anytime soon. The misuse of North Shore is just downright nuts. The Dallas Morning News has an article almost every day about business growth just 20-25 minutes up the toll way crying out for upscale housing and our "leaders" can't read. The toll road provides a very comfortable commute for these executives. The growth numbers are saying Rowlett is way behind area cities in residential development, but our "leaders" can't add. I'm afraid to ask if our "leaders" can hear. They don't seem to listen.
There is damage that has been done. Much can not be reversed. It is my ardent hope that we can rectify the situation and administer to any remaining assets in the manner in which they should be. In 2008, I wrote a column in the Dallas Morning News whereby Rowlett was at a crossroads. I wrote that the decisions we make in the next few years would effect Rowlett for the next 100 years. I wrote that we will have one chance to get it right. Others have copied that line and dropped it at an appropriate time. I meant it. The others were just being cute.
So......what happened in 2009?
Well, I'll give you a clue. All the decisions above were substantially the result of the same culture that was instilled in Rowlett in 2009. The decisions above were made by Staff, P&Z, and City Council members that are residue of that 2009 incident. Some are still around and continue to control much of Rowlett's misguided planning . Have you figured it out, yet?
Lynda Hubble was hired as City Manager in 2009. Rowlett promptly flat-lined. DART and the Geo. Bush toll way were not enough to re-start the breathing. Growth was stifled. Just look at the numbers.