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The systematic dismantling of a town

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Is Flower Mound a great place to live, or what? D Magazine, which ranked our town number 8 out of 63 North Texas towns, had this to say in its Best Suburbs of 2012 issue: “Officially a ‘town’ rather than a city, Flower Mound draws a similar homebuyer as Highland Village but one more enamored with an easy commute than a lovely view of the lake. Flower Mound is closer to the airport, closer to Las Colinas. Almost 13 acres of the town’s original mound of wildflowers and native grasses remain protected from development by the Mound Foundation, an appreciated nod to the town’s heritage.”

In a recent CNN Money Magazine article, Flower Mound ranked number 32 out of the 100 best places to live in the entire country. Among other encomiums, the author wrote: “Improvements to the roadways have helped the flow of traffic for residents who make the lengthy commute to Fort Worth or Dallas. Further expansion plans include a mile-long river walk that will serve as an anchor for the community’s currently small downtown.”  These and other accolades have been gracing our town for several years, telling us residents something we already know. We also know that great towns and cities don’t happen by accident. It takes proper long-term planning and excellent management skills to keep a town from being overrun by those who only come here to make a profit, without any regard for the future safety and lifestyle of the residents. Our town can be viewed as a microcosm of the country in the sense that it can’t be conquered from outside, only from within. Hence, those who seek a free hand in dismantling the principles that have made us one of the most desirable places in the country must use political muscle to do it. How is that muscle nourished? With campaign contributions that elect politicians who will obediently serve their needs. 

Flower Mound is a carefully and prudently planned group of neighborhoods that owes much of its success to the SMARTGrowth Program, a comprehensive, community-based growth management strategy that translates the vision and values embodied in the Town’s Master Plan into constitutive development criteria. Some of the goals of SMARTGrowth are to mitigate the ill effects of rapid and intense urbanization and ensure that growth is served with adequate public infrastructure, services, and facilities. That simply means that the growth should contribute to the attainment of the community character and quality of life objectives established in the Town’s Master Plan. In addition, it means preserving open lands, natural landscapes, farmland, sensitive ecological resources, and scenic vistas that continue to provide the eye-appealing allure that make us such an attractive place to live.  In order to do so, growth should not occur at the expense of environmental quality, community character, or quality of life.  

Yet, notwithstanding our glowing status among other towns and cities, SMARTGrowth is being labeled by some as “outdated” and “in need of revision.” Those are euphemisms for “some large property owners want to change the zoning laws in order to make more money.” Consequently, those, mainly out-of-town owners, who bought property in Flower Mound several years ago, with the understanding that the zoning allowed for limited density (which also meant they got a good deal on the price), have been waiting for a chance to elect the right politicians that would be favorable toward their plans. Once that was accomplished, the next step was to fire the town manager who had been a bulwark against those who would drastically alter the landscape with high-rise apartment buildings and massive density, all in the name of “progress.” As a result, a man who served the town with honor for a decade or more has been summarily dismissed like someone in the crosshairs of a vindictive plot. Not only does it cost taxpayers several hundred grand to pay the rest of his multi-year contract, but the loss of his experience could be inestimable. Furthermore, his dismissal may result in out-of-control development, greater burdens on our school system, increased traffic congestion and higher taxes.  Then there’s the cost of hiring a new town manager with another six-figure annual salary. Of course, the new town manager would only be hired if he knew how to play ball with the “current” powers that be.

One could understand all this if our town was a depressed area, suffering from an abundance of grievances. Yet, if that were true, we’d hardly be a candidate for those magazines that illustrate a high level of resident satisfaction. Therefore, the question is begged: What is behind these zoning changes and who are the real beneficiaries? Flower Mound residents, the overwhelming number of whom love the rural nature of the town, deserve some answers.

 

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