As we review the discourse regarding rezoning, there is an important takeaway all of us have to keep in mind.
Whether you face Underutilization or Overutilization, whichever side you fall, this problem did not begin this year or last year, but rather the wheels were set in motion a decade ago (plus or minus). In the late 90’s, housing starts in Flower Mound were approaching two thousand units a year. Today it might be a tenth of that, perhaps less.
As the town grew, population shifted, infrastructure was put in place. Population bubbles were created and popped, and make no mistake, we haven’t seen the last one. People like living in Flower Mound and when our children venture to college, in all likelihood many of us will continue to live in our town. What is occurring east of FM 2499 today will repeat itself west of FM 2499, it might just be that east of FM 2499 is 10 years ahead.
This is borne out in the LISD projections that over the next decade Marcus High School will lose approximately 600 students. It happens, schools go from 5A to 4A, but as we are learning, it is a painful process. We are worried about teachers losing their jobs, programs being cut, but the decisions we make today as a town will determine if these problems are echoed in our High Schools.
Let’s now take this demographic experience and expand it over Flower Mound’s entire infrastructure. We brag, I’ve bragged that we have put in over two hundred million dollars of new infrastructure into Flower Mound since 2000. That sounds great, but building it is only half of the equation, now it has to be maintained. If infrastructure was put in place for a booming town, and the boom becomes static, it places a higher tax burden on our residents. For example, what the Town of Flower Mound contributes today to the LISD in taxes is not returned to Flower Mound in educational cost on a dollar for dollar basis. Now look into the future with a continuing reduction in headcount and the gap will only widen.
If you take this scenario and apply it our utilities, our roads, our water and sewer infrastructure, limited growth will result in significant burdens over the next decade.
Other examples of where similarities have caused noteworthy problems would be Japan and the United States Social Security System. In the 1970’s and ‘80s everybody wanted to be Japan. Their economy was booming, Debt to GDP was 60%. Today, they can’t restart growth and Debt to GDP is 220%. No monetary stimulus they attempt is successful, as the demographics of a young population have now shifted to supporting an aging population. Similar with Social Security, the Baby Boomers are coming through, and now there are not enough people today to pay for the promises that were made yesterday and our system is facing a dilemma.
The solution for Flower Mound is what Councilman Tim Trotter stated the night he was leaving Council in 2009, and that is balance. Managed Growth is fine, it can be called Smart Growth, Planned Growth, Upside-down Growth, whatever; but when under the guise of Managed Growth, restrictions are put in place that impede all growth, it has its own circumstances. We can’t have unbridled growth, and minuscule growth presents its own set of problems.
Our town is at an important inflection point, to become the town we envisioned, or the town that in a decade or two is in need of Urban Renewal. The answer is not one extreme or the other, but rather balance. The how is, as a town are we going to pull together or pull apart? That answer is the future of Flower Mound.
Mayor Tom Hayden
Flower Mound, TX