If you live in Flower Mound and have a pulse you probably know that rezoning school boundaries is the issue du jour, causing residents to gear up for another….. political campaign?
That’s right, it’s only been about 9 months since the last election, filled with charges, counter-charges, smears, innuendo, ethics allegations and other assorted angry and bitter diatribe, and already it’s time for another serving of folderol.
I don’t mean to imply that rezoning is a minor issue. On the contrary, where one’s children attend school and how much travel time is involved, shouldn’t be taken lightly; especially if people have moved here to enjoy the safe and easy access to those educational institutions. But, how did this become a political issue?
Well, if you’ve been reading some of the blogs you know that some are saying the town council is at fault because they’ve tampered with the SmartGrowth program, once viewed as the third rail of FM politics. The reasoning is that the council loosened the grip on that time-tested program which severely limited the role of developers to create density (another buzzword that struck fear into the hearts of every candidate for a council seat), with all of its ramifications.
Let’s take a sober, reasonable look at exactly what the council did. They ran on a platform that basically said it’s time to open Flower Mound for business. They felt that the town was being held back by a restrictive Master Plan that made it very difficult for developers to get through an unwieldy process that other towns were loath to burden them with. As I recall, there were two significant topics that got people motivated enough to oust the incumbents; Lakeside Development and the Kroger fuel stations.
When the newly elected council took office they began using a weed-whacker on the rules governing construction in our fair town. After all, they surely reasoned, that’s what they were elected to do. Inasmuch as they won by a considerable margin, who could blame them? First, in order to remove any obstacles to their progressive vision, the town manager had to be whacked, figuratively speaking. (Other staff members soon followed, albeit in a less-publicized fashion.) Now the stage was set to open our comfortable little community to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (forgive the Hamlet reference, but it seems so appropriate).
Keep in mind, voters were told precisely what the new council was going to do, so no one can claim that they were lied to. However, what they can claim is that they had no idea what those aforementioned ramifications would/could be. I seriously doubt that the candidates could have predicted it either.
Even now, when some are accusing the mayor and council members of causing this rezoning debacle, it’s not at all clear that they have any culpability in the matter. If their plan for additional residential development has been viewed by LISD as a reason to reconsider school boundaries going forward, isn’t that merely a necessary concomitant of growth? If voters elected them to advance the cause of economic development and they are carrying out their campaign promises, in what way are they responsible for how it may affect the capacity of schools to handle the population increase accompanying such development?
Let’s face it; we’re no longer that little bucolic burg that regulated expansion with rigid (some say draconian) rules that discouraged and deterred high-density development for decades. In so doing, we also discouraged many high-end retailers from considering doing business in our town.
Therefore, you might say it’s a Catch-22 situation. We don’t want to hold back progress, but we don’t want to be inconvenienced either. With new areas opening to prospective residents and new retailers eyeing us as a receptive place to do business, we’ll have to contend with more traffic, some rezoning of school boundaries and any other unforeseen consequences. However, the upside is more places to shop and dine, plus, more people paying ad valorem and sales taxes to help keep the current tax rate from increasing.
If anyone knows how we can keep things from changing, while keeping us from stagnating, they need to share their wisdom with the rest of us. Moreover, if they truly believe they have a plan that allows us to enjoy the exclusivity of the past, without losing the benefits of the future, they should toss their hats in the ring and challenge the current town leaders.
On the other hand, if they intend to stoke the flames of this rezoning controversy for no other reason than personal aggrandizement or political expediency, they’re making a mistake, and voters will see through their masquerade.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.