Flower Mound tables most of residential, rejects retail for Bunn East

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Residents packed Flower Mound Town Hall Monday night for a vote on whether to remove acreage from the Cross Timbers Conservation Development District for proposed residential and retail developments on 152 acres at Flower Mound and Cross Timbers roads.

Following a lengthy public hearing where 37 residents voiced their opinions on proposals for Bunn Gourley East, council members opted to vote separately on six parcels seeking to amend the master plan to be designated as medium density and removed from the conservation district, putting Flower Mound Road as the east-west boundary.

Council members tabled residential proposals for three properties, denied retail proposals for two properties and amended the master plan to allow medium density on property owned by the King family.  Council members also tabled expansion of the boundary of the Long Prairie Wastewater Service District Map on three properties proposed for residential, denied the expansion for two properties proposed for retail and approved the expansion on the King property.

The following outlines of the votes for each of six parcels seeking removal from the conservation district:

1. Proposed retail development by Deacon Investments to be removed from the conservation district – denied 5-0

2. Proposed residential development as medium density by Toll Brothers and removed from the conservation district – tabled 3-2 until a later date when the developer would provide a companion zoning application.

3. A second smaller area for retail development to be removed from the conservation district – denied 5-0

4. Proposed residential development as medium density and removed from the conservation district – tabled 4-1 until a later date when the developer would provide a companion zoning application.

5. Proposed residential development as medium density and removed from the conservation district – tabled 4-1 until a later date when the developer would provide a companion zoning application.

6. Proposed residential development near Wellington as medium density and removed from the conservation district – approved 5-0.

The following outlines the votes for each of six parcels seeking expansion of the boundary of the Long Prairie Wastewater Service District Map: Parcels 1 and 3 were denied 5-0; parcels 2, 4 and 5 were tabled 4-1 though Council Member Jean Levenick indicated she voted incorrectly because the application as it was presented was confusing and the hour was late. Parcel six was approved 5-0.

The council’s votes on Monday followed a number of residents appealing to council members to leave the property inside the conservation district as dictated in the town’s overall master plan. Several property owners appealed to the council to let them sell their land and asked residents to stop harassing them.

The development proposal, known as Bunn Gourley East, involves a combination of residential and retail development tailored to high-end customers, developers said.

Proponents say the property is already surrounded by medium density development and other land uses not in accordance with the intention of the conservation district. Opponents say town officials just updated the master plan last year and should not be amending it so quickly for any reason.

The issue, which has been debated at length several times on Facebook via the Flower Mound Cares page, centers on residents’ concerns about additional development and higher density amid the town’s growth and existing mixed use developments such as The River Walk and Lakeside DFW.

In a letter sent to the town, resident Mary Kaiser expressed her concerns about the proposed change to the conservation district. “This would be opening Pandora’s box to future development in the western half of Flower Mound. I have to think that there are not thousands of FM residents begging you to open our rural area to commercial development. This isn’t Plano and that’s why we live here instead of 25 miles east,” she wrote. “This would be like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube if you sell us out one parcel at a time.”

Virginia Cochran echoed Kaiser’s concerns: “One of the reasons we moved to Flower Mound was because of the openness and country feel of the area. … Another dense housing development, with additional retail, particularly in this part of town with its wide-open, “horse property” feel, is certainly not what we came here for.”

Longtime developer Mark Glover wrote in a letter to the editor that growth and traffic is coming regardless.

“There are 25,000+/- cars per day through this intersection currently. FM 1171 is completing as a six lane divided highway that will carry 50,000 cars plus per day and Flower Mound Road has been completed as a four lane divided arterial,” he wrote.  “Traffic is increasing rapidly through this intersection and will continue to grow as FM 1171 completes. Communities in Flower Mound and to the North & West of Flower Mound will drive traffic by this site in ever increasing numbers.”

Glover said the retail development portion sits at the apex of a highly trafficked area with an estimated $200,000 average household income – the highest in the community. The corner differs from the average household income of $120,000 at The Riverwalk and $111,000 at Parker Square, Glover noted, adding that the current retail occupancy rate in Flower Mound is around 92 percent.

Glover’s concern was that the corner might be left solely to the lower density instead of the becoming an upscale dining and entertainment as proposed by Bill Deacon of Deacon Investments, current owner of the property.

Situated on an estimated 18.79 acres on the southeast quadrant at Cross Timbers Road and Flower Mound Road, the proposed high-end specialty retail center would cater to a demographic with significant disposable income, Deacon said, adding the market study shows the corner could attract an estimated 17,556 high-end customers earning an average of $200,022 per year within a 2.5-square-mile retail trade area. The market study shows a retail opportunity of $305 million in sales but little to no retail available within the retail trade area.

The proposed Park West Village could be a destination center offering high-end signature restaurants, specialty stores, a mini-anchor of 27,500 square feet and other entertainment in a cluster design to maintain the aesthetics of the property with rolling terrain, tree groves and water features, Deacon said.

The residential portion of Bunn East was proposed to have 280 homes valued at an estimated $500,000 on 120 acres at medium density, said Robert Paul, division president of Toll Brothers, which is developing the property as well as another across the road known as Bunn Gourley West. “I want it very clear that if this is approved, I plan to come back with a plan that matches what we did at Hilliard almost exactly because that is a business model that works for our company,” Paul said, adding the properties developed by Toll Brothers in Flower Mound have ranged between 13,500 to 15,000 square feet – larger than the medium density requirement of 10,000 square feet.

Toll Brothers also proposed shutting down the Bunn Gourley gas well on the property. Paul said closing the well would be costly and would not be cost effective if the development followed the conservation district development requirements of two acres per residence. He indicated that if the property was approved for low density, he could consider closing the well if certain required setbacks were waived.

Paul gave history of the proposed project, telling the council that the initial project was tabled by P&Z Commission members since the town was looking to update its master plan. Paul, a Flower Mound resident, said he was vocal at the time about the “checkerboard” development of portions of the conservation district.

Paul also said it was disingenuous of people to believe the project suddenly appeared this year, since it has been proposed for several years.

“My intention is to not to change anything on the property west,” he said in response to Mayor Tom Hayden’s query about some residents’ claims that developers would seek further amendments to the conservation district.

Plans for Bunn West properties, which is solely owned by Toll Brothers, call for a residential development with homes valued at $650,000 to $800,000. Using a cluster development design, an estimated 105 lots would be located on almost 171 acres with 84.9 acres of open space.

Hayden set the tone for the council’s vote, indicating that while the retail proposal sounded good, he was unsure of the location. “I’m not sure we have the density to support the retail in that area. We have a plan in terms of retail that’s going on at River Walk and Lakeside DFW. If we start to dilute the retail we’ve already designated, we risk everything,” he said. “I don’t think we should cannibalize those areas until they have a chance to succeed.”

Council member Michael Walker suggested the residential developers should consider low density for their properties. He also suggested the Toll Brothers plan to cap the Bunn Gourley well as part of a new proposal. “That gas well has been a bone of contention in our community,” he said. Council member Bryan Webb echoed Walker’s suggestions: “I would like to see (parcels) 2, 4 and 5 come back with a low density residential plan.”

Levenick said the residential developers should consider surrounding properties as well as the conservation district requirements and return with a transitional-type plan.

Council member Steve Dixon said he needed more specific details about the proposed residential developments, suggesting the developers needed to return with a development plan.

Don Shields, a longtime resident, told the council to keep property owners’ rights in mind when making their decision. “It’s their property,” he said. “They should be able to do whatever they want.”

Rick Lusk reminded the council that the first master plan committee was formed in 1980 and serves as a foundation for Flower Mound. “The master plan is not just a simple planning document, it is actually the voice of the people in our community.”

Several residents referred to the town’s logo featuring a tree and a horse, indicating it was symbolic of the town’s rural feel – a rural feel many moved to the town to enjoy.

“The image of the horse and the tree is what Flower Mound is all about,” said George Jenkins.

Other residents suggested current council members were elected on the merits of their vision to support the master plan.

“Mayor, your leadership is paramount on this issue,” said Marilyn Jenkins, who added that the town created its legacy and the council is charged with upholding it.

Andrew Smith voiced his approval of the proposed retail project by Deacon Investments. “It would be a great venue for the whole family,” he said. Others indicated specialty retail was lacking in west Flower Mound which would be served by the proposed retail shops and restaurants.

After a closed session shortly after midnight, council members returned to announce the immediate removal of Emily Strittmatter from the Planning and Zoning Commission due to a recordkeeping error. Council member Levenick said it was discovered that Strittmatter did not qualify to serve on the commission at the time of her appointment. Several council members asked that she consider reapplying next year when an opening become available on the commission.

After a second closed session, the council reconvened shortly after 1 a.m. to vote 5-0 related to the duties and responsibilities of the town secretary. No other information was available.

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