Wednesday, December 7, 2022

How much density is enough?

fm_rippy road_bob_weirA few months ago I wrote an article about a proposal by Direct Development to build apartments and homes, described as a resort style development, on about 32 acres of property which runs from Long Prairie Road and College Parkway, southwest to Rippy Road.

However, as a result of some backlash from the affected community, the apartment portion of the project was recently eliminated, replaced by a new design that includes 161 single family homes, a park, an extension of the town trail system, and a 14-foot landscape buffer, installed along the southern side of Rippy Road. Inasmuch as the property is currently zoned for agricultural use and the Master Plan designation is for low density residential on the western portion of the land, a change in the Master Plan is needed in order to bring this project to fruition.

The other side of this story comes from residents of Pecan Acres/Pecan Meadows and other neighborhoods surrounding the proposed Highland Court development. Nick and Emily Strittmatter and Jim Engel are a few of the people who have been diligently working to inform residents of what they believe is a project that will increase density in an otherwise traditionally rural area.

“It is still high density,” declared Nick. “What he’s (the developer) offered is about 4 feet between the homes. The aesthetics that he’s proposing, compared to the neighborhoods around it, are at polar opposites. That’s one of the main reasons I’m against it. It’s not a congruent land use.”

The homes in close proximity to the proposed development are primarily composed of one-quarter to three-quarter acre lots, which means they range from more than 10,000 to over 30,000 square feet. “The ones being proposed are 3,000-square-foot lots,” Emily said.

According to Emily, there are basically two arguments running parallel to each other. “One of the policies is about density and how much the town leaders think we need,” Emily said. “The other is a practical argument concerning how this will negatively impact our families and those neighborhoods that are already there. Is it really necessary to bring that much congestion of homes to an area that was never intended to become so crowded? Obviously, we don’t agree. We think having it remain low density, so it’s compatible with the surrounding area, is the best use of the land.”

Jim Engel added: “The proposed homes will be on top of each other. It looks as though they’re trying to transport Lakeside over here.” Nick said he believes that Direct Development can make a profit at a low density. They provided the mayor and other town officials with an alternate plan, one that a developer said could be done and still be profitable. “Mind you, we’re not professionals in this,” Jim said. “We’re homeowners who are concerned about preserving the rural atmosphere that originally attracted us here.”

They said the alternate plan included the storm water retention pond and indicated that a developer could get sixty, 15,000-square-foot lots on the land.

“First, we were told that the only way this could be built and make money was to have apartments included,” Emily said. “Then, another local project, which included apartments, got shot down. Now, we’re being told that the only way for it to work is to build 160 homes crowded together.”

The trio wanted to make it clear that they have nothing against the developer, who, they wanted to stress, has built some impressive commercial properties. However, they added that he has never done a residential project. “I want to say that they did send a letter out to the homeowners saying they were considering our needs in relation to the new plan,” Emily said.

“Then, the letter went on to assert: ‘Unfortunately, our invitations to meet with appointed representatives of the neighborhood to discuss and propose plans and preview models of the proposed development have been rejected.’ Our response to that was when we were approached by one of their reps, after 5 meetings with Nick and 4 for the group, she said they had a new plan that they would like to show us. We said we’d seen it and had gotten the comments but it still was high density. Did Direct Development want to meet to discuss density changes? She said no, it was to meet to discuss landscaping and other areas where we could find compromise. We reached out to the neighborhood and they politely declined, because at this point we have spent so much time and energy away from our families and our jobs; hundreds of hours, thousands of emails dealing with this, that we got to the point that we didn’t need to go to yet another meeting in which every single suggestion we’ve made was not used. There are 200-250 residents involved in this and we’ve made numerous suggestions that weren’t accepted,” Emily said.

“On one hand, we’re dealing with a nightmare!” she added. “This saga has gone on and on and is so frustrating for us. My husband and I put our savings into our home, based on the current master plan. We investigated the plan before we purchased our home and relied on the plan to remain low density. After all that proper diligence, we now find ourselves in a very tiresome struggle. Yet, the other edge of the sword is that we’ve gotten to know so many amazing and wonderful people in our neighborhood. I wouldn’t change getting to know them for anything. I keep trying to find that silver lining in all of this.”

The proposal is scheduled for a review by the Planning and Zoning Commission later this month, after which it will be presented to the Town Council. The group has started a petition that can be accessed at the following link:

Editor’s Note: The Cross Timbers Gazette received the following statement from David Watson, Managing Principal of Direct Development:

Direct Development is disappointed that key components of this project are incorrectly represented in this column. Throughout this process, we have met with neighbors multiple times to discuss the project and given careful consideration to their requests. We understand that this is an emotional issue, but feel the blatant errors in this column should be addressed.

•    The space between homes is proposed to be up to 14 feet depending on the lot size—not 4 feet, as stated in the column.

•    Most of the land is used for lots ranging from 6,000 to about 7,000 square feet. Smaller lots that are about 3,000 square feet are used to transition from the adjacent commercial development and FM2499. A neighbor implies in the column the lots are all 3,000 square feet.

•    Multi-family residential was removed from the plan, as requested by the neighbors. Six separate versions of our proposal have been developed in response to the neighbors’ concerns.

•    Our proposal will reduce area congestion when compared to development under the current master plan. By removing the planned retail and office, vehicle traffic is reduced by approximately 4,000 trips per day. Other land use factors will also be improved including tree preservation, land coverage and commercial building density.

In order to reach a solution that is respectful of the rights of everyone involved, including the property owner, it is important to present our plan factually. Residents who would like more information should call David Watson, Managing Principal of Direct Development at 214-891-3222.

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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