What’s up with Southgate?

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Southgate in south Flower Mound.

There’s one word guaranteed to get an immediate reaction from most Flower Mound residents– Southgate. The 108-acre mixed-use development is located on both sides of the FM 2499 and Gerault Road intersection, within the Lakeside Business District (LBD).

Anyone driving south on FM 2499 toward Grapevine is struck by the sudden sight of the clear-cut, scalped landscape near the intersection with Gerault Road. For those driving north, it’s not the “Welcome to Flower Mound” entrance any resident can point to with pride.

The range of reactions may differ, depending on the reactor’s viewpoint; but, mostly they range from disappointed to negative. It’s like expecting a committee to design a race horse … and having a camel appear.

Southgate Phase 1

Well, Flower Mound’s “camel” may have a town location, but its “trainers” [developers] aren’t financially obligated to follow town timelines; or other town staff-negotiated required guidelines.

“What people don’t understand, is that the town has no control over [Southgate] developers’ speed or for them to meet any timelines,” said Tommy Dalton, assistant town manager. “[When there are] no incentives to be met by the developer, the town has no control over how fast the project is developed.”

Usually, prospective town development projects have incentives — encouragement for a developer to build in Flower Mound, rather than elsewhere– with a quid pro quo (literally “something for something,” usually an exchange of goods or services of roughly equivalent value) for the town; such as deadline times or quality levels.

Southgate Phase 2

So, with no town incentives tied to Southgate, there’s no quid pro quo. They can “train their camel” at whatever pace they want. And, because the project has three residential phases, as well as two developers– commercial developer Beverly Development Corporation and Green Brick Partners, the residential developer of 450 home sites on 52-acres– town restrictions and guidelines are missing.

Bottom line, not only did the town get a camel instead of a horse, it got a two-humped Bactrian, rather than a one-hump Dromedary.

Currently, the most vocal social media critics of the Southgate project’s slow development growth are the same people who’ve been historically critical of offering town incentives to developers.

“This is what happens when there are no [financial] incentives involved with a project,” said Dalton. He added that people may not understand what’s involved with municipal development or they choose to ignore it.

Southgate Phase 3

For Southgate, town officials– volunteer commissioners, board members and elected officials– display a variety of reactions; from eye-rolling to head-shaking and cringing. No one points with pride at Southgate’s approval in April 2015.

Then, there’s the Flower Mound professional staff reactions … all of them display a very British “stiff upper lip” and a “Keep calm and carry-on” attitude. It’s the sort of reaction Ralphie had to his pink bunny outfit in “The Christmas Story” movie.

The Southgate Master Plan amendment and rezoning requests were approved– prior to the town staff’s final negotiations with the developers and the Planning and Zoning Commission’s earlier denial of the rezoning request.

“Yes, there’s an awful-looking bare section [of Southgate land], but they [the developers] can’t do a complete clear-cut, because they must retain the flood plain,” said Dalton. “They’re [the residential builder] close to getting ready to add vegetation in the area of the houses. They’re getting close to completing the infrastructure with Phase 1 and 3, which means the exposed areas will be planted soon.

“We’re still working with the developer on the landscape plans for the detention at the corner, which will be installed shortly after, or in conjunction with, infrastructure completion. The Town’s drainage project impacts the detention area, so that’s the reason there may be a short delay on landscape installation.”

An area running diagonal from the northwest to the southeast– between Phases 1 and 2– is identified as a preserve under the Southgate ordinance. The frontage area along FM 2499 is zoned commercial and the town hasn’t heard from that developer.

“The area of the project at the corner of Gerault and FM 2499 is where the detention pond is located– and is highly disturbed– because it’s in conjunction with the town’s huge drainage project,” added Dalton. “The water will drain from the pond, flow under FM 2499 into a drainage system that ultimately takes the water downstream to Denton Creek.

Although the Southgate project may appear to be a barren wasteland, it should turn from tan to green relatively soon. After all, even camels need vegetation to survive.

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