Sunday, September 26, 2021

Flower Mound discusses Furst Ranch in 6-hour work session

Furst Ranch is located in west Flower Mound.

The Flower Mound Planning & Zoning Commission and Town Council held a joint work session about the proposed Furst Ranch development in far west Flower Mound on Thursday night to hear residents’ input and the developer’s presentation and to discuss the controversial development.

Furst Ranch is a 2,000-acre piece of land at the intersection of FM 1171 and Hwy 377. The longtime ranchland owner, Jack Furst, envisions an enormous mixed-use development on the land with an estimated 2,832 single-family homes, 520 townhomes, 760 condos, 4,000 apartments, 2 million square feet of business parks, 1.6 million square feet of office and nearly 1 million square feet of retail. Furst has called it a 25-30-year project.

While it’s mostly in the town of Flower Mound, it’s entirely in the Argyle ISD boundaries, and many residents in Argyle and Flower Mound are opposed to apartments and worry about the impact Furst Ranch will have on the overwhelmed school district and the area traffic and infrastructure.

The work session Thursday night had no action item and was just meant for discussion. It lasted from 6 p.m. to midnight. Click here to watch the video.

Residents Speak

The first hour of the work session was consumed by public comments, as residents of both Flower Mound and Argyle addressed council and P&Z. Some spoke in favor of the proposed development — often praising Furst Ranch owner Jack Furst’s character and the land donations he’s made in the past — but most spoke against it. Lauren Goodman, who started a change.org petition to “Stop Furst Ranch Development in AISD” that has more than 1,500 signatures, said that Argyle ISD is already in debt and she fears that it could go bankrupt and be absorbed by a larger nearby district if Furst Ranch is approved as presented.

“Our ask is to reconsider not including AISD because we need to close our borders, just to figure this out, because we may not be a district in a couple years,” Goodman said.

Her concerns were echoed by Argyle ISD Board Member Leona McDade.

“AISD is within the top three districts out of over 1,100 districts in the state with a high debt-to-student ratio, which is a distinction that no school district wants to have,” McDade said. “This development could possibly destroy the financial viability of AISD … Without a future bond passing, there will not be schools built on Furst Ranch, nor in other areas of the district.”

There is a complicated legal process to de-annex property from one school district and annex it to another, but, among other requirements, it would need Furst Ranch owner Jack Furst’s support, which it does not have. The group of Argyle ISD residents who oppose the proposed Furst Ranch are primarily focused on asking for lower density and fewer residents in Furst Ranch.

Argyle ISD Board Member Craig Hawkesworth addressed the Flower Mound P&Z and council, and specifically asked for them and/or the developer to mitigate the impact Furst Ranch will have on the 4A school district that is working to address a lot of growth already.

“The development’s probably coming … The way typical developments are done, when they get to critical mass on residential, then they’ll bring in the commercial,” Hawkesworth said. “There’s not a lot of commercial out that way but there’s a ton of residents, so maybe there’s a way to move the actual commercial phasing up in the project to lessen the burden on the taxpayers.”

A close-up shot of the TxDOT rendering of the proposed future FM 1171/Hwy 377 interchange.

Hawkesworth and many others expressed concern over the traffic impacts of more than 8,000 homes in 2,000 acres in west Flower Mound, especially because Hwy 377 is currently just two lanes in the area. Some potential traffic issues may be addressed by the Texas Department of Transportation’s plans to widen Hwy 377 in the Argyle area and build an overpass at FM 1171 in the next few years.

Argyle Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Livingston said he thinks Furst Ranch needs a regional approach and hopes Flower Mound will work with Argyle and Argyle ISD as they consider their decisions regarding Furst Ranch. Fellow Argyle Councilman Rick Bradford echoed Livington’s remarks.

“This development is massive … This is a city,” Bradford said. “This density is really heavy, and I think it takes a regional approach to address something like this.”

One of the Flower Mound residents who spoke in favor of the development, Patsy Mizeur, asked the council to prioritize what’s best for Flower Mound.

“I really do feel bad for the people of the Argyle school district, because in Lewisville, we have gone through those same growing pains, 20 years ago,” Mizeur said. “Now we’re an aging community, and this would be a huge boon for Flower Mound … Northlake didn’t come to Flower Mound, Argyle doesn’t come to Flower Mound when they want to build something in Argyle. You need to be beholden to us first.”

Staff and Applicants Present

After the one-hour public comment section, town staff presented the concept plan for Furst Ranch and how it fits with the town’s Master Plan, zoning, thoroughfare plan and more. The first step in Furst Ranch’s vision is to bring all of the property into the town of Flower Mound. Currently, 449 acres of Furst Ranch are within Bartonville’s extraterritorial jurisdiction and 32 acres are in Argyle’s ETJ.

Then, the applicants wants to amend the future land use designation of the northern end of the site to Mixed Use, and to change the designation of the land west of Hwy 377 from Mixed Use to Business Park. The property is currently zoned Agriculture and Interim Holding, and the applicants want it to be changed to Mixed Use. Many critics of the development say that if this zoning is approved, the developer could add more apartments or high-density housing to the plan.

The applicants also want to create a Public Improvement District and Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone to address the initial major infrastructure costs. According to the Furst Ranch plan, $320 million in infrastructure costs would be financed half by the PID/TIRZ and half by the developer. This would need approval from the Flower Mound Town Council and voters.

The applicants also ran through their own presentation, highlighting the concept plan in detail, including the different uses, the phasing plan and the housing elevations, much of which can be found at furstranch.com.

During the presentation, some P&Z commissioners and council members said they thought the concept plan was “turning southwest Flower Mound into southwest Lewisville,” and they didn’t like how it would “transform the entire town into something that isn’t Flower Mound anymore.” One said the “elephant in the room” is “whether or not the scale and density of this project is appropriate for this location.”

A consultant informed the council and commissioners that the proposed development is less dense than the typical mixed-use development, but more than the town’s Master Plan, and said that the plan is for more density than the town had planned.

Jack Furst

During the discussion with Town Council, Jack Furst said they were working on creating a “Flower Mound western end” that council would approve, and he was inferring that the project seemed to be too big for some on council. Councilwoman Ann Martin said no, it’s not too big, but “it’s, perhaps, not right for Flower Mound and preserving the character (of Flower Mound).”

“I think there are parts of it that don’t seem to fit what my residents are telling me and what I believe is Flower Mound,” Martin said. “The single-family part of it, especially the lower density, feels more like what we were promised in the Master Plan.”

Commissioner Brad Ruthrauff said “part of the angst” about the development is the possibility that the developer could get approval and then ask for more apartments later, a sentiment Commissioner Tim Fink shared.

“I think after a lot of work and questions and concerns, we’re going to work our way through and we’re going to get to some type of an agreement,” Fink said. “But then the most frustrating thing that happens in this town is it then changes, and years down the line, the developer comes in, hat-in-hand, and says, ‘After you’ve given me these incentives, I need to change,’ and it gets the town frustrated and you guys lose trust.

“You’ve talked a lot about Jack Furst’s integrity and character today,” Fink said to the applicants. “How can we, each time you’re in front of us over the next couple of months, build on that character and integrity to convince us that you’re going to deliver exactly what you promised, and you’re not gonna be here a year, two years or three years down the line asking for changes?”

Furst acknowledged that “the apartments — and overall density — are the gigantic issue,” and the applicants are going to work on reducing the density. He said he doesn’t like change and “I do what I say I’m going to do. And if I can’t, we’ll either agree that we can do something or we’ll wait a while.”

“The beauty that we have with this property is, I don’t have to sell it,” Furst said. “I really want to keep this property special.”

Furst also spoke of “earning” the right to build more apartments by bringing in new commercial property.

“I want to earn your trust,” he said.

Councilman Sandeep Sharma acknowledged that plans and needs can change over 20-30 years, and he wondered aloud if everything needs to be approved now.

“I’m not saying its not a good plan, but not necessarily every good plan do you want to have in your home,” Sharma said. “This is a good plan but do we really need that.”

Councilman Jim Pierson said he supports the idea of Furst Ranch, but not “this rendition of it.”

“The vision statement for the town of Flower Mound starts off by saying, ‘Preserve the country atmosphere and natural environment that makes Flower Mound a unique and desirable community,'” Pierson said, citing a 2013 resident survey saying that the first thing they wanted was to preserve the country atmosphere.

The applicants plan to attend the Argyle ISD Board meeting on Monday, April 19. They plan to continue meeting with town staff, the community and the town council and P&Z commission to work on the plan. They hope to receive PID plan approval by Aug. 2 to be on the ballot in the November General Election, and for a public hearing at P&Z on Sept. 13 and a public hearing at council a week later for Master Plan and zoning amendment approval.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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