Last night in the Mansfield City Council meeting, the council had the 3rd and final reading for a new housing development along Newt Patterson and near the Twin Creeks subdivision. Dozens of homeowners showed up in opposition to the project expressing concerns about drainage, loss of wildlife, and traffic congestion. The city council approved the project zoning request with a vote of 6-1.
I believe this was another example where current leadership dropped the ball.
Bloomfield homes is the developer of this particular project. They build a great product and are an essential partner for Mansfield development in the future. I also respect their right to build and develop land they own and I respect the right of land owners to sell their property how they wish.
That said, I also believe we have a strategic city plan that includes zoning guidelines already in place for much of the city. Modifying that zoning and making changes to those plans should be heavily scrutinized and when those changes are going to take place, the city should receive an overall benefit that includes existing residents quality of life (not just growth in the tax revenue base).
This particular piece of property was already zoned as residential. Bloomfield could have built homes on this piece of land without a zoning change request, and even if the city council turned down the project last night, Bloomfield could have begun construction this morning on developing that land into a neighborhood.
The request from Bloomfield was to shrink the lot sizes on the property to 80'x120' instead of 90'x125' (approximately 1,650 sq. ft. smaller per lot.) This would allow Bloomfield the room to build approximately 2-3 more homes in the small subdivision and take into account the easement that runs through the 15 acres of land.
This is a small subdivision. They're building approximately 35 homes.
The challenge is that the land use plan for the city says this area should remain primarily rural. The challenge is that a few creeks run through this area and developing that land with more concrete and roadways and structures is going to increase watershed into those creeks and potentially increase the flood zone around existing properties downstream. The challenge is that this is a winding two lane country road that already is going to receive more traffic due to a new apartment complex built nearby.
Bloomfield did a great job with flood studies and communicating with local homeowners. The city engineer reviewed all plans and FEMA even has looked at the flood studies and impact report so they can update their maps.
The process has taken 15+ months with numerous professionals working together on the project.
When presented with that expert evidence that there won't be a flooding issue, this city council decided to move forward with the Bloomfield plans and approve the zoning change to reduce the lot sizes along with a few other slight modifications. One change the city requested is that the minimum home size be increased to 2,400 sq. ft. so that "the city could get a little more value out of the project."
This project ended up being a money grab from the city, not a value add for the surrounding community. They're going from a 15 acre undeveloped piece of property to 35 homes in the $350k-$500k range which will give the city approximately an extra $100,000/year in property tax revenue. It is the highest use for the land. It is not the overall best use for the land - but it could have been.
What should have happened
15 months ago when this whole thing started I would've met with homeowners and the developer. The homeowners needed to understand that this developer could have begun building homes immediately per the zoning that was already in place for decades. This zoning change request to a PD zoning allowed for everyone to get involved and come up with an even better project for the community and less impact for the neighboring properties and wildlife.
I would have talked with the developer about how they could protect the integrity of the land, keep open spaces for wildlife, stick closely with our existing land-use plan, and still meet their projected numbers.
I would have talked with the neighbors to address their concerns early in the process and get them together with the developer to talk about their concerns.
I would have discussed early on that more development "in the country" along Newt Patterson means that road will need widened and reconstructed. The city doesn't own easement access along many parts of Newt Patterson to easily widen the road. Easement access will have to be purchased which comes at a cost to the city. Developers that are contributing toward the need for increased infrastructure need to be contributing toward those costs above their "impact fees" they already pay.
Not one council member last night asked the developer this question; "If this PD zoning request is denied tonight, will you still be moving forward with a project on this land?" That question should have been asked.
Ultimately, something was going to be built on this piece of property. But we had a communication issue from the beginning and leadership that didn't dive in headfirst to start working on solutions that help everyone. Once it reaches the third and final reading in a city council meeting it's too late.
How this fits into my campaign platform
Controlling and managing quality growth means diving in with developers and planning and zoning early in their process to find out their objectives and work with them to develop plans that meet the needs of our city. Developers spend significant money and time coming up with plans and engineering reports. By the time they've gone through P&Z and made it to the city council they're in the home stretch. Sitting back in a chair on the council and waiting for the project to be presented in a city council meeting is too late to get involved. I want to work with developers early and often to build quality projects that enhance the quality of life of EVERYONE in Mansfield.