December 2015

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MEDC authorizes water project

Capital improvements to receive council attention

Developer slighted by council

Elementary school for Pomona

Council approves MEDC water project

2015: year in review

 

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MEDC authorizes water project

December 1, 2015

 

Members of the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) unanimously authorized board president Karen Kinlaw to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of Manvel that would provide for the expenditure of $410,000 towards infrastructure improvements at the School Road water plant and at a secondary facility on Corporate Drive.  The project will install new pumps at the School Road plant that will result in nearly a doubling of water flow available to current and future users of the city water supply.  The current pumps will be maintained and moved to the Corporate Drive facility where they will serve as booster pumps to improve the pressure and distance of the water flow directed east.  Also at the Corporate Drive location the city will have installed an underground storage tank.  MEDC works at the pleasure of the city council and can only submit the authorization to them for ultimate approval and enactment.  Council is expected to take up the matter at its next scheduled meeting on Monday, December 14.

 

The improvements are expected to provide the city with ample capacity to accommodate likely users coming on line in future years.  MEDC’s consulting engineer estimates the increased capacity will provide 2200 water connections and projects the added volume will be sufficient for at least five years of currently contemplated demand.  The project will also meet an immediate need for the contemplated development of the Manvel Town Center at SH 288 and SH 6.  As reported in October, project developers are in negotiations with Kroger to locate a store at the northwest corner location.  If all goes as contemplated, ground breaking could be realized as early as the summer of 2016.  That time frame would not allow adequate time for MUD 42, which will serve the development, to complete the required utility infrastructure.  The plan is to arrange a temporary use agreement to utilizing city water.  Their wastewater needs would be handled by a new plant currently under construction by MUD 61 which services the Lakeland project.

 

Infrastructure improvements also funded by MEDC and completed earlier this year will provide the piping required to carry both the water from the city’s plant and the wastewater from the Lakeland plant.  The Town Center developers will be required to continue the installation of the lines across 288 in order to service their project.  The City of Manvel stands to realize significant benefit from the arrangement.  The installation of the lines across 288 will make city water services available on the west side of the city with the cost being borne by the Town Center project.  Additional wastewater capacity from MUD 61, also to be funded by the Town Center project, would at some point revert to the city thereby providing wastewater capacity to additional future development.  If both negotiations return satisfactory resolutions, Town Center developers estimate one year of construction so that the project could see completion in 2017.  An inability to reach an accord with either the city or MUD 61 would likely delay the project by one year as MUD 42 would need that time to complete their infrastructure construction before the project could begin.

 

The current MEDC board strives to be proactive in their projects so that infrastructure capacity is available before the need becomes apparent.  Before granting the authorization, board members were satisfied that the project would do more than meet the immediate need for the Town Center.  The infrastructure improvement will make more desirable development along the western portion of the city from FM 1128 toward SH 288, the area expected to see a good portion of the initial development projects coming to the city.

 

MEDC has also conducted public hearings for two additional projects included in their current year budget, neither of which has yet been granted authorization.  One project would extend the water and sewer capacity on the south side of SH 6 some 900 lineal feet from a point west of FM 1128 to the vicinity of the proposed Scott Funeral Home, generally near Corporate Drive.  No action was taken on the project due to easement issues being unsettled.  It is hoped that a resolution will be had by the next scheduled meeting in January so that action can be taken on the project.  The plan would extend the water and sewer capacity established by a previous MEDC funded project serving the south side of SH 6 from near the location of the proposed Scott Funeral Home heading east toward SH 288.  That project also provided water and sewer infrastructure along the north side of SH 6 so that capacity is now available essentially from FM 1128 to SH 288.

 

Another project awaiting authorization is the installation of an 8 inch gravity sewer line running approximately 2300 lineal feet east from Spillane at Large Road.  The line will be installed along Large Road and terminate at the C1 ditch.  The work contemplates the inclusion of necessary manholes and lift station improvements.  Lift stations are facilities designed to move wastewater from lower to higher elevations when the elevation of the source is insufficient for gravity flow.  Lift stations are also installed when the use of gravity conveyance will result in excessive excavation depths and/or sewer construction costs are too high.  This project drew attention from board members for a couple of reasons.  It will provide an ability to meet development needs and thereby encourage the establishment of businesses along SH 6 east of FM 1128 as Large runs parallel just one block to the north of SH 6.  And there are several existing small businesses along SH 6 and Large that might be inclined to expand if water and wastewater capacity were to be available.  Letters have been sent to property owners along that portion of Large Road requesting feedback and comments on any planned developments and/or potential developments they may have knowledge of.  Results of the inquiries will help the board in their decision making process that strives to maximize economic value to the city.

 

When considering the expenditure of taxpayer funded dollars, the MEDC looks for projects that will deliver economic diversity to the community, increase the city’s productive tax base, and provide employment opportunities for Manvel citizens.  Those goals are in keeping with the mission of the board to promote, encourage, and support business development in the city.  Infrastructure needs dominate the attention of the MEDC as it is required before any other considerations.  For years Manvel has been held back from development due to insufficient infrastructure being available to meet the needs of proposed projects.  With voter approval last May of a ballot proposition that returned a full ½ cent sales tax allocation to MEDC, the board is now far better equipped to promote positive development opportunities for the city.

 

Projects funded through MEDC produce real benefits to tax payers that go beyond mere physical improvements, such as a grocery store, that citizens would enjoy for many years. The tax burden on residents is diminished as the city does not have to fund the project through bonds or debt obligations that usually result in an increase in the local property tax rate.  And because MEDC is funded by sales taxes, a significant portion of their projects would be funded by non-citizens.  A portion of every sales tax dollar earned in the city will go toward economic development endeavors and as sales tax revenues increase still more improvements to the local economy can be realized.  Another benefit to a healthy and adequately funded MEDC is that it can typically act on projects more quickly and with less bureaucracy and administrative requirements than is typical for the city administration.

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Capital improvements to receive council attention

December 9, 2015

 

City council was asked by the city manager at a recent council meeting to consider major projects for the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).  Presented to council was a list of 22 items ranked by the staff.   Beginning in 2011 an inventory of Plans, Projects, and Facilities from each city department was compiled.  The list included such things as drainage, streets, water, sanitation, and parks.  Thirty-nine projects made the initial list from which department heads were asked to determine those that truly should be considered a capital improvement and which were realistically plausible to accomplish within the next five years.  That process resulted in a remaining twenty-two projects from which each department ranked them in order of importance.  The results were compiled and sorted based on the cumulative total score.  The initial CIP provided a brief description of each of the twenty-two projects and were separated into five categories: planning projects (7), water projects (6), facilities projects (5), wastewater projects (3), and street projects (1).

 

The current budget provides funding for three items in the CIP.  $25,000 is budgeted for the development of a Masters Parks Plan, $50,000 for a Regional Water Plan, and $50,000 for a Regional Wastewater Plan.  Among the projects suggested to council for inclusion in an updated CIP was an update to the city’s Comprehensive Plan which was last updated in 2012.  At a projected cost of $50,000, the city would refresh the current plan to adjust for recent and pending development.  As the majority of the goals identified in the earlier plan have been accomplished over the last five years, it is thought time for a review.

 

In keeping with the city’s proclivity to invest in professionally prepared improvement plans, council was asked to consider still more funding for a Street Maintenance Plan ($25,000) that will inventory city streets, their composition, maintenance history, and traffic counts to determine appropriate maintenance schedules.  An Equipment Replacement Plan ($25,000) would develop short and long term needs for the capital equipment used by the city staff.  Examples include police vehicles, street maintenance equipment, and public works trucks.  A Staffing and Human Resource Plan ($25,000) would develop short and long term needs for current and future staffing requirements.  And a Technology Plan ($25,000) would develop short and long term needs for technology based items used by the various city departments and personnel.  If the city were to fund each of the Plans submitted for consideration, the total cost is estimated at $225,000.

 

Infrastructure projects receive considerable attention and include various waterline improvements ($770,000) along Rogers Road, Charlotte, Cemetery, and Lewis Lane.  Lift Station improvements ($50,000) are contemplated for two of the cities facilities and would include the acquisition of property to provide better access for maintenance, the installation of submersible pumps, and other internal improvements.  The acquisition of a regional detention pond ($2,500,000) in the northern part of the city would help manage detention and flood plain mitigation.  A site currently getting attention offers a strategic location that could capture water runoff from both Chocolate and Mustang Bayous upstream of the city.  A rehab project of Masters Road ($50,000) would begin a long-term task of replacing the existing road with concrete, curbs, and gutters.

 

Other items council will study for the CIP include the construction of a new library on city owned property on FM 1128.  The total project cost is estimated at $625,000 and it is likely bond funds would need to be secured in order to meet the high price tag.  A minor remodel of the current city hall ($65,000) would make available a functioning records room for use by the city secretary.  The purchase of land bordering the current city hall ($75,000) is anticipated to meet future needs when the building is expected to become the new police station.  City Hall will move to land in the planned Presidio project on the northwest corner of SH 288 and SH 6.  In order to accommodate the needs of a police station the building would need to be expanded.

 

In June 2012 Manvel city council approved the initial Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the city.  The city’s consulting civil engineer, Dan Johnson, explained at the time that the city will negotiate with developers to bear the cost of new roads, water lines, treatment plants, and similar types of infrastructure improvements as their developments are undertaken but in the established parts of town and in areas that may not be included in new developments the city must pay for the improvements.  The city charter provides for a CIP that would show projects to be accomplished within five years.  It also calls for an annual update so that it will have a rolling five-year window.  Anything over $20,000 is considered a capital improvement.  The CIP put together in 2012 was the first time the City had undergone an extensive, prioritized project inventory for future development.  Paraphrasing the original report, the goal of the CIP is to help maintain a high quality of life for Manvel citizens through the timely anticipation of the city’s needs and the planning and funding of improvement projects as the community grows.  The city is expected to grow exponentially over the next several years.  Population growth is a primary driving factor in the CIP process.  Johnson told council in 2012 that the city must “anticipate the growth and not be surprised by it later on.”

 

Funding sources for the improvements could include the city’s annual operating budget, bonds, city reserve funds, grants, impact fees, and MEDC allocations.  As the city’s budget grows along with development, additional monies will be available through the annual budgeting process.  Because it is difficult to anticipate a realized growth rate, the CIP proposes to utilize alternative funding sources whenever possible.  In addition to the twenty-two “short-term” items in the original five-year plan, nine projects were identified as “long-term” to be looked at after the year 2016.  The nine projects are expected to exceed $10 million in total and are listed as a “potential developer participation” should a large tract developer move forward in this timeframe.  The long-term projects, not in any priority, include an animal control facility, new city hall, an elevated water storage tank, a SH 6 regional detention pond, a municipal court structure, a new police department building, Masters Road improvements, a wastewater treatment plant upgrade, and a new public works facility.

 

Council is expected to take up the discussion of items to include in the updated CIP at its next scheduled meeting on Monday, December 14.  The public is always welcome to attend council meetings and citizen comments can be offered at the start of the meeting.

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Developer slighted by council

December 16, 2015

 

In an apparent effort to “send a message” to a developer working in Manvel, the city council took the unusual parliamentary procedure of failing to acknowledge a second to a motion to approve a final plat for the proposed Newport Lake Estates project.  The inaction at this week’s city council meeting effectively killed the motion and the plat was left unapproved, to the significant consternation of Joe Watson, the project’s developer.  The lack of approval disallows Watson from moving forward on his project.  Council members were not forthcoming with an explanation but to reference a vague unhappiness with the developer’s dealings with the city.  Watson has made several attempts over many months to persuade council to rethink the location of Kirby Drive as determined in the most recent Thoroughfare Plan.  He argues the road would be underutilized and superfluous as it runs essentially parallel to CR 48, which currently is undergoing construction that will result in a four-lane boulevard from Broadway on the north in Pearland all the way to SH 6 on the south.  The road would actually terminates at CR 48 just north of SH 6.  Prior plans called for Kirby to run farther to the east as it comes out of the Pomona development and Watson favors that original path.

 

Regardless of council’s motives for dissing Watson, even if one concedes their sentiment, the action only serves to validate a feeling expressed by more than a few developers and business people that Manvel is difficult to do business with.  For his part, Watson tried to address council but was refused the opportunity with the excuse that it would be inappropriate and that they were required in an executive session.  His efforts to obtain an explanation from individual members as they made their way to the executive session were impolitely dismissed.  Watson, understandably miffed by the ordeal that he expected to be a mere formality, explained that he has worked on the project for nineteen months and that he has bids from numerous civil contractors ready to begin construction.  Driving by the property at the southeast corner of CR 48 and CR 58 one can see a good amount of dirt work that already has been completed in preparation for the installation of drainage, utilities, and transportation infrastructure.

 

Watson is not working under a development agreement, which is more typical for a project the size of his, but rather has met every requirement of the city’s building ordinances and the myriad plans the city has prepared.  Every appropriate engineer, consultant, inspector, and plan reviewer has signed off on the project.  The city’s Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z) recommended council approve this final plat by a unanimous 7-0 vote just last week.  It is unclear whether or not council took the action in concert but as there was a closed executive session at the beginning of the meeting to discuss “development agreements,” appearances suggest it was orchestrated.  If not so, it nevertheless provides the indication that this city council condones punishing a developer for following rules as they were in place at the time of approval.  While the mayor and some on council talk of disproving the sentiment of Manvel being hostile toward business, those efforts become hollow when following actions such as this which only encourages the perception that the many city requirements developers and businesses have to contend with are overly onerous and actually serve to discourage business activity in the city.  The posturing by city council essentially serves to only delay Watson’s ability to move forward with his project as the plat at issue will be “deemed approved” in any event after thirty days if council takes no further action.  One council member acknowledged as much in saying they just wanted to make a point to Watson, and by extension one would assume future business prospects, that better cooperation and dialogue is desired.  

 

Newport Lake Estates is described as a “fairly high-end lake front community.”  The overall project consists of 73 acres and eventually 199 residential lots.  It is designed with natural waterfronts that will encourage neighbors to build bonds with each other and to interact and enjoy the lakes, trails, athletic facilities, and many neighborhood parks.  The development is within easy walking distance to AISD schools: Don Jeter Elementary and Manvel Junior High School at Rodeo Palms.  As previously described to council, forty-four percent of the lots will offer premium lakefront views at over 10,000 square feet with sizes of 70 x 150.  The balance of the off-water lots will be 60 x 110.  Home sizes are expected between the low 2000 to high 3000 square foot range with prices projected at the low end of $275,000 to $300,000 and an expected average from $350,000 to $450,000.  Gehan Homes and Chesmar Homes have been selected as the home builders for the project.   

  

The primary entrance will be from CR 58 and the design calls for scenic views of lake and park areas as residents and guest come and go from the development.  The lakes to be excavated for the project will differ than the customary water detention areas seen in most developments in that the edge of the waterline will front directly the back yard property lines of the lake lots.  There are three lakes spanning 10 acres.  Envisioned by the developer are boat docks and piers so that property owners can access their own water crafts and float around to visit friends and neighbors or the community amenities.  The lakes will be stocked with edible fish though there will be a catch and release program.  

  

There are several parks planned throughout the development and a main Community Center will be available for public gatherings and a play area for kids and will include a small marina for visitors to launch and /or tie up their various water crafts.  Also planned is an area designed more for middle school and high school aged children and adults.  It will be set up with nearly one mile of trails with individual exercise stations, a regulation sand lot volley ball court, and a badminton/croquet court.  Smaller “pocket parks” will be spread around the development providing different themes.  The planned parks do not meet the city’s current park ordinance but as the preliminary plat for the project was approved previously under different rules the development plan enjoys grandfather status.

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Elementary school for Pomona

December 23, 2015

 

The Alvin Independent School District (AISD) received approval of a minor plat from Manvel city council last week that begins the process of construction for an elementary school to serve the Pomona master planned community and will ease overcrowded conditions at many west side elementary campuses.  The nearly 13-acre site will be just to the west of the roundabout along Pomona Drive and Kirby.  Construction will require approximately 18 months making the school available for operation in time for the 2017-2018 school year.

 

The school is being funded by a $285 million bond package that voters approved in November.  The overall package includes $245 million in bonds with the district funding the balance of the building program with $28 million from the current operating budget and $12.6 million from previously authorized bonds.  The building program covered by the bond includes four new elementary schools as well as land for a fifth.  In addition to the Pomona site, the other confirmed elementary school will be constructed in Shadow Creek Ranch.  Remaining locations have yet to be announced.  Current costs for an elementary school range from $24.5 million to $31.2 million.  A new junior high site has been announced for Shadow Creek Ranch at a cost of $42.2 million.  The bond will also pay for land for an additional elementary school, a junior high school, and a fourth high school.  Other expenditures of note included in the bond is a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center in Manvel at a cost of $45.3 million.  The structure will replace the old Manvel JH which recently saw its demolition.  It will be replaced with a new 135,000 square foot structure accommodating 800 students in various programs as driven by student interests and the job market.  Upgrades will be done to the Alvin HS auditorium and stadium and a new transportation center will relieve the current facility that is over capacity and will provide long-term cost savings in fuel and maintenance by reducing bus transit times.  And a new district stadium is included that will accommodate 10,000 seats and will be constructed of a masonry façade covering a concrete, steel, and aluminum structure.  It will feature a two-story press box, a field house with community room, and a state of the art scoreboard and sound system.  The stadium complex will be located on 70 acres in the southern portion of the Meridiana development along SH 288 north of FM 1462.

 

AISD currently operates 15 elementary schools, 6 junior high schools, and 2 high schools.  AISD experienced an influx of over 1500 new students just this year.  It is expecting a five year growth at over 6000 students.  By the year 2020 enrollment is projected at more than 28,000 and by 2025 over 35,000.   Temporary and flex buildings are being used at many campuses throughout the district to accommodate excess capacity and some campuses have resorted to using rooms designed for other purposes as classrooms.  Overcrowded conditions at the secondary level were eased this school year with the opening of the new Manvel Junior High which relieved enrollment pressure at Rodeo Palms JH and Nolan Ryan JH, both serving the west side.  Next school year will see relief offered to Manvel HS, currently experiencing enrollment over 400 students above its designed capacity, with the opening of the new Shadow Creek High School in Pearland.  A new elementary school in the Meridiana development is scheduled for completion this summer, offering relief to west side elementary schools in time for the 2016-2017 school year.

 

The Pomona development comprises approximately 1,000 acres and will contain 2,100 single family homes along with various multi-family residential and commercial structures upon its maturity.  Development boundaries are not exact, but generally follow the American Canal on the north, CR 48 on the west, SH 288 on the east, and CR 58 on the south.  The development’s Master Plan shows two reserves established for school sites.  In addition to the elementary school moving forward, a junior high school is also expected within its boundaries, though no current timetable has been established for its construction.

  

Hillwood Communities is the developer of the project and is a company in the portfolio of Ross Perot.  Construction of homes is underway and model homes are open from builders including Highland Homes, Plantation Homes, Trendmaker Homes, David Weekly Homes, and Coventry Homes.   The project’s first phase consists of 300 homes.  As stated on the project website, “Hillwood’s vision for this project is to bridge today’s modern lifestyle conveniences to a simpler, laid-back character found in the charming Gulf Coast communities of the South.  The Mustang Bayou, a river that will serve as the heart of the community, defines Pomona and features amenities, schools and gathering spaces linked by an extensive trail system. More than 300 acres of the property will remain open space in the form of wetlands and protective waters. Improvements to the bayou include planting native grasses and trees.”

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Council approves MEDC water project

December 23, 2015

 

Manvel city council authorized the Manvel Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to provide $410,000 towards infrastructure improvements at the School Road water plant and at a secondary facility on Corporate Drive.  The project will install new pumps at the School Road plant that will result in nearly a doubling of water flow available to current and future users of the city water supply.  The current pumps will be maintained and moved to the Corporate Drive facility where they will serve as booster pumps to improve the pressure and distance of the water flow directed east.  Also at the Corporate Drive location the city will have installed an underground storage tank.

 

The improvements are expected to provide the city with ample capacity to accommodate likely users coming on line in future years.  MEDC’s consulting engineer estimates the increased capacity will provide 2200 water connections and projects the added volume will be sufficient for at least five years of currently contemplated demand.  The project will also meet an immediate need for the anticipated development of the Manvel Town Center at SH 288 and SH 6.  Negotiations are on-going between the developer and Kroger to locate a store at the northwest corner location.  Negotiations are also in progress between the developer and MUD 61, which services the Lakeland project, to provide temporary wastewater capacity to the site.  If both negotiations return satisfactory resolutions, Town Center developers estimate one year of construction so that the project could see completion in 2017.  An inability to reach an accord with either the city or MUD 61 would likely delay the project by one year as the development’s Municipal Utility District (MUD 42) would need that time to complete their utility infrastructure construction before the project could begin.

 

Improvements also funded by MEDC and completed earlier in 2015 will provide the piping required to carry both the water from the city’s plant and the wastewater from the Lakeland plant.  The Town Center developers will be required to continue the installation of the lines across 288 in order to service their project.  The City of Manvel stands to realize significant benefit from the arrangement.  The installation of the lines across 288 will make city water services available on the west side of the city with the cost being borne by the Town Center project.  Additional wastewater capacity from MUD 61, also to be funded by the Town Center project, would at some point revert to the city thereby providing wastewater capacity to additional future development. 

 

MEDC members expect the infrastructure improvements to make development more desirable along the western portion of the city from FM 1128 toward SH 288, the area expected to see a good portion of the initial development projects coming to the city.

 

In other news related to the MEDC, council approved the re-appointment of two board members and the appointment of one new member.  Raymond Ruiz and Janice DelBello will continue their service and Diana Stiles was selected to replace Claudia Arnold.  Stiles has served on the board previously and will be returning for her second appointment.  The MEDC has seven members who are expected to serve for two-year terms.  Three members are appointed on odd years and four members on even years.

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2015: year in review

December 30, 2015

 

The year 2015 will likely be remembered as the beginning of the substantial growth the city had been anticipating for years with considerable debate being had on how the city will accommodate development.  Two master planned communities, Pomona and Meridiana, began construction and other projects remain in the works.  January began with the unfortunate lead story seeing the Manvel High School community grieving the loss of three senior students who tragically lost their lives in a single vehicle automobile crash.  A gray, damp, and dreary sky established a suitable context for community mourners who poignantly released hundreds of balloons to honor and remember the deceased students.  In moving silence the balloons grew ever faint as a cold blustery wind carried them higher and farther until finally they could be seen no more, suggesting a suitable passage to three young lives.

 

Two significant new hires were added to the city staff.  City council executed an employment agreement with Bobby Gervais to become the city’s first on-staff attorney.  Gervais had served the city on a contract basis for years and was well regarded by city administrators and elected officials. With the growing demands on city legal services council set aside funds in the budget to afford the hire.  A new finance director was also brought on by the city.  Wes Vela assumed the position after city council terminated the services of its long-term controller Phyllis Herbst.  Herbst had served in the position for twelve years but had come under fire following a city audit that asserted some issues with the finance department’s personnel and procedures.  The issues coincided with city council’s desire to make the city controller a full-time position and while Herbst had her supporters on council and likely would have been considered for the position, she reportedly declined due to an unwillingness to become a full-time city employee.

 

City council debated a $50,000 expenditure for a Master Drainage Plan that some on council took issue with.  Concerns were raised about the cost of the Plan and the perceived adverse effects on current residents and their property limits.  Member Melody Hanson was most outspoken and expressed concerns that some Manvel residents would likely see the majority of their backyards “wiped out” if the proposed widths of waterways as spelled out in the Plan were implemented.  Council was also upset that the authors of the plan were demanding an additional $9000 to answer council questions.  Council ultimately did have their questions addressed and in March authorized the Plan be incorporated into the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

 

January saw the return of new construction in the Rodeo Palms subdivision which had been stopped due to a moratorium that was initially issued in June 2013 due to insufficient water capacity being available to residents.  A new water well was constructed that took nearly a year to complete.  Residents now expect ample water capacity for the entire MUD district that serves the community.

 

January also saw the beginning of an issue that would promote debate for the entire year when representatives from three of the city’s large developments requested council approve various changes to their development agreements.  The gist of the requests were to allow smaller lot sizes in an effort to appeal to buyers desiring a smaller home and lot size and a lower price point.

 

February saw the issue of the city’s inadequate wastewater capacity being exposed.  The Lakeland development had been in discussion with the city for months on the expansion of the current plant serving their community.  Home sales were brisk and additional capacity was required in order for the next phase of construction to begin.  Lakeland representatives expressed concern that they would be required to cease construction if a suitable agreement for additional capacity was not facilitated.  After sometimes heated negotiations the MUD serving the project agreed to assume the cost of a new plant that also will see additional capacity granted the city.  While the matter has been satisfied for the near term, long term problems remain for the city’s ability to provide adequate wastewater capacity for future development in the city.  Council considered an option to build a new plant that would significantly improve the city’s capacity for future needs, but a price tag at well over $2 million essentially shut down serious consideration as its funding would require an increase in the city’s tax rate and council historically has been loath to consider such an action.  The wastewater issue will not solve itself and council in 2016 will need to demonstrate courage in confronting the matter if the city hopes to accept increased development of retail and commercial opportunities.

 

In March city council considered an update to the Thoroughfare Plan which once again demonstrated the need for thoughtful infrastructure planning.  Debate was had once again on how the city will grow with council ultimately agreeing to a Plan that will see multi-modal transportation choices offering opportunities to drive, bike, and walk.  A focus on mobility choice is expected to encourage a vibrant community and support strong neighborhoods, employment centers, and activity centers.  Some developers took issue with the Plan as it further encumbers project margins in requiring large amounts of land being given to the city and burdens developers with additional cost for construction.  

 

Less than 5% of registered voters took time to exercise their privilege to vote in the May election.  Manvel citizens turned out just 271 voters from 5,466 registered.  Adrian Gaspar was re-elected to his second term on city council and Lorraine Hehn beat incumbent Maureen DelBello.  Voters also approved the MEDC sales tax allocation that returned full funding of ½% of the city’s collected sales tax revenue to promote investments in infrastructure and business development.  Estimates are for the additional funding to amount to more than $300,000 and as city sales tax revenues increase in coming years that amount will go up correspondingly.

 

In June city council authorized the appropriation of funds for various departmental expenditures approximating $750,000.  A significant piece of the extensive list of things to be acquired consists of $275,000 for the purchase of just over 7 acres of land on Corporate Drive across the road from the city’s wastewater treatment plant.  The expected use of the property will be to accommodate expansion of the current plant or possibly the construction of a new stand-alone plant to provide additional capacity to meet the need for future development.  Other items included new vehicles and equipment for Public Works and Police and varied computer equipment, furnishings, and supplies for various city departments.

 

July saw the debate on lot sizes heat up as it was the first presentation by a group wanting to develop a prime parcel of 271 acres on the east side of SH 288 that runs just north of SH 6 to south of the Sedona Lakes project with the eastern border following generally the planned Manvel Parkway, which extends approximately from Iowa Lane.  Similar to other developers who visited with council in 2015, the presenters explained the current market trend as they see it being toward smaller lot sizes that are below the city’s minimum 60 feet as provided for in the subdivision ordinance.  The Southpoint Crossing project originally planned to offer 76% of its lots at either 50 feet or 55 feet.  The balance of the project would consist of 60 foot lots with only a small number of 70 foot lots being offered.  In making their case, the presenters referenced the millennial generation as a prime focus of their market expectation.  That proposal generated discussion that remains unresolved as the year ends on what type of development the city should allow.  A majority of council favored a strict adherence to the city’s subdivision ordinance that mandates lots no smaller than 60 feet in width.  Some on council though, including the mayor, seemed to loosen their insistence on larger lots after the third presentation by the group in September.  The altered concept provided 45% of homes on 50 and 55 foot lots, 35% on 60 foot lots, and 20% on 70 foot lots.  Mayor Martin expressed some willingness to consider the revised plan and conceded there is a market for smaller lots and that it is important the city provide developers an opportunity to meet the needs of buyers who desire them.  Those supporting a more varied approach to growth saw council’s tepid acceptance of the plan as perhaps portending a greater flexibility in consideration of development that better balances the city’s desire of more open space with the demographic and economic realities of growth.

 

August saw the news that Manvel gained an international company when a multi-national manufacturing group based in Hamburg, Germany purchased the local Shu-Chem Holdings chemical company located at 22102 State Hwy 6.  Halteman Carless Solutions (HCS Group) described their plan for the nearly 100-acre site.  Council approved a zoning change on the property to heavy-commercial so that improvements and expansion to the plant can be undertaken in the years to come.  The company believes the current operation can be made more productive and projects a doubling of its output through more efficient processes.  Additional capacity will be added to the site with a new state of the art plant utilizing another 20 or so acres.  Plans presented to council include an initial investment of more than $15 million through 2018 “into significant beautification of the Manvel site and an upgrade of its safety and security measures.”  All current employees retained their positions and plans call for the hiring of additional skilled workers with a realization of “more than a 50% increase of employees within two years.”

 

In September the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) announced a $245 million bond referendum to address a significant condition of overcrowding at a large portion of AISD schools, most prevalently in the fast growing west side of the district.  Many district schools were over capacity at the start of the school year and demographic studies project additional students of more than 1000 each year coming into the district.  Voters easily approved the bond in the November election that will fund four new elementary schools as well as land for a fifth.  A new Junior High will be built and land for another is included.  Land for a fourth High School is also included.  Other expenditures of note include a new Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center in Manvel that will replace the old Manvel JH which has been demolished.  A new 135,000 square foot structure will accommodate 800 students in various programs.  Upgrades to the Alvin HS auditorium and a new transportation center will relieve the current facility that is over capacity.  And a new district stadium will be constructed for 10,000 seats that will be located in the Meridiana development along the east side of SH 288 and north of FM 1462.

 

October brought news that the owners of property located on the northwest corner of SH 6 and SH 288 presented to city council a plan to move forward with phase one of the Manvel Town Center development.  The first 44-acres are planned for a Kroger store and other smaller retail and dining establishments.  The timetable for a groundbreaking depends on negotiations the developer has ongoing with Municipal Utility District (MUD) 61 and the City of Manvel to provide interim water and wastewater services.  If negotiations are successful, Manvel residents and others living in the area could see the store open for business as early as the summer of 2017.

 

November saw residents of Rodeo Palms seeking relief from the city for illegal parking in the subdivision.  Manvel Police responded and increased their presence and enforcement of city parking ordinances in the community.  Michael Dumas was hired as the city’s new Fire Marshal and Code Enforcement Officer.  Dumas brings 26 years of experience in fire and EMS services and also is a licensed peace officer.  Dumas’ duties include plan reviews, fire inspections, and code enforcement.  And TxDOT announced plans to alter SH 6 so that the continuous left turn lanes that presently are flush with the pavement will be converted to raised medians.  The road will also see intersection improvements in Manvel at FM 1128 and in Alvin at 2nd Street (Brazos), Business 35 (Gordon), and the SH 35 bypass.  The intersection improvements will include additional turn lanes and traffic signal improvements as needed.  The result of the project is expected to improve safety and traffic operations throughout the corridor.  The project will run about 17 miles from a point approximately 1200 feet west of FM 521 in Arcola to the Galveston County Line, generally between Alvin and Algoa.  The work is anticipated to begin in late 2016 with an anticipated construction period of approximately one year.

 

December ended the year much as it began with friction between council and developers.  Council slighted a developer by failing to approve a plat in what should have been a mere formality.  The action was taken in an apparent effort to send a message that better cooperation and dialogue is desired in negotiations with the city.  The posturing by council only delayed the project as the plat at issue will be “deemed approved” after thirty days passes.

 

In looking forward to 2016 and beyond, council was asked to review and consider projects for the city’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that will be taken up in January.  A CIP serves to present an extensive and prioritized project inventory for future development with a goal to help maintain a high quality of life for Manvel citizens through the timely anticipation of the city’s needs and the planning and funding of improvement projects as the community grows.  Also looking ahead is Manvel’s Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) which received approval from council to provide $410,000 towards infrastructure improvements at the School Road water plant and at a secondary facility on Corporate Drive.  The improvements are expected to provide the city with ample capacity to accommodate likely users coming on line in future years.  MEDC members expect the infrastructure improvements to make development more desirable along the western portion of the city from FM 1128 toward SH 288, the area expected to see a good portion of the initial development projects coming to the city.

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