September 2015

Click the story you wish to read

Council working on new budget

City considers drilling request

AISD seeking $245 million bond referendum

Council debates revised Thoroughfare Plan

Zoning change allows plant expansion

SouthPointe Crossing perseveres with new land plan

Reporting Home                    Top of Page

Council working on new budget

September 2, 2015

 

Manvel city council has been discussing the next fiscal year budget which will commence on October 1.  Council is expected to hold the line on the current tax rate of .58 per $100 valuation.  That rate translates to $580 per $100,000 of appraised value.  Current projections call for budgeted revenues of $5,081,428.  Property taxes account for the majority at $2.256 million.  Sales taxes are next at $1.310 million and licenses and permits for $916,500.  Other revenue is earned primarily from franchise fees and court fees and fines.

 

Expenditures are projected to be $5,079,830.  Personnel costs consume the highest part of the budget at $2.498 million.  Contractual services for things such as engineering, inspections, equipment rental and maintenance, utilities, and such is the next largest category of expense at $1.049 million.  

 

$350,307 will be dedicated to vehicle replacements and lease payments.  Capital outlays of significance include $150,000 to the police department to fund two sergeant positions, a new vehicle, and upgraded radios.  Other city departments will also see radio upgrades in order to meet the new digital radio services in use today.  A portable building valued at $46,000 is budgeted for city hall to provide office space to relieve crowded conditions in the main building.  An alcove to surround the entry doors at Manvel City Hall is budgeted to alleviate the intrusion of noise and weather, particularly during the course of public meetings.  The public works department has budgeted $306,000 for various capital improvements and the police department will purchase a storage building and see an upgrade to their video equipment.

 

It is likely the final budget will be put to a vote at the September 14 council meeting.

Reporting Home                    Top of Page

City considers drilling request

September 2, 2015

 

Manvel city council held a public hearing on a request to establish an oil and gas drilling well on property south of the Chevron station located on SH 6 just west of SH 288.  Comments were presented for council’s consideration from both supporters of the well and those opposed.  One landowner, a 45-year resident of the city, spoke of a desire to realize the financial benefit of the minerals underneath his property.  He also made the case that Manvel and Brazoria County would see financial benefit from the taxes that would be levied on the production resulting from the well’s activities.  He feels the drill site would not bother anybody as it would be established some distance south of the Chevron on land with little else around than vegetation.  Another longtime resident claimed 75 years in the city and reminded council of the import oil companies had on the community in past years, particularly in the funding of local schools.  He claimed “Manvel has lived on the back of Texaco and other production for over eight-five years.”  He expressed frustration with council in reminding them that the drill company met all the necessary requirements two years ago and wonders what the holdup is.  He said, “I think it is high time we got production pursued around here.”  He referenced the “global warming people” and foreign oil producers as holding back domestic production.  “Common sense says that if we have the stuff we should produce it, we should not keep letting our enemies finance terrorists against us while we sit here and don’t produce our own stuff.  I can’t imagine you’ll wanting to prevent that.”

 

A realtor representing the owners of a 250-acre tract on both the northwest and southwest sides of the 288/Hwy 6 intersection expressed opposition to the well.  He described his tracts as the “gateway property of Manvel” and expressed “real concerns” on the effect drilling activity would have on a proposed development and the associated MUD and 380-agreements that was negotiated with the city.  Describing their property as being a “beautiful pristine piece of land” and offering significant long-term development potential for the city, he explained his group as excited about the momentum going on in the area and fears the drilling activity could have a “real negative impact.”

 

A representative from the driller, PIC Operating, LLC, presented his case to council.  This application is the company’s second appearance before council, a prior application requested authorization to drill on land just west of the Lakeland development about two years ago.  The city denied that application for various reasons, but primarily due to its violation of a city requirement that no structure be within 2000 feet of an operating well.  The company began work on this project in 2007 and has earned the necessary permits to establish a well.  The City of Manvel remains the lone hurdle to begin.  The company representative explained that the current proposed site meets the 2000 foot minimum with the exception of the Chevron station which executed a waiver of the 2000 foot requirement.  There is a house within 200 feet but is located in Iowa Colony and “not applicable as far as Manvel city council is concerned.”  Commercial structures across 288 do fall within 2000 feet but the drill operator claims the highway overpass provides sufficient separation from the well site so as to not be a concern.  Admitting this application is their “only hope”, he went on to say that “we feel like any kind of detrimental or negative connotation to us drilling on the previously applied tract was unwarranted.”  He claims the noise levels in today’s rigs are far quieter than previously.  Citing state law that puts underground mineral rights above surface rights, he intimated that city efforts to stifle drilling efforts could result in some form of legal proceeding.  The drilling activity would consist of approximately 25 days followed by a short evaluation period and then a few days to set production pipe.  “Rig time actively would be 30 days probably at max, and then they are gone.”  Remaining would be a “tree with some valves on it” that would be essentially unseen from public roads and neighboring properties.

 

A second public hearing will be held before council votes on the application.

Reporting Home                    Top of Page

AISD seeking $245 million bond referendum

September 9, 2015

 

Voters residing in the Alvin Independent School District (AISD) will be asked to support a school bond referendum in the November election this year.  Calling for a bond was expected as there currently exists a significant condition of overcrowding at a large portion of AISD schools, most prevalently in the fast growing west side of the district.  Demographers project a steady growth rate of more than 1000 students each year for the next decade.  This year alone 1138 students were projected to be added to school enrollments and that number has been surpassed within the first two weeks of the school year.  Over the next nine months still more students will need to be accommodated as new residents continue to move into the area.  The total enrollment for this school year is projected at 20,999.  By 2020 that number is expected to be 26,086 and in 2025 it is anticipated at 31,913.

 

According to statistics released by AISD, of the 15 elementary schools in service at the beginning of this school year 10 are projected to be over capacity.  It is predicted that elementary school campuses alone will add close to 500 students each year for the foreseeable future.  The current elementary school design used by AISD accommodates 800 students.  Temporary and flex buildings are being used at many campuses to accommodate the crowding and some campuses have even resorted to using rooms designed for other purposes as classrooms.  Overcrowding also stresses ancillary school services such as busing, cafeterias, and libraries.  Meridiana Elementary is currently under construction with a planned completion in time to allow operation in the next school year, offering some relief to the undesirable situation of elementary campuses on the west side.

 

Similar situations exist at secondary campuses as well.  AISD currently operates 6 junior high schools and 2 high schools.  This school year saw the opening of the new Manvel Junior High that will provide temporary relief to the growth of Rodeo Palms and Nolan Ryan, both serving the west side.  The current junior high design used by AISD accommodates 1000 students.  Nolan Ryan last school year saw their enrollment numbers at 1239 students, more than 23% over capacity.  Just as the case with elementary campuses, stress on ancillary services is present as well.  Two high schools serve the district.  Alvin HS is expected to be at capacity this school year at roughly 2600 students.  Manvel HS, however, is projected to see enrollment at 3092, which is over 400 students above the designed capacity of 2685.  Next school year will see the opening of the new Shadow Creek High School campus in Pearland that will ease the situation at Manvel HS.  Like the elementary schools, secondary campuses experiencing overcrowding are having to utilize temporary buildings and flex space.  Strong growth is expected to persist at the secondary level as large elementary classes begin to matriculate through the district. 

 

The building program contemplated by the bond package anticipates total spending of $285 million.  Voters will be asked to approve $245 million in bonds with the district funding the balance with $28 million from the current fund balance in the maintenance and operations budget.  Fund balance essentially is money remaining unspent from preceding budget years.  Another $12.6 million will be contributed from previously authorized bond funds in 2013 and 2009 that went unused due to solid financial stewardship by the district’s building projects department.  In order to service the bond funds, district officials claim taxpayers will see an increase in their tax burden not to exceed 8.3 cents per $100 evaluation.  That translates to a higher yearly tax bill of $80.30 per $100,000 of taxable home value, or $6.92 each month.  AISD administrators have proven worthy of taxpayers trust in prior bond spending programs.  Taxpayers enjoyed lower tax rate increases than anticipated in each of the prior two bond programs.  At $100,000 of valuation, the 2009 package anticipated an increase in the tax rate of 9 cents and resulted in an actual 4 cent increase.  The national recession experienced at the start of this decade was a contributing factor to the district benefiting from lower construction and materials costs.  The 2013 bond package anticipated an increase in the tax rate of 11.39 cents though taxpayers have experienced an actual increase in 8.79 cents.  Recent experience has seen AISD taxpayers faring far better than some other area school districts which have seen poor stewardship of bond funds resulting in cancelled and/or compromised projects and higher burdens placed on taxpayers.  The Houston ISD is facing audits of its 2012 bond of $1.9 billion which administrators admit is facing a $211 million shortfall.  While the fast growth of the district presents varied challenges, the increase in residents does serve to dilute the burden on taxpayers as it is shared by a larger number of contributors.

 

The bond program will fund four new elementary schools as well as land for a fifth.  Costs for the elementary schools range from a low $24.5 million to a high of $31.2 million.  The additional land is projected at $2.3 million.  A new Junior High is provided for at a cost of $42.2 million and land for another is included at $3.3 million.  Land for a fourth High School is included at a cost of $10.5 million.  Other expenditures of note include 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 will be demolished and 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 to the Alvin HS auditorium and stadium total nearly $19 million.  A new transportation center will relieve the current facility that is over capacity and will require $8.1 million.  And a new district stadium will require $41.4 million.  The funds necessary for the land acquisition were provided for in the previous bond issue.  The new stadium is contemplated for 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 district has not made public potential sites for the new stadium.

 

Some taxpayers tend toward an initial rejection of public money being spent on non-academic programs, particularly as they may relate to sports activities.  The percentage of the bond program for renovations to the Alvin High School auditorium and stadium and a new district stadium is 21% of the total package.  With the new high school coming to operation next year, three programs will require facilities in which to compete.  The current Alvin stadium is not up to current standards to sufficiently accommodate the teams or the fans.  It is old, land locked and unable to be expanded, and there is virtually no parking available.  Several games in recent years saw fans being refused admission due to its lack of capacity.  Residents in the fast growing west side are currently required to drive some thirty minutes to Alvin to watch their kids play.  A district stadium more centrally located would better serve all but those in Alvin proper.  The amount budgeted for the stadium is reasonable when compared to other recently approved facilities in nearby districts.  Students participating in sports and the parents and fans who support them should have a competent facility in which to compete.

 

Election Day this year will be on November 3rd.  Early voting will be available beginning October 19th and will run through October 30th.  Brazoria County will continue the policy of allowing voters to cast a ballot at any county polling location at both the early voting period and on Election Day.  Additionally, voting will be available at most AISD campuses on a rolling schedule.  Local schools will make the information available to parents as their selected day approaches.  A wealth of information is available on the AISD website (www.alvinisd.net) to help taxpayers make an informed decision on whether or not the bond merits support.

Reporting Home                    Top of Page

Council debates revised Thoroughfare Plan

September 16, 2015

 

Manvel city council ultimately agreed to table a vote on a Master Thoroughfare Plan (MTP) after several testy exchanges between members.  A revised plan was originally discussed in March and then again in May with action both times returning the Plan to the Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z) for modification.  The consideration of the matter this week was anticipated to be a formality.  But passionate arguments from member Melody Hanson opposing a provision of the plan set off a lengthy debate on private property rights.  At issue was a provision calling for the use of drainage easements for the installation of an off-street trail system with bicycles being the primary expected user.  Hanson interpreted the verbiage to mean an owner of property along a watershed, be it a bayou or creek or tributary, would be subject to a public bike trail running through their property whether it was desired or not.  Member Adrian Gaspar interpreted the document differently explaining the easement would only effect a property if and when development occurred.  Member Lorraine Hehne sided with Gaspar in explaining that a current property owner would not be subject to any part of the Plan.  She considers the Plan necessary to protect the interests of Manvel citizens long term.

 

City Manager Kyle Jung more clearly elucidated the point saying the requirement to meet the subdivision ordinance, of which the MTP would be part of, would be necessary any time a property is subdivided.  The intention of that part of the Plan, as is the case with most of the Plan, is contemplated for larger scale developments containing many acres of individual lots; the expectation being that developers would fund the majority of the provisions of the Plan.  Member Lew Shuffler raised an issue that apparently was not included in the deliberations by PD&Z when he reminded his fellow members that a recent meeting saw council approve a request from a Manvel landowner to subdivide his property so that he could give one acre to his son-in-law in order to build a home.  Strict adherence to the MTP as contemplated would necessarily demand the entire subdivided acreage meet the conditions of the city’s subdivision ordinance.  Members took poise at that consequence and further considered the likely detriment to a sale of property that would require so large a land contribution to accord with the Plan.

 

The original revised plan submitted in March called for generally smaller roads than the previous plan called for.  Many on council and PD&Z took exception to that citing the 2008 and the 2015 Comprehensive Plans as supporting their claim that Manvel citizens expressed a strong desire to keep a rural feel as the town grows.  PD&Z member Brian Wilmer explained his view at the time that “the amount of space we set aside for roadways can never be made bigger.”  He referred to the city of Pearland as an example of the need to retain wide road right of ways (ROW’s), “Pearland is contemplating purchasing (or using eminent domain) to acquire space along FM 518 to widen the road at a huge monetary and political cost.  Are we going to give away ROW’s now, for no real reason, and then have to fight to get them back in the future?”

 

The plan as submitted by PD&Z that prompted this week’s discussion calls for 14 major corridors each providing 120 feet of ROW.  That width would allow six 12 foot traffic lanes (3 in each direction), a 16 foot median, and a 16 foot green space on either side to accommodate sidewalks, trails, and such.  Arterials “typically carry the highest amounts of traffic and also have the highest speeds depending on the context of the environment.”  Arterials would require 100 feet of ROW, typically providing four 12 foot traffic lanes with the remaining 52 feet used in some configuration of median and side green space for multi-purpose use.  Collector streets “focus on moving traffic between neighborhoods and different areas within the city,” and would require an 80 foot ROW with the number of lanes varying from two to four “depending on the current and future demands and the potential development.”  Developers generally consider the Plan as overreaching and oppose the mandating of so many wide road ways as further encumbering project margins.  Land owners along the plans roadways that one day desire to sell their property would likewise be unhappy with the prospect of a loss of property value due to the amount of land essentially being given to the city in order to meet the ROW mandates.

 

The plan excludes SH 288, SH 6, and SH 1128 which are all controlled by TxDOT.  The Plan is envisioned to comprise a range of transportation choices, described as multi-modal, which will offer opportunities to drive, bike, and walk. A focus on mobility choice will serve to promote a vibrant community and would support strong neighborhoods, employment centers, and activity centers.

 

SH 288 and SH 6 are the two major thoroughfares within the community and set the foundation for overall network development as they are the key focal points for future residential and commercial development.  Current traffic counts on each of those roadways are typically in excess of 20,000 vehicles each day.  A limiting factor the Plan contends with is the lack of contiguous connectivity through the city limits and its ETJ.  Croix Road (CR 58) is projected as a major corridor but it ends at the middle of DelBello Road (CR 90), another major corridor, and fails to continue east to Masters and even further east towards Pearland and Friendswood.  Bissel Road (CR 190) is shown as an arterial and could be another viable east-west route to relieve SH 6 traffic but it is not contiguous throughout the city limits.  The growing number of master-planned communities presents the challenge of adding critical linkages in order to prevent system congestion.

 

The Plan considers it important to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle activity and includes a non-motorized network including both on-street and off-street bike facilities and the inclusion of sidewalks and pedestrian amenities along a number of corridors within the city.  These areas will provide access to schools, shopping, and transit stops, and will provide public spaces for people to enjoy recreational activities.  Along with the use of wider rights-of way and open space along drainage corridors, bayous, and undeveloped areas, the bicycle and pedestrian amenities will serve to better balance the city’s traditional rural character with future development.

 

Manvel Mayor Delores Martin encouraged council members to study the Plan in advance of the next scheduled meeting on September 28.

Roadway

Segment

ROW

Masters (FM 1128)

CR 100 to CR 67

120

Manvel Pkwy (CR 94)

South of CR 101 to CR 56

120

Rodeo Palms

Kirby to CR 99

120

Bailey (CR 101)

CR 48 to Masters Rd (FM 1128)

120

Southfork (CR 59)

CR 48 to CR 90

120

CR 99 / Pearland Sites Rd / CR 143

South of CR 305 to Extended Booth Place Rd

120

Peters Rd

South of SH 6 to CR 65

120

McCoy Rd

South of DelBello to SH 6

120

Patterson Rd

North of DelBello to Bailey

120

Markham Rd

CR 98 to Uzzell Rd

120

Kirby Dr

CR 59 to SH 6

120

Croix Rd (CR 58)

Kirby to Eastern City Limits

120

Airline (CR 48)

South of CR 59 to North of Bissell

120

CR 90

Northern City Limits to SH 6

120

CR 100

East of CR 89 to West of Harkey

100

Bissell Rd

CR 90 to East of SH 288

100

Booth Rd

East of Clark Rd to East of CR 99

100

Oil Field Rd

South of Masters to North of CR 99

100

Scopel Rd

East of Patterson to West of Masters

100

CR 98

East of Oil Field Rd to CR 99

100

Cemetery Rd/Harkey

North of SH 6 to FM 305

100

Clark Rd

South of Jordan to CR 57

100

Lewis Ln

McCoy to CR 99

100

Charlotte

East of Brazos Blvd to Iowa Ln

80

Chocolate Bayou

East of Patterson to CR 98 to CR 99

80

Dogwood

East of Manvel Pkwy to Masters

80

Iowa Ln

North of SH 6 to CR 94 Extension

80

Cemetery

North of Scott to CR 58 Extension

80

Uzzell

East of Masters to South City Limits

80

Jordan

Clark Rd to Eastern City Limits

80

Rodeo

South of CR 58 to Kirby

80

 

Reporting Home                    Top of Page

Zoning change allows plant expansion

September 23, 2015

 

Manvel city council approved a change in the zoning ordinances on 103.114 acres located at 22102 State Hwy 6.  The property sets just west of CR 99 on the south side of Hwy 6.  The southern boundary is marked by the railroad tracks that parallel County Road 190, also referred to as Old Manvel Road.  The rezoning changes the designation of the property from light commercial to heavy commercial with a Specific Use Permit.  The property currently is the site of a chemical plant that was established in Manvel in 1983.  A multi-national manufacturing group based in Hamburg, Germany,  Halteman Carless Solutions (HCS Group), recently purchased the plant and intends to establish its United States headquarters in Manvel. 

 

The existing plant utilizes approximately 10 acres from a 100+ acre parcel.  The company requested council authorize the zoning change so that improvements and expansion to the plant can be undertaken in the years to come.  The new owners believe 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 will retain 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.”

 

Renderings of the planned improvements show the removal of the current support structures to be replaced with a new building that will house the various administrative and support functions.  A row of trees and landscaping is envisaged along the SH 6 frontage as well as new fencing and gates.  An attractive sign is planned for one of the entrance gates that will identify the Manvel plant.  Longer term, the new company envisions the offering of appropriate infrastructure on the remaining 60-70 acres that would support a chemical park; the intention being to attract additional investors to establish operations on the site.  At a recent presentation to city council a spokesman for the company describes the timeline to begin the initial beautification and improvements as “yesterday.” 

 

Some see the planned improvements and expansion of the plant as a boon to the city’s economic development as Manvel would see increased employment opportunities and improved tax receipts.  A healthy city economy requires a diversification of its tax base and as Manvel grows it will require industrial and commercial properties to help fund the expansion and on-going maintenance of city infrastructure.  Relying disproportionately on single family homeowners to fund city coffers will in time result in necessarily higher tax rates to pay for desired city services.  Industrial and commercial property on the tax rolls would help significantly in easing the burden on residential property owners.  In addition, larger commercial businesses often bring a level of philanthropy to its home city that otherwise it likely would not have available.

 

Not all are encouraged, however.  Neighboring property owners across the railroad tracks on CR 190 appeared before council at its recent public hearing to express concern of noise and light pollution and an increase in truck traffic resulting from the expanded plant.  One citizen expressed fears that the plant expansion would encourage others to establish plant operations in Manvel, transforming it to an industrial magnet like the areas around the Houston Ship Channel.  Some expressed support of the initial improvements and plant expansion but were opposed to the development of the additional acreage to house a business park as described by the new owners.  Sue Schwartz, the former owner of Shu-Chem Holdings that was acquired by the HCS Group, answered some of the concerns saying there are no plans to add a railroad spur to service the plant or the business park project and assured the complainants that there would be no access from the property to CR 190 because of the existing railroad tracks.  A representative from HCS Group told the group that the plant will not contain the large tanks and stacks as seen at larger plants and speculated that the structures will be difficult to see at all once the landscaping and fencing improvements are in place.

 

Council supported the change by a 6-1 vote.  Melody Hanson was opposed explaining that she has no problem with the initial improvements and plant expansion but ‘just don’t like rezones, especially when they go heavy commercial.  I like a buffer between residents and heavy commercial and I think many of the homeowners do as well.  For that reason it does not have my support.”

 

HCS Group is one of the world’s oldest and leading global providers of solutions for high-value specialty hydrocarbons and sells to more than 90 countries worldwide.  The current company evolved from two German companies formed in the mid to late 1800’s.  One of those companies is credited with the creation of a petroleum distillate named “petrol” which established the fuel as a generic name still used today in European countries.  Each of the two companies were eventually acquired by multi-national corporations in the early 2000’s, one by Repsol Group and one by Dow Chemical.  The two companies ultimately morphed into the current HCS Group in 2011.

 

HCS Group boasts a diverse portfolio of more than 400 products and blends in seven business lines and utilizes a business model based on high flexibility.  That diversity helps the company realize steady earnings that are resistant to economic cycles.  Included in their product lines are oil and gas products used for chemical processing, heating oil, and kerosene; middle distillates used in mining and drilling, and the process and offset printing industries; special aromatics and performance solvents used in electronics, and agro-chemical and pharmaceutical applications; automotive products such as brake fluids, anti-freeze, and fuel additives; performance fuels used in automobile racing and aerospace applications; and pentanes used in the production of various types of building insulation products, refrigeration, and cosmetics.  HCS Group also offers a line of renewable products that serve to reduce the CO2 footprint and to fulfill the increasing expectations of sustainability.

 

HCS Group prides itself on its safety record.  Each of their facilities are fully ISO certified and the company is committed to the safety and health of its workers and a minimal environmental impact on the communities in which they operate.  The company claims no incidents at any of its sites for more than two years and boasts one of its plants has been accident free for more than seven years.  Their accident history is described as “way below the chemical company average.”

 

The company currently operates five plants in Europe and employs 420 workers.  Sales offices are located in Germany, the UK, Belgium, and in South Carolina.  The South Carolina sales and operations staff will be relocated to Manvel once the merging of the two companies is complete.  Sales in 2014 were more than $670 million.

 

Shu-Chem holdings was established in Manvel in 1983.  The plant currently produces alcohols and ester products used in the pharmaceutical and printing industries.  CEO Schwartz expects the integration of her company into the HCS Group to “secure the company’s competitiveness and future viability (and) will enable us to create the conditions for further growth and innovation.”

Reporting Home                    Top of Page

SouthPointe Crossing perseveres with new land plan

September 30, 2015

 

Principles of the proposed SouthPointe Crossing development returned to city council this week to present a third revision of a conceptual plan for 271.4 acres bordering SH 288.  Previous presentations were generally not well received by council and the developers were dismissed both times having to reconsider their concept.  The project is comprised of 13 acquired tracts of land offering significant frontage along the east side SH 288.  The contiguous property runs from just north of SH 6 to just south of the Sedona Lakes project with the eastern border following generally the planned Manvel Parkway, which extends approximately from Iowa Lane.  The primary entrance to the project would be across SH 288 from Rodeo Palms Parkway.  TxDOT is currently considering a final plan that would provide safe and efficient ingress and egress to the projects main entry that developers expect by the end of the year.

 

With many future residents anticipated to commute to Houston and to the Lake Jackson/Freeport area, SH 288 will be the primary transportation corridor feeding those job centers.  The strategic location of the SouthPointe Crossing property dictates it being a pivotal piece to the city’s impending growth.  The project will provide alternative access to and from SH 288 and the planned toll road that will run from CR 58 to US 59 just south of downtown Houston.  Latest projections call for completion of that toll road by 2019.  The toll road will eventually extend further south to CR 60 where it will meet the planned Grand Parkway.  The construction of transportation and utility infrastructure to support the development will contribute significant components of the city’s master plan, perhaps most obviously the beginning of a vital east-west corridor to relieve SH 6 congestion and a north-south corridor that will parallel SH 288, again easing congestion and providing a more efficient transportation network.

 

The project is described as a “boutique community” by the developers and plans provide for mostly single family homes that are claimed to be “a little bit nicer.”  The projected price of homes on the smaller lots will begin at $264,000; a price well beyond the typical starter home and portending a buyer that would more likely value their property and neighborhood.  Homes are contemplated with a higher level of exterior finish and interior features.  The planned detention facilities will be designed to hold water with the resulting lakes being utilized as amenities with fountains and a series of connected walking trails throughout the subdivision.  Approximately 50 acres is devoted to commercial development along the 288 corridor.  The commercial tracts as presented contemplate the accommodation of a grocery store, pharmacy, various restaurant and fast-food establishments, and general retail businesses.

 

Previous plans were dismissed by council attributed primarily to two issues.  A multi-family complex was anticipated for a part of the commercial tract and approximately 76% of the contemplated single-family homes would be constructed on 50 and 55 foot lots.  Council has consistently denied apartment development within the city.  An exception was made for the Pomona Development, which is currently under construction across 288 from SouthPointe Crossing and just north of CR 58.  Pomona was allowed apartments ostensibly because of significant other amenities that would make up for any perceived detriment they would deliver.  An apartment project recently broke ground south of CR 59 between SH 288 and the Southfork Parkway, but because the project is in the city’s Extra-territorial Jurisdiction and not the city limits, council had no authority to prevent the construction as it met all compulsory permitting requirements.  The multi-family component has been removed from the SouthPointe Crossing revised plan.

 

The proposal of so large a percentage of smaller lots is what promoted most of council’s rejection of previous plans.  SouthPointe Crossing developers repeated an opinion that other developers have posited to council in recent months that current market trends are toward smaller lot sizes that are below the city’s minimum 60 feet as provided for in the subdivision ordinance.  Smaller lots meet the desires of millennials and older buyers who together comprise 47% of home buyers.  Each group has unique life-styles in desiring smaller lots but data supports their preference to not be burdened with landscaping and home maintenance.  Another motivator toward smaller lot sizes is the increasing median price of a home.  A consequence of higher prices is affordability.  Smaller lot sizes make available a lower price point for builders wanting to appeal to a diversity of buyers.  Many buyers simply are unable to afford a big lot for their home to set on and/or they value a lower monthly housing obligation.  Additionally, costly infrastructure installations such as roads, utilities, parks and green spaces, and homeowner amenities like community recreation centers increasingly stress project margins.  Smaller lot sizes allow a greater distribution of those costs.

 

The current concept provides 45% of homes on 50 and 55 foot lots, 35% on 60 foot lots, and 20% on 70 foot lots.  Council was considerably more accepting of the third revision as presented.  Mayor Delores Martin was most vocal among council in seeming to ease her insistence on lots of at least 60 feet in width.  Conceding 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 less maintenance demands, she expressed some willingness to consider the new plan.  Member John Cox expressed a desire to work with the developers and perhaps meet them half-way as they have persevered and worked hard to balance their requirement of securing acceptable project margins with the city’s desire for a lower density of development.

 

Member Melody Hanson has steadfastly denounced lot sizes below the city’s minimum 60 feet and she appeared to hold firm to that view telling the developers that while she appreciated their efforts to rework their plan, she still would be unable to support it as presented.  Hanson has persistently encouraged her fellow members to stand firm in the lot size requirements as provided in city ordinances.  In a recent presentation to fellow members, she urged consideration of the long-term ramifications of their decisions.  She believes council must look at the impact on our community as a whole.  She believes higher density of development produces negative consequences for the city.  Promoting development that favors grass and greenery over concrete would provide space to better facilitate drainage, require less demand on city services, less stress on school facilities, less traffic on roadways, fewer parking challenges, and less light and sound pollution.

 

Council’s tepid acceptance of the plan perhaps portends 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.  SouthPointe Crossing developers will next meet with city administrators to begin the process of negotiating a development agreement that would allow the project to move forward.

Reporting Home                    Top of Page