The climatic meeting of Wednesday night, Nov. 1, was a workshop held for members of both the Van Alstyne City Council and the Planning & Zoning Commission. The meeting opened with all nine city servants sitting at the same long table, sharing microphones and ideas. Immediately upon opening the meeting, Mayor Larry Cooper turned it over to city engineer Len McManus, of McManus & Johnson Consulting Engineering, who serves at the city engineers for Van Alstyne.
McManus had made up some textbooks consisting of the city’s zoning ordinance including its updates, and information including graphics where and when these apply, in-infill and re-development, land use definitions about the city’s infrastructure, setbacks, development agreements and considerable other information. He talked about growth strategy, including the Grayson County master thoroughfare plan.
McManus provided all city officials at the meeting with this book and also had an abbreviated version of it that he handed out to residents there to learn more themselves. The crowd was small, but filled with knowledgeable and interested people.
“As you can see, (from the previous city council and P&Z meetings) there are a lot of requests for Planned Developments for variance requests. This is what the city staff has to work with daily,” McManus said. “We use all this to move forward.”
The city proper, he said, includes less than five square miles, yet the extra-territorial jurisdiction area expands further out, with a Grayson County regulated area in its midst, much like a donut hole. Getting the donut hole within the ETJ is important for the city’s future, too.
If and when the city grows to a population of 5,000 residents, the city can call an election to make it a home rule city, rather than the general law city it is now. The half-mile ETJ will then become a mile ETJ.
“The revision you make in the next couple of years will reflect how we get there,” McManus said. “We’ve had a lot more PD zoning, staying with base Family-1 zoning with a few revisions to some lots, for instance from 10-foot side lawns to 5-foot side lawns.”
The city is creating the loops around the town that will serve for many years, and these are being paid for through development payments, impact fees and such.
As growth continues, the city engineer said, the city will need to get infrastructure to Jim Jones Road, and the city will, sometime during 2019, need to begin looking at a second water tower, perhaps across from Grayson College south campus, and possibly another sewer plant.
McManus said it is important that the incoming developers pay for the concrete and infrastructure, otherwise the residents will still be paying for that “50 years for now.”
P&Z President Jim Atchison, after thanking McManus for the “comprehensive overview,” said he is in favor of updating ordinances. “Every development coming is asking for some various or PD. I’m willing to trade lot size for lot size when it makes sense.”
Council member Teddie Ann Salmon asked if there is information that McManus could give the city “to avoid pitfalls the other towns have already fallen into.
“One of those pitfalls could be avoided with a Parks master plan, and that is in the budget. Developers look for quality of life in a city, not just the property. No. 1 is the school, and that’s a major reason developers are looking at Van Alstyne. Another group of homebuyers are looking for those outdoor activities, where neighborhoods become family. Connectivity.”
Council member Suzon Crowell, there through the use of Skype, asked what topics that buyers are looking for. McManus answered, saying that he’s used to 60-80 foot lots, but it’s 40-60-foot lots coming in now. “That’s the trend I’m seeing and people are asking for variations on current zoning regulations,” he said.
Bill Benton, himself a realtor and civic leader, said, “The way I think it exists is that the developers are trying to balance their portfolios. They have some in the higher-end market and are now looking to sell a less-expensive home to balance their portfolios to please their corporate parent.”
Benton also said, the developers who come here are extremely experienced and some are thoughtful. Others are in it for the buck. We need to find a partner or development group with a focus on quality of life.”
McManus agreed. “Amenities always make a difference.”
There was discussion about communication between P&Z and the Council about possible incoming development, but McManus summed that up by saying that developers inquire often, but they want to maintain confidentiality to be able to make the deals for whatever they are trying to do.