I’ve already prepared the staff and City Council for long agendas and meetings, which will be our new normal. State law prohibits the council from meeting outside of an official open meeting, so when we do assemble, I intend for us to take the opportunity to address as much as we possibly can. I’m excited that finally every member of our city council is aligned with the majority of citizens of M-C. All of us are solidly committed to limiting the size and scope of our city government while preserving our wide open spaces and more rural lifestyle that most moved here to enjoy.
On March 3, our city received a request (which is actually just a state-mandated legal formality) to create a $41 million Water District for property that exists in our city’s Extra Territorial Jurisdiction [ETJ], which began a 90-day clock for the city to respond (June 3 deadline).
As a “General Law, Type A City,” we have absolutely no ability to stop or control developments that may be built in our ETJ. In fact, our city’s zoning rules and ordinances have no teeth, especially when a developer creates a “water district,” which provides the water supply and sewer treatment infrastructure necessary to sustain high-density housing, which includes apartments and businesses.
Though all of our ETJ exists inside our fire district, those properties pay no city property taxes. Currently taxpayers in M-C fund 90% of the volunteer fire department’s budget, which subsidizes fire safety for virtually all of the new growth and development in our ETJ and beyond, because our fire district is the largest in Rockwall County!
Unlike a “Home Rule City” (like all of our surrounding cities), which can annex properties in their ETJ involuntarily, we can only annex properties that exist in our ETJ when a property owner makes a formal request.
The 641-acre tract of land in question, which is owned by attorneys in Arizona, includes a schematic that demonstrates the intent to create major development, that includes a possible apartment complex and business district (View 2nd Map, Red Box), across Edwards Rd (behind Sonoma Verde). The exorbitant investment in the water district is likely to support levels of density that far exceed that of Sonoma Verde (1,100 homes on 506 acres) and Triple Creek (1,876 homes on 409 buildable acres) combined! A water district of this magnitude suggests that the neighboring 1,800+ acres (all of which are represented by the same attorney) could share the water and sewer infrastructure.
Beyond the destruction of our wide open spaces, we are greatly concerned about the impact that the proposed development will have to traffic, which impacts the public safety and general welfare of our citizens, especially along FM 205 (the primary artery to FM 205 from that proposed development is League Rd). To add even more traffic on an already overly taxed highway, which is not slated for expansion for at least another four years, seems unsustainable.
On Saturday, the City Council will be voting (following an Executive Session on the matter) to allow the mayor to negotiate a transfer of that part of our ETJ to Rockwall. As they are a Home Rule City, Rockwall has the ability to annex the property and control what is built, including a requirement to build new roads that can help mitigate traffic. Their comprehensive city plan does not allow for any more apartment complexes or business districts. They also require developments to designate a fair amount of the property as open space which could run along Edwards Road to provide an added buffer between this development and our city limits.
However, missing the June 3 deadline could eliminate our ability to hand the ETJ over, which is why we are moving decisively forward, so that we have time to communicate with citizens about what is going on, which will hopefully help mitigate misunderstandings and keep malicious rumors to a minimum!
If we do end up handing over tracts of our ETJ, state law prohibits Rockwall from guaranteeing us anything.
Even still, we are far better off putting our trust in our neighbors in Rockwall over developers in Arizona.
This morning, as one of my first official actions as mayor, I attended Rockwall County’s annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, which coincides with the National Day of Prayer. One of my long-time political colleagues, Kelly Shackleford, who is the CEO of First Liberty Institute, which is the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious freedom for all Americans. He shared stories about the growing encroachment of local governments and schools that have been trying to restrict the religious liberty of citizens. The event is privately funded.
Tonight, by unanimous consent of the council, I was appointed to fulfill Nathan Hodges’ unexpired term as Mayor. I will immediately begin working to set an agenda that will propel our efforts to limit the size and scope of our city government, more about which I will be sharing details in the coming weeks and months.
I have already decided to run next May to keep the seat, because much of what needs to be accomplished will take more than a year.