City adopts plan for growth: Waxahachie TX Daily Light, 10/2/07

By Neal White

Following a lengthy and at times impassioned public hearing, the Waxahachie City Council unanimously approved the city’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan that will help guide future growth.

The plan is defined as a long-range planning tool that is intended to be used by city staff, decision-makers and residents to guide the growth and physical development of the city for the next 10 to 20 years.

More than a year of research and development was undertaken by city staff, various municipal commissions and residents, who have been working with the consulting firm of Sefko Planning Group in putting the plan together.

“This is a vision for Waxahachie as a city which embraces its heritage while looking toward the future,” said Dan Sefko, highlighting key points of the plan to council members during Monday’s meeting.

The Comprehensive Plan encompasses a number of areas, ranging from housing, land use, transportation, parks, downtown and community facilities.

Noting the city’s continuing population growth, Sefko pointed out the city’s current population, as estimated by the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), stands at 26,700 — an increase of more than 5,000 residents since 2000.

He also pointed out that NCTCOG projections indicate the city’s population will grow to 42,200 by 2017.

According to projections, the city has a maximum build-out capacity of 168,000 residents, with a total population of 340,000 residents when factoring in the city’s extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ).

“This is a plan that will help the city manage that growth in a positive direction,” he said.

Key issues noted in the plan’s vision statement include:
  • Engages in balanced and responsible urban design, planning and development;
  • Accommodates and encourages change in a manner that builds upon local history while improving quality of life;
  • Preserves and enhances the city’s unique historical, cultural, and natural resources;
  • Supports a vibrant and diversified economic climate which provides employment, retains existing businesses, and attracts new businesses; and
  • Provides safe, dynamic, and sustainable neighborhoods for people of all ages.

Following Sefko’s presentation, resident Ron Appleton expressed concerns about the possibility of the city seeking eminent domain in order to meet some of the objectives outlined under the parks plan.

Appleton, who owns a ranch in the city’s ETJ near Mid-Way Airport, told the council about his family’s 26-year legal battle with the state of Texas that began in 1967 when the state claimed eminent domain for U.S. Highway 287.

“The highway came right through the middle of the ranch, right where my parent’s house was located. They gave my mom and dad 90 days to clear out and build another house and didn’t pay them enough to cover the cost of rebuilding,” Appleton said.

“My daddy paid cash for everything — he didn’t believe in going into debt. But he had to borrow money to build a new house,” he said, adding his father filed suit against the state.

Twenty-six years later — nearly a decade after his father’s death — the suit was finally settled, Appleton said.

“When I read in this document how the city is looking to enhance its parks by expanding hike and bike trails along creeks and obtaining rural areas that include my land for park preservation, you can understand why I’m more than a little concerned about eminent domain,” he said. “More than a third of my life has been taken up by this and I don’t want my children and my grandchildren to go through what my parents and I have gone through.

“If you take part of my land by the creek for a hike and bike trail, how am I going to water my cattle? And if I do have access to the creek, how am I supposed to keep them from getting out (of the fence) and into the road?” Appleton asked. “I’m also concerned about people going along my pasture land.”

Councilor Buck Jordan was quick to emphasize the council has no intention to use eminent domain.

“I can’t even imagine a scenario where that would come into play,” Jordan said. “This is just a plan. It has no timetable and no budget and there is very little doubt in my mind that this plan will be changed many, many times before it’s put into effect. It’s just a plan.”

City Manager Paul Stevens added the portion of the parks plan Appleton referred to is a long-range guide of what the city would like to do — should the opportunity present itself for the city to purchase that land.

“If the owners of the property we’ve highlighted were to sell their property, the city is certainly interested in purchasing that land for use in its parks plan,” Stevens said. “But that would only be if the owners wanted to sell. We have no intention whatsoever of using eminent domain to take that land.

“I think Councilor Jordan hit the nail on the head when he said this is just a plan with no budget,” Stevens said. “If we had a budget to implement everything in this plan it would be in the billions of dollars and that just isn’t going to happen.”

Councilor Joe Gallo also stressed his strong objection to eminent domain.

“I think I can safely speak for every member of the council when I say that this council is strongly opposed to the use of eminent domain,” Gallo said. “While I certainly understand your concerns, you don’t have to worry about the city filing eminent domain on your property.”

Residents may view the city’s 2007 Comprehensive Plan on the city’s Web site at www.waxahachie.com.

Waxahachie TX Daily Light: http://www.waxahachiedailylight.com