As city officials prepare for Plano's future, redevelopment and urbanization appear at the top of citizens' and staffs' priority lists
Plano city staff is seeking public input throughout the month of November as it collaborates with City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission to overhaul the city's comprehensive plan created in 1986.
The plan, dubbed "Plano Tomorrow," is a way for the city to incorporate the visions of residents, businesses and public officials to create a road map for Plano's future, said Lori Schwarz, comprehensive planning manager. The plan is designed to provide a framework for both the city's physical environment and socio-economic factors.
Schwarz said the planning department is not only working to obtain public feedback, but to also educate Plano residents about the changes in downtown and improvements throughout the city.
"We're going to be telling Plano's story. We're going to be talking about the Plano of yesterday, Plano today and then giving them our vision of the future," Schwarz said.
"I think a lot of people have a vision of Plano that is outdated."
Four public meetings are scheduled in November to present and receive feeback on the policies and action statements created within the new comprehensive plan.
"We want citizens to feel [like they are] a part of our community and that they have a part in the public process," Schwarz said. "Their input is important and we certainly want to ensure that we are providing adequate time and thought in listening to what they have to say."
How it works
City staff began initial public outreach on the comprehensive plan in 2010 and held more than 30 meetings to gather public input before the visioning process began with staff and officials in 2013–14, Schwarz said. Workshops called "Take the Case" invited business owners, home owners associations, schools and other organizations to participate in the process, and the city also garnered feedback from a public survey with 1,375 residents participating.
During the initial information-gathering process, staff and public meeting attendees identified categories, including land use, transportation and housing. Within those categories, preliminary issues addressed goals for undeveloped land, increased employment opportunities, mixed-use urban centers, aging roadway infrastructure, mass transit and aging neighborhoods. City staff then compiled the information to allow P&Z commissioners to collaborate with other city officials in work sessions to determine their plan for future growth, development and redevelopment.
Plano covers 72 square miles of land, but the majority of suitable property underwent initial development in the 1980s when the primary goal for the comprehensive plan was to build retail on every corner, said Rick Grady, chair of the P&Z Commission. There is 7 percent of vacant developable land remaining in city limits, and about 1 percent of that is zoned for residential use, according to P&Z records.
Deputy City Manager Frank Turner said Plano's population could increase from 270,000 to 300,000 in the next 30 to 40 years. To accommodate growth as well as balance the city's depleted land availability, the city has to build up, not out.
As Collin County grows, Grady said
Central Expressway will serve as a major corridor as the region's development expands toward McKinney. Because of that, Grady said Plano's Collin Creek Mall, located alongside the thoroughfare, sits on an important piece of real estate that is not being utilized to its full potential.
Grady said Collin Creek Mall is not a heavy traffic generator, but city officials and P&Z commissioners are intending to change that. He said discussion for the center has included ideas to redevelop the mall into a mixed-use development where parking lots are restructured into retail shops.
"It would be prime location for an attractive retail and open space area," Grady said.
Schwarz said the mall came up as a target for redevelopment per feedback provided by residents, but city officials are also identifying ways to incentivize property owners to make improvements in other areas. Sites for potential redevelopment include areas near the Plano Centre and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Parker Road station, she said.
As growth in Plano continues, there has been a large demand on the city to either rezone nonresidential property for residential use, or redevelop existing properties. The city instigated the Great Update Rebate on April 30, a program that provides a rebate to homeowners to update an older home. The city dedicated about $600,000 to the program and helps property owners fund improvements to a house or rental property 35 years or older, such as roofing and foundational repair, electrical upgrades or sewage leaks.
Director of Planning Christina Day said the goal for the project is to maintain Plano's vitality since the city has a limited housing stock—much of it built in the 1970s—without much room to build more. To attract people to Plano as well as retain current residents, Day said the Great Update Rebate aids in neighborhood stability and enhancement for Plano overall.
"We don't want to just sit back and be reactive as a community but be proactive so that the city remains active," Day said.
Schwarz said the public will have opportunities to submit concerns at the
November meetings, and staff will be available for questions. To ensure as large of a turnout as possible, Schwarz said the city produces a newsletter that tracks the project's progress as well as provides meeting announcements. She also said staff have attended homeowners association meetings to raise awareness and notices are also included in residents' water bills.
After the November meetings, city staff and the commission will reassess, and convene for two work sessions in January for a recommendations draft before bringing the final recommendations to P&Z on Feb. 16 and then to the City Council on March 9.