A growing senior population and a continuing lack of interest from senior living developers to build in Flower Mound has resulted in town officials creating a plan to address the demand for affordable, high-quality, senior housing options.
Since the Town Council created the Senior Housing Overlay District in March 2017, officials said they have begun to regain interest from senior developers.
Because of the district, which provides developers incentives to build age-restricted, for-rent, multifamily independent-living facilities, NEM Senior Living—the town’s third senior independent-living community—was approved by council in November.
The overlay district has also spurred interest from another senior independent living developer— Integrated Real Estate Group— who plans to seek approval for a development called Watermere at Flower Mound in January.
Assistant Town Manager Tommy Dalton said the overlay district was needed as the town has not seen much interest from developers to build senior housing since the approval of the town’s first independent senior living facility—Pinewood Hills—in 2005. He said while the city looked to bring in more living options for seniors, it proved difficult to gain traction.
“[Council] kept saying we need something, but nothing ever happened,” Council Member Kevin Bryant said. “The political environment, the amount of regulations and red tape involved in getting something built are quite extensive in Flower Mound. So we had to show to the people who were going to build these projects that we were serious about it.”
Paul Milosevich, vice president of senior housing for IREG, said his company did not have plans to bring Watermere to Flower Mound prior to the district overlay.
“The plan incentivized us to look at Flower Mound,” he said. “We knew Flower Mound had turned down several senior projects in the past and things were not getting approved. Developers were scared to come here.”
According to data from American FactFinder, Flower Mound’s age 55 and older population has grown from 13.1 percent of the population in 2011 to 19.4 percent in 2016.
The steady growth of the senior population is a primary reason the town chose to incentivize developers to build senior housing, Bryant said.
The Senior Housing Overlay District gives incentives to developers that will build multifamily independent-living facilities along FM 2499 from FM 407 to the northern boundary of the Lakeside Business District.
Developers can pitch a project with certain amenities, and as an incentive the town can grant certain park and SMARTGrowth requirement waivers such as traffic impact analysis and environmental quality. Money saved on those would go toward the amenities.
When considering areas to create the district, Bryant said council wanted an area conducive to seniors.
“We wanted an area that was near the senior center and near the hospital, doctors and pharmacies and also near the main corridors in town without having to disrupt any of the neighborhoods,” he said. “So that meant it was to be somewhere along [FM] 2499.”
Ara Minassian, owner of the NEM property and a Realtor, said his family has owned the property along FM 2499 for 20 years and had no plans of building a senior living community prior to the district overlay plan.
“About two or three years ago the town came to us with the idea of putting a senior development on the property and that it would be a good idea due to the proximity of the hospital, senior center and other senior resources,” he said. “At first I was resistant to the idea because this project is lower in land value than a retail/office development, but the town said they would help us out.”
Milosevich said another reason IREG is looking to build in Flower Mound is its growing senior demographics.
“A big reason Flower Mound needs a facility like Watermere is because it is severely underserved for a city of its size and demographics,” he said.
Dalton said when the overlay district was approved, there was not a certain amount of senior developments that the town was looking to attract. He added that the overlay is set to expire on March 6, 2020.
WEIGHING THE BENEFITS
Minassian said adding more senior housing options will help keep more residents in town.
“As a Realtor I have a lot of clients that don’t want to maintain their house or land and want to downsize and stay in Flower Mound,” he said. “This allows them to stay and enjoy living close to their family and community.”
Council Member Sandeep Sharma cast the lone dissenting vote against NEM in November and said although he sees the benefits of adding more senor living, he still wants to make sure the town is not giving developers too many incentives.
Sharma said in early discussion there had been a bridge and trail proposed to provide a link between Gaston Park and both Timber Trails Park and The River Walk at Central Park in lieu of the developer paying 100 percent of park dedication fees.
However, because of the cost of the bridge and trail, those are no longer part of the plan.
“I do support senior housing, and I was ready to actually vote ‘yes’ prior to the new plan that unfolded,” he said. “But when the applicant went back on doing the bridge, then I personally did not see any justification to continue to give them a fee reduction. I owe it to our residents.”