Jim Engel is running for Flower Mound Town Council Place 4.
He will run against Tony O. Lawrence and incumbent Don McDaniel in the citywide election May 5.
Community Impact Newspaper sent Engel a series of questions on his candidacy. His written responses, edited for publication style, are below.
1. What do you think is the biggest issue facing Flower Mound?
Managing growth is the largest issue.
2. What are your plans to fix this issue?
With our location in the Metroplex and the growth of the region, it is inevitable that Flower Mound will grow. The challenge is to manage that growth to ensure that we can handle it with the town's infrastructure and not significantly nor negatively impact the quality of life for the current residents. We need to maintain our high standards and quality that make Flower Mound a unique and desirable community. We need more businesses located in our town to generate both sales and property tax, which will help balance town tax revenues and create jobs. Developers will have many proposals for new development. We have limited space remaining in some areas such as our Lakeside Business District. We need to sort through those proposals and only approve those that bring true value to the residents, not just any new multifamily development
3. If elected, what will be your top priorities?
Several years ago to facilitate growth and mixed-use development in the Lakeside Business District, the Town Council passed an ordinance that allowed 'limited residential' in the area without any definitions or parameters of what that meant. That change permits a proposed mixed-use project to bypass the need to pass a master plan amendment's supermajority vote when changing from campus commercial within the Lakeside area. Recently a development was approved on a simple 3-2 majority vote that brought in 577 apartments, a budget hotel and potentially two small footprint office buildings. The apartments, which covered 75-plus percent of the land parcel, were the only aspects that were guaranteed to be built. An important action would be [to] gain consensus among the council to define what constitutes 'limited residential' and have those parameters approved and documented. In a related action, since most town residents are against the growth of apartments in the town, would be to pass a requirement that any new apartment developments with Flower Mound must pass a supermajority vote.
A second action would be to ensure that we are assessing and collecting the proper fees from developers, especially park fees. Two years ago the town created a new parks master plan after receiving feedback from thousands of residents. The total plan had a price tag of roughly $20 million to fully implement it over the next several years and $100-plus million long-term. A recent development received a waiver of more than $7.5 million in park fees, that money that could have gone to new parks projects identified in the parks master plan, such as expansion of the trail system, pocket parks and a tennis center [that] will now have to come from taxpayers. We need to ensure that fees are accurately assessed and collected.
As a third action would be to work with the town manager and economic development staff to determine what it would take to make the Lakeside Business District a viable contender for new office development. We already have a fantastic location but need to ensure that the town has the tools and resources to compete with other communities when vying for corporate relocations and the resulting new office construction. This new commercial development will bring professional jobs to the community and help better balance our tax revenues.
4. Where do you see Flower Mound in the next five years?
I believe that Flower Mound will still be experiencing growth but it will be in the western area of town along 377 as Roanoke grows north and Argyle comes south. The eastern portion will be totally built out, and we will be experiencing even more traffic issues [as] developments that have been approved come on line and we have more residents. My hope is that the Lakeside Business District has a number of high-quality corporate offices, and it does not turn into a sea of multifamily housing that is currently being proposed.
5. As Flower Mound grows how do you plan to address traffic? Affordable housing?
There are some things that we can do to improve traffic such as better synchronization of traffic lights during key traffic periods, but it also requires interaction with other governmental bodies such as the state, Denton and Tarrant counties, and NCTCOG. We need to improve the access points of both 2499 and Lakeside Parkway to Highway 121 and rework the I-635, Hwy. 114 East and DFW Airport access to improve flow. I would also push to expand the Grapevine Mills bypass to a third lane in conjunction with the reworked 635/121/114/DFW access roads. There are also other options that have been discussed, such as extending Garden Ridge.
As far as affordable housing, there is not a lot that the town itself can do. Population growth in the DFW area continues to push demand for housing, and consequently if there is high demand, prices will continue to rise. Our high prices are driven by land costs due to our prime location. It is a free-market economy, and landowners are entitled to sell their land. Homebuilders will not bother to build a subdivision unless they can meet their required ROI thresholds, and we cannot dictate what level of profit that should achieve. Unfortunately, there is no answer to curtail housing price escalation.