As town grows, residents desire to preserve open landscapes
As the landlocked town of Westlake seeks to update its 22-year-old comprehensive plan, officials are working to balance a growing town and maintain a low-density, rural environment.
Development Director Eddie Edwards said the town is only 20 percent built out. There are just 340 homes in the town, and plans show it is poised to double in size within the next two to three years.
Yet throughout the process of updating the comprehensive plan, including two public workshops, residents have expressed the desire to keep a pastoral town with open landscapes.
"We still have longhorn cattle but are 15 minutes from the airport. We are truly an oasis in the Metroplex, and we work hard to preserve that," Mayor Laura Wheat said.
Entrada, a mixed-use development covering nearly 86 acres expected to begin construction within several months, could ultimately bring 320 new homes as well as an economic boost, Edwards said. Town officials plan for Entrada to emulate a European village with a Spanish flair that includes retail stores, hotels, a cathedral and a central plaza.
"We're hoping [Entrada will] be a gathering point for both our nighttime residents and daytime population for dining, shopping, entertainment and living," Edwards said.
Deloitte University is another draw to the town that Town Manager Tom Brymer said put Westlake on the map. He said the $300 million training facility brings in 40,000–50,000 people to Westlake each year. Pete Sackleh, managing director of Deloitte University, said the facility benefits from the pastoral setting and access to easy transit to and from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
"We chose Westlake because it is probably one of the best backdrops in Texas," he said.
Sackleh said Deloitte invested time, money and effort in preserving the Hill Country environment that the town values by keeping trees, providing irrigation and conserving water.
"We have a great collaboration with the town in making our property fit within the mold that Westlake has created," Sackleh said. "We respect what Westlake is."
The newest planned development is called Granada and will feature 84 single-family homes. Edwards said the custom homes have the attention of families wanting to downsize from larger homes, especially empty-nesters. He expects construction to begin in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Despite there being tension among some residents prior to the council's approval of the residential development, Edwards said that from his perspective, "An awful lot of people are ready for us to start building houses."
In other growth throughout the town, officials are planning to move ahead with the first of three expansion phases at Westlake Academy, a public charter school that opened in September 2003. Brymer said the $10 million Phase 1 includes a 9,600-square-foot cafetorium, a field house and a secondary school building.
With its offering of International Baccalaureate Organization programs, Brymer said the academy is a sought-after feature in Westlake. He said families outside the town's zoning must go through a lottery system to enroll.
Between new residential development and incoming commercial boosts, Brymer said there is still plenty of land within Westlake's boundaries to work with, which is mostly in the hands of Ross Perot Jr. His Hillwood Properties is in control of nearly 80 percent of Westlake's open space and represents approximately 50 percent of the town's entire land area, Brymer said.
To maintain the town's balance of keeping a natural landscape and attracting new businesses, Brymer said that as the town grows, residential land will be near where the cattle graze, and high-density office space will be closer to the highway.
"Even though we know we can't stop development, we would love to preserve as much as the [country] feel as we can," Wheat said.