Plano Tomorrow plan to go before City Council Oct. 12

Plano City Council members will meet with the Planning and Zoning Commission in a joint session Sept. 30 to discuss the details of the Plano Tomorrow Plan before voting on it at their Oct. 12 meeting.

The session will come days after the Sept. 21 P&Z meeting when commissioners approved the plan in a 5-2 vote.

Residents filled the Sen. Florence Shapiro Council Chamber for the public hearing, during which about 30 residents came forward to voice their concerns. Of those, about four people spoke in favor of the plan.

Commissioners Michael O’Hanlon and Mark Pittman cast the dissenting votes.

The Plano Tomorrow plan provides a set of guidelines for commissioners when making decisions on individual ordinances and zoning regulations. The plan's broad guidelines will be referred to over the next 20 to 30 years by city planners, who anticipate challenges regarding land use in the coming years.

“[We] must successfully make the transition into a mature city. Our focus is not on new growth but how to enhance what we currently have built today,” said Doug McDonald, comprehensive planning manager for the Plano Planning Department. “Now we must shift our focus to redevelopment opportunities as we reach build-out.”

Tempers flared as people spoke out of turn and over each other throughout the meeting. Commission chair Doug Bender called the meeting to order several times by sounding the gravel and asking the audience to remain silent so those speaking at the podium could be heard.

Residents carried signs reading, “Plano—City of Excellence. Schools, Safety, Suburban, Not Urban,” expressing their opposition to the plan.

Plano resident Sharon Tipping said she is worried the plan would mean overcrowding of schools and an increase in traffic congestion.

“I am very concerned about the plan. The commissioners have not listened to us,” she said. “The problem is that most of the land is already built out, the density and quality of construction does not present a city of excellence.”

Commissioner Kayci Prince voted in favor of the plan and said she wants Plano to keep moving forward and be prepared for challenges that come with more people, businesses and infrastructure.

“We are going to have to address the challenges we are facing now and have the foresight to anticipate future challenges,” Prince said. “In order for us to address these challenges, we are going to have to be open-minded.”

The current plan was established in1986 and has been revised multiple times over the last 30 years. Several commissioners said it was time Plano had a new comprehensive plan that suited the 21st Century. Vice Chair M. Nathan Barbera said Texas law requires a city to have a comprehensive plan to use as a reference point for making ordinance changes and individual land-use permits.

“Any time new developments come up they still have to come to this commission,” Barbera said. “We have to have a comprehensive plan to make individual zoning laws.”

Plano, as a city has changed since 1986.

According to a presentation by city staff, the 1986 plan was created to cater to a rapidly growing city of 107,602 people. Planning Director Christina Day said the current need is to maintain and revitalize existing neighborhoods.
“There is change going on. It is important that we take a look at the change and diversity." —Forrest Hicks, planning and zoning commissioner

Many people who voiced their concerns at the public hearing said they did not want to navigate through more traffic, which would be a result of more people coming into the city. Some said they did not want their children attending school with economically disadvantaged children who could move to the city with more multifamily units, possibly lowering the test scores at Plano ISD schools.

The Plano Tomorrow plan, available for public viewing at www.planotomorrow.org, is in its third draft and has been available to the public since November 2014. Since November commissioners also began holding workshops, forums and presentations to gather public feedback.

Jamee Jolly, Plano Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, spoke in favor of the plan.

"We are focused on the plan's impact on the business community as well as the impact to quality of life in our great city. After all, this is what drives job creation and economic stability," she said. "Progressive planning for reuse and redevelopment are imperative to Plano’s future success. This plan does just that."

Commissioner Forrest Hicks said Plano’s suburban model is going to be the plan’s first priority, in which single-family homes will be given first preference when it comes to new housing.

“Plano absolutely does need a plan,” Hicks said. “The one thing that everyone needs to understand is that the plan does not address specific issues—it is an overall plan. Plano pushes and respects suburban form.”

Plano also needs to prepare for the change while keeping the suburban model intact, Hicks said.

“There is change going on. It is important that we take a look at the change and diversity,” he said.

Pittman said there was enough reason to table the vote again and revisit the plan.

“There is still enough lacking in the plan to withhold it and refine it,” he said. There is room for revision of this draft, he added.

O’Hanlon said he was concerned about water usage and demand on city’s emergency services that will happen once there are more people.

“We want to preserve that suburban nature, but corporate America is an important commodity for Plano’s economy,” he said.
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