During a July 8 virtual public meeting, the city of Montgomery reviewed a finalized version of a comprehensive plan put together by Texas A&M University officials and students to focus and enhance the city’s growth.
The comprehensive plan was developed in collaboration with Texas A&M’s Sea Grant, a project between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the state of Texas and other universities in the state, according to its website.
Walter Peacock, a planning specialist with the grant, said the plan provides the city a guideline for development goals for the next 20 to 30 years.
“It depicts an overarching vision,” Peacock said. “It’s a public document that justifies city decision making.”
The plan also provides the city a leg up when applying for grants that could fund the projects suggested, according to Peacock.
Although the next step is for the City Council to adopt the plan, Peacock clarified that does not mean the city must instantly begin applying its concepts or even keep them the same. He said the city is able to change or ignore parts of the plan as the city grows or resident opinions change.
“If the community doesn’t want these types of things, they don’t have to do it,” Peacock said. “If it’s something the community does not want, it should be written out, and it should be adjusted.”
The plan focused on four topics: housing, transportation, economic development and community facilities. Peacock said the plan also developed some master plan communities and a downtown design for the city. The plan also included an implementation plan as well as possible funding sources the city could utilize.
The city of Montgomery has a higher percentage of single-family housing than the county and state averages, according to Peacock’s presentation. This correlates to the relatively low multifamily housing available in the city. Peacock said this presents an opportunity to either develop more multifamily housing or increase the density of housing.
Peacock also said the average home value of Montgomery is $277,000, higher than the county’s at $206,400 and the state’s at $151,500.
“I know Montgomery is quite a small community, but there are opportunities for higher density and at least more housing options,” Peacock said.
Peacock acknowledged Montgomery receives a lot of traffic in a day, complicating efforts to building walkable areas. He said the city should invest in “traffic-calming” strategies by adding sidewalks, plant buffers and diagonal street parking as well as bus stops and crosswalks.
He also said the downtown area has some mobility problems for those in wheelchairs and suggested adding ramps to improve accessibility.
Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Peacock said the city was in good standing. He praised the Montgomery Economic Development Corp. for its efforts to support local businesses.
Although the data comes from before the pandemic, the grant found the city has a relatively high median household income of $61,131. However, Peacock said the growth in jobs in the city includes low-paying jobs in accommodation and food services. He also said many of the higher incomes are employed outside the city limits.
To combat this, Peacock suggested the city collaborate with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce to diversify its economy and create a more favorable environment to attract new businesses as well as continuing to support local small businesses.
“It needs to be a multipronged approach to get these high paying jobs here,” Peacock said.
Peacock praised Montgomery’s community facilities, specifically the proximity between the fire department, police department, school and parks with residential areas.
“But there’s a problem with that—the big problem is the lack of connectivity to these parts,” Peacock said.
The grant received input from citizens that one of their top concerns was a lack of public sport facilities, and Peacock encouraged the city to coordinate with Montgomery ISD to allow public access to the school fields.
He also suggested creating new impact fees for developers. Current impact fees only cover water and sewer services as well as water meters. Peacock suggested adding more impact fees would allow the city to increase the amount of money to invest in public projects.
Peacock encouraged the city to develop more zoning options for the land. He said there is “not much room” for multifamily, mixed-use lots. He also encouraged expanding the Historic District in downtown Montgomery to protect other homes and encourage businesses to develop around this district.
To do this, Peacock said the city should apply more varied zoning options and develop parking in the downtown area.
“Let people know where they are and why they should be visiting this area,” Peacock said.