Friendswood Trails, a development that would bring approximately 400 homes to land off FM 528 in Friendswood that includes the former Sunmeadow golf course, is still pending after City Council declined to bring the plan to a vote at its June meeting.
Parke Patterson, owner of the Sugar Land-based land development firm that proposed the project, brought the plan before the council June 6. The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the development, however, City Council took no action on the item after it failed to garner a second motion to discuss.
The council held a workshop on Friendswood Trails on July 11, but the discussion was not an action item.
Because there was no vote in June, the development can be presented to the council again without resetting the zone-change process, officials said. Patterson said he will continue to work with city officials and hopes Friendswood Trails is on the Aug. 1 agenda.
“Hopefully we’ll be on that agenda,” he said. “That’s what we’re waiting to find out now.”
Friendswood Trails is not the first attempt to build on the nearly 260 acres near the Sunmeadow subdivision. Since the golf course folded about 15 years ago, City Council has considered multiple developments. Each time, Sunmeadow residents met plans with opposition for a variety of reasons, including density, drainage and traffic issues.
The zoning of the land for Friendswood Trails allows for 700 residential units—at least 100 of which can be multifamily units, officials said. The plans propose 407 single-family homes, 3 acres of commercial property and 80 acres of parks and green space.
Patterson adjusted the development plans multiple times since beginning the zone-change process to address concerns from P&Z and Sunmeadow residents. Patterson first met with the Sunmeadow Homeowner’s Association board in June 2015 before an open house with residents the following month.
“[Patterson] slowly won over the entirety of the P&Z,” chairman David O’Farrell said. “It’s unusual for us to get a unanimous vote, especially on something that large.”
The latest proposal included a reduction of lots and no multifamily units to quell density issues with the original plan. Council Member John Scott, however, had issue with the amount of lots under 90 feet in width. The Friendswood building code has an ordinance requiring a minimum of 90-foot lots for single-family residential units in an effort to reduce density, officials said.
The plans also include 4 miles of trails and green space. A major issue among residents is the loss of open space because of development, Sunmeadow HOA president Jerry Pfleeger said.
Patterson also addressed traffic congestion—a shared concern between P&Z and Sunmeadow residents—with the removal of a connector street to Dorado Drive.
Due to its location and the design of the golf course, some areas of Sunmeadow experience flooding during heavy rains. Friendswood Trails would include the installation of an improved drainage system. Patterson said the upgrades would not only meet flood plain standards but exceed them.
Pfleeger, who has lived in the subdivision since 1979, said Patterson’s engagement with the neighborhood residents differed from previous developers. Unlike past builders, Patterson listened to concerns and addressed them, he said.
“I believe the developer has really made some very impressive changes from the first time we saw [the development],” Council Member Steve Rockey said. “I think he’s been very sensitive to the surrounding community.”
Because the land is within FISD boundaries, Superintendent Trish Hanks met with Patterson in March to review the proposal. Hanks said it is common for city officials to ask her to meet with prospective residential builders within the district. She said FISD does not give support or opposition to any project.
“Our demographers project that we [add] .6 students for every new home that is built,” Hanks said. “After meeting with the developer, we [determined] we have the capacity in our buildings to handle the students. That was basically what I was asked to look at and the information I gave them.”
Hanks said FISD needs to add more students to offset decreases in state funding caused by a rise in the city’s property values without proportionate population growth.
“The way the current school funding works, you cannot keep up with inflation like teachers’ salaries or increases in anything unless you have enrollment growth,” she said. “Our district has been very flat in enrollment growth. If the students don’t increase similar [to property values], then you can get close to having to pay money back to the state through the ‘Robin Hood’ [recapture system].”
A Friendswood resident suggested during public comment at the June meeting that the development could attract “transient” homeowners and low socioeconomic families and students. However, Hanks said the district welcomes students regardless of socioeconomic status. In addition, homes with starting values of $300,000 are not likely to attract low-income families, she said.
“What I was presented with was a community very similar to West Ranch,” Hanks said. “And I certainly don’t consider that [subdivision] low-end.”
Since City Council met in June, the plan has received a “groundswell” of support from Sunmeadow residents, Patterson said
The Sunmeadow HOA is in the process of compiling a fact list to help inform residents of plan details, Pfleeger said. Although he said the board will not take a stance on the project, he wanted to make sure residents have the correct information.
“When there are questions raised, we go out and get the answers,” Pfleeger said. “[We’re] basically taking the facts that are out there and trying to put them in a form that people can digest and understand.”
O’Farrell said P&Z is reaching out to council members to better inform them as well. While P&Z spent months reviewing the development plans, O’Farrell said City Council does not have the same working knowledge because of its limited time with plan materials.
Patterson said July 11 he plans to build on the land even if the development is rejected. The area is zoned for residential use, including the option to add more than 100 multifamily units.
“I think [Friendswood Trails] is a win-win,” O’Farrell said. “It’s a win for the Sunmeadow residents, and it’s a win for the city at large. The perpetrations and misrepresentations of it just reflect a failure to really look at what [Patterson] is delivering.”