'A massive change': Thousands of acres under development for residential, commercial uses along FM 1486 in Magnolia

Magnolia Springs is a community under construction on FM 1486. (Chandler France/Community Impact Newspaper)
Magnolia Springs is a community under construction on FM 1486. (Chandler France/Community Impact Newspaper)

Magnolia Springs is a community under construction on FM 1486. (Chandler France/Community Impact Newspaper)

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify Tana Ross is a contractor with the city of Magnolia, not the city's economic development coordinator.

Residential and commercial projects, ranging from a 29-acre mixed-use site to a 5,700-acre master-planned community, are slated for thousands of undeveloped acres along the FM 1486 corridor in western Montgomery County in the coming years.

The increase in development along the highway could bring growth and prosperity to the unincorporated area of the county, said Brett Schoenfield, president of Bluejack National, a 767-acre luxury residential and golf community on FM 1486 on the border of Magnolia and Montgomery.

“It’s going to attract residents; it’s going to attract business and industry; it’s going to attract retail,” Schoenfield said.

The developments also pose challenges for Magnolia ISD to keep up with the growth, MISD Director of Operations Erich Morris said. He said the district is in the planning stages for a bond to build new facilities in the district.

“New students means new facility needs, which means bond elections,” Morris said.

However, the developments pose a threat to the wildlife living in the area, according to Lisa Wolling, executive director of Magnolia-based Friends of Texas Wildlife. She said the additional developments will give her organization—which supports the rehabilitation of native wildlife in Montgomery County—a larger service area.

"We don’t have unlimited [resources] for absorbing 10,000 more households that are potentially going to be causing problems,” Wolling said.

‘Massive change’

Developments in the works along the FM 1486 corridor in western Montgomery County include a 5,700-acre master-planned community by Airia Development Co.; a 1,623-acre development owned by Newquest Properties; and Magnolia Springs, a 665-acre, 1,900-home community under construction, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported.

Magnolia Springs—which will include single-family and mixed-use components—is in its first phase of construction, which will bring more than 200 homesites, according to developer Signorelli Co. In addition, Airia Development Co. officials said home sales are anticipated to begin in 2023 for the master-planned community, while Newquest Properties officials said infrastructure construction is set to begin in late 2022 on their project.

Schoenfield said the developments validate Bluejack National’s decision to build on FM 1486 with its first home constructed in March 2015. He said the western part of Montgomery County is attractive for development because of its lakes, trees and rolling hills.

The community, which spans 767 acres, will have 420 homesites at build-out.

“The better question might be what’s not [attractive]. ... It just doesn’t feel like you’re in North Houston,” Schoenfield said.

In addition to the larger developments, Parkside Capital also owns 29 acres on the corner of FM 1486 and FM 1774 with 15 acres devoted to residential and the remainder planned for commercial uses, Vice President Dan Moody said.

With these developments planned, Montgomery County Precinct 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley said he believes Precinct 2 residents will see a lot of change in the next three to five years as the additional homes and businesses change the environment in the county.

"It’s going to be a massive change that people may not be ready for and people may not be expecting,” Riley said.

In addition, Wolling said wildlife native to Montgomery County is being displaced because of the development. One of the biggest problems in the county is deer, which become displaced and then overcrowd natural areas left for them.

“They have no place left to go,” Wolling said. “[Deer] that used to be in the woods are now in neighborhoods getting hit by cars.”

Regional transportation

The tolled extension of Hwy. 249 through Montgomery County, which opened from FM 1488 to FM 1774 in March 2021, has made places such as the FM 1486 corridor more accessible and desirable for developments, said Carlene Mullins, principal planner for the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the region’s metropolitan planning organization.

Schoenfield said he thinks the extension of Hwy. 249 has been a game changer for development.

“[Hwy. 249] is a complete paradigm shift in people’s buying decisions,” Schoenfield said.

However, with development following the Hwy. 249 extension, Mullins said local roads such as FM 1486 could see increased traffic. FM 1486 is a two-lane road. Traffic increased by more than 40% between 2011-20 at FM 1486 and FM 1774 in Magnolia with almost 1,500 additional daily drivers, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation.

TxDOT Public Information Officer Danny Perez said TxDOT does not have a plan to widen the road. However, a project is planned to overlay the roadway for a smoother drive and to extend the life of the road, which is set to begin within the next four years and cost about $5.3 million, Perez said.

In light of the large developments planned, Mullins said the H-GAC may need to prioritize a project to widen the road sometime in the next five to 10 years.

Additionally, Riley said he will submit the Magnolia Relief Route for funding to the H-GAC at its next funding round. The project would create a four-lane highway stretching from FM 1488 west of the city of Magnolia to Hwy. 249 passing through FM 1486 and could cost about $46.4 million, according to TxDOT.

“There’s a need to start planning for the future now,” Mullins said. “It’s easier to do it now and plan ahead than it is to try to fix something in retrospect.”

Local effects

Officials said the residential developments coming to FM 1486 will have several effects on the Magnolia area, including for the city of Magnolia and regional education opportunities.

Magnolia City Administrator Don Doering said even though the effects to the city will be minimal with most of the developments outside the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, the city will benefit from future residents of the developments shopping at Magnolia stores.

Tana Ross, a contractor with the city of Magnolia, said the city has been in talks with the Airia Development Co. regarding a future annexation since part of the development is in the city’s ETJ. However, she said the annexation would not be in the near future, and Doering said the city does not have the water capacity to support an annexation.

“We’re growing too fast to even talk about going beyond our city limits right now,” Doering said.

Because of the residential growth in the Magnolia area and the developments planned for FM 1486, Morris said MISD is in early conversations to call for a bond, which could include funding for a new elementary school and an intermediate and junior high school complex. Morris said he could not provide a timeline for when the district might call a bond, but he said it will need to be in the near future.

Additionally, preparations for the construction of the Lone Star College-Magnolia Center, a future satellite campus of LSC-Montgomery at FM 1774 and FM 1486, are underway in part because of the growing residential development in the area, LSC-Montgomery President Rebecca Riley said.

“Lone Star College–Magnolia Center will fulfill a need for affordable higher education in a rapidly growing community,” Riley said. “It’s all about having high-quality, affordable education in Magnolia’s backyard.”

Maegan Kirby and Anna Lotz contributed to this report.
By Chandler France

Reporter, Tomball/Magnolia

Chandler joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in June 2021 after graduating with a degree in journalism from the University of Southern California, where he was the executive editor of Annenberg Media. He previously interned with the company in Gilbert, AZ and with the Beacon Project, an investigative reporting team in Los Angeles. Chandler is originally from Laguna Hills, CA.