City council approves new growth plan

City council approves new growth planAfter months of deliberating with staff and residents, the Plano City Council approved Plano’s third comprehensive plan at a regular
Oct. 12 meeting in a 6-2 vote.

The Plano Tomorrow plan is the city’s first total rewrite and is the result of a two-year process that provides a framework for the city’s development strategy over the next 20-30 years. The plan emphasizes the maintenance of existing infrastructure and the redevelopment of retail sectors, as well as the fostering of economic development to help Plano transition into a mature city and global leader.

Plano Tomorrow is intended to guide decision-makers on future land use and issues including infrastructure, housing and transportation. All proposed developments, however, are still required to go through the city’s zoning process, which includes reviewing the comprehensive plan and other city guidelines.

City council approves new growth plan

A comprehensive history

In 1986 when Plano’s last comprehensive plan was adopted, the biggest challenges were providing much-needed schools and  infrastructure to stay ahead of the growth, Deputy City Manager Frank Turner said. Turner served as Plano’s planning director at the time and said the impetus for the original City council approves new growth planplan came from a moratorium that was placed on zoning requests in 1984 because of concern over an influx of multifamily projects and commercial development. It took more than two years to create the plan, which was headed by a committee composed of homeowners, developers and business leaders. The plan has been updated and revised numerous times.

The future of Plano today, Turner said, hinges heavily on how its existing development is maintained.

“Change is always with us,” he said. “The region is growing rapidly, [and] it’s going to transform us. Who doesn’t believe it won’t change us? The question is, ‘How do we use it to our benefit?’”

With the introduction of mixed-use developments and an ever-growing region, Plano will urbanize, Turner said, but not throughout the city. Downtown Plano is also an example of urbanization on a smaller scale.

“The pressures were considerably different [in 1985] but in some ways similar,” Turner said. “I think one of the things [the 1986 plan] reinforced was that the dominant development form in Plano was going to be low-density, residential development and that it would be neighborhood-based.”

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Future land use

The rising cost of land combined with the lack of developable land remaining in Plano makes it difficult to designate an area exclusively for one type of development, Plano Planning Director Christina Day said.

“We’ve got a big push for residential [development] because of all the jobs we’ve got coming into town. But we have to balance that with our future needs for economic development,” she said.

The Neighborhood Center future land use category applies to corner retail sites along the city’s arterial roads and encourages the redevelopment of those areas to help limit the number of retail sites. What would go in the remaining corners could be anything from office buildings to residential.

“The Plano Tomorrow plan specifically states that single-family residences are preferred. That was a change that we made directly in response to folks coming out and speaking at our public meetings,” Day said. “We’ve tried to be responsive and meet people’s needs. The plan is a guide, not a mandate.”

Plan opposition

A group of residents representing various homeowners associations have questioned the plan’s lack of hard-lined stipulations they said would keep high-density residential projects from encroaching on Plano’s existing suburban areas.

Members of the group, called Plano Future, expressed concern over the incorporation of multifamily housing for infill development as vacant land in Plano becomes scarcer. The city council has approved several townhome and mid-rise residential projects throughout the city in the past several months, leading some residents to question if growth could lead to increased urbanization.

Plano Future founder Beth Carruth said she would like the city to zone land for businesses and employment centers rather than for additional residential development. She and others are also concerned about the impact Plano’s growth could have on its schools.

“There is a place for all the growth,” she said. “I just want to see smart growth.”

Day said the Plano Tomorrow Plan emphasizes the maintenance of the suburban form and the redevelopment of its commercial pockets, all the while expanding Plano’s economic base as it continues to grow as an employment center.

“I think we want to be Plano, only better. There are inevitable challenges coming toward us and we want to be best prepared for them,” Day said. “Trying not to change has not been effective as a strategy for helping the economy within your city. We want to encourage active growth.”

City council approves new growth planDevelopment trends

After the  Great Recession, many cities began to work on their comprehensive plans, said Doug McDonald, comprehensive planning manager for the city of Plano. The cities of Allen, Frisco, Celina and Prosper have recently approved new comprehensive plans and McKinney is in the process of creating its new plan as well. Each of these plans, McDonald said, includes some aspect of urban development, mostly in the form of mixed-use concepts.

“They all incorporate this type of urban development, primarily because they look at Plano and see how some of them have been very successful,” McDonald said. “They see that and want to make it their own.”

Mixed-use developments, such as Legacy Town Center, provide more housing and lifestyle opportunities, as well as added walkability, Day said. Perhaps more importantly, mixed-use concepts can also help reduce traffic.

“We know traffic is a major concern in this community, and [the mixed-use concept] provides different options for people in all stages of life with the different housing options,” she said. “It gives people choices.”

Impact on schools

In a Sept. 15 work session with the Planning and Zoning Commission, Plano ISD’s board of trustees reviewed the comprehensive plan. The district is preparing for its next bond referendum as its 2008 package nears completion.

“Plano ISD staff closely monitors enrollment and demographic data to ensure schools have satisfactory capacity to serve our students,” Board president Nancy Humphrey stated in a Sept. 29 email to a concerned resident. “This practice has been highly effective over the last several decades as dozens of schools were built to accommodate new residential development, whether it was single family or multi-family.”