The city sought bids—due Jan. 8—for a consultant firm to develop a new neighborhood design strategy. The new strategy was one of the top priorities for city council in 2016, according to the 2015 Comprehensive Plan.
“Some developers have said in the past that the current ordinances are limiting their creativity so it may be time to take another look at those standards,” Council Member Jeff Cheney said.
According to the bid, among the objectives of the new neighborhood design strategy are to provide eco-friendly communities, open space, walkability, and social activities as well as maintain property values.
Once the city appoints a firm, it will also appoint a neighborhood design strategy advisory committee of residents. The process to develop a plan is expected to take place in 2016 and then would have to be approved by City Council before going into effect in February 2017.
City staff enforces residential development standards—guidelines set forth in the city’s comprehensive plan and other ordinances—which are approved by the City Council.
According to the city’s zoning ordinances, there are specific standards for different types of residential homes, including single-family homes, patio homes and multifamily buildings.
Developers are also required to adhere to standards of the residential green building program, which is an effort by the city to build more environmentally friendly communities.
Although other cities may have general requirements for residential standards, Cheney said the standards in Frisco are more stringent and apply to criteria such as lot sizes all the way to the finite details of the irrigation system of a home.
“If you ask the development community they would tell you the standards in Frisco are very high,” Cheney said. “That was a strategic decision made a long time ago because we don’t want our houses just thrown up, so every home in Frisco is going to be built to a very high standard.”
Cheney said the goal for the city is to have a sustainable product that is going to age well over time.
Cheney, who is also a Realtor, said the most successful neighborhoods in Frisco, such as Newman Village and Phillips Creek Ranch, feature different housing for families at all stages of life.
“People like when they can stay in their community and not have to move elsewhere because they need a bigger or smaller house,” Cheney said. “The city wants every community to have new families, people who are middle-aged and people who are elderly.”
Revising the standards
Cheney said as Frisco continues to grow, the standards need to evolve and be updated to keep pace.
“This is something that Frisco has always been good about, is continuing to evolve, and that’s where we’re at [at] this point,” he said. “We’ve made a leap to put these standards in place, and now we’ve had enough time to see what’s working well and what’s not. So it’s a natural time for that review, especially with the explosive growth.”
Council Member Bob Allen said the standards are one of the many reasons why people like living in Frisco.
However, he said when it comes to developing the neighborhoods, he thinks the issue is that developers sometimes try to answer all the City Council’s questions before they know what they are.
“I think the key will be finding that middle ground between the developer’s plans and the city standards,” Allen said. “And we’ve made it clear that we’re always looking to revise or change the standards.”
The neighborhood development standards discussion came up during the Dec. 1 meeting when council members had concerns regarding the residential plans created by Shaddock Development for the Brinkmann Ranch property, located on the north side of Main Street between Preston Road and Independence Parkway.
Shaddock Development worked with city staff for six months to make certain the plans adhered to the city’s development standards and policies, said Will Shaddock, partner at Shaddock Development. The plans were then approved with a 6-0 vote by the planning and zoning commission in November.
Council members, however, criticized the small lot sizes and the street design and tabled the vote, asking the developer to come back with revised plans.
“We were surprised when the City Council tabled our plans because we thought with city staff approval and planning and zoning approval, that pretty much meant the city was encouraged to buy our product,” Shaddock said.
Cheney said he would have liked to see more cul-de-sacs in the plans because they help create bigger, premium and unique lots. He also said curvilinear streets—long curved streets—are preferred because they help create a more scenic route within the neighborhood.
Council members also did not like the proposed zipper streets, which are streets that have cutouts in the road to allow cars to parallel park in front of the houses. Shaddock said the zipper streets were not in the original plans, but after working with city staff, they were added to be able to stay within the required street length.
Council members then addressed that it may be time to update the city’s current development standards and policies since they may have limited what the developer could or could not do to the plans.