MIDLOTHIAN — The Midlothian City Council discussed its Comprehensive Plan and eyed improvements to Walnut Grove Road and 14th Street at a work session Tuesday, July 2.

Development Services Director John Taylor opened the meeting with short review of what elements are proposed for updating in the Comprehensive Plan. Those elements include economic development, the Master Thoroughfare Plan and Midway Airport, future land use, urban design and an historic district for Original/Old Town.

He explained that the visioning process was the key to guide the process and tie all of the updated pieces together.

“The visioning process is a very important aspect for tying all of these pieces together and make all of the separate projects come together in the end,” Taylor said, noting that the city’s population has doubled since the last visioning process and Comprehensive Plan. “We don’t need to do an overhaul of the entire plan, but there are some elements that need updating.”

Taylor said the first phase of the visioning process would be to draft a Request For Quotations (RFQ) for the consultants to aid in the process and also create a steering committee comprised of city staff, council members and general citizens. He noted the visioning process would take about three months.

The council discussed how they would go about soliciting public input and where they would begin to ask for committee volunteers.

City Manager Don Hastings suggested starting with citizen academy graduates and Mayor Bill Houston added that board and commission members could be the second pool to tap.

Before moving on to the Walnut Grove Road discussion, the council touched on the updated zoning ordinance. Taylor said the zoning ordinance had been reformatted, updated with the latest regulations and policy changes with graphics added to make the document easier to understand.

The council then heard from Executive Director of Engineering & Utilities Mike Adams on traffic studies conducted for the major roadways in the city. Of these, the most notable roadways in need of improvement were Farm-to-Market 663 and Walnut Grove Road.

Adams told the council that 2006 bond funds could be issued for the reconstruction of Walnut Grove Road. He added that during discussions with County Commissioner Pct. 4 Ron Brown, the commissioner had offered an in-kind trade for the rehabilitation of Walnut Grove, not reconstruction.

An issue with Walnut Grove Road is that the county owns two separate sections of the road while Midlothian owns the remaining sections between FM 1387 and U.S. Highway 287.

Sibley suggested that the city could take up Brown on his offer to rehabilitate Walnut Grove in addition to moving forward with the city’s reconstruction project. He suggested the city reconstruct part of the roadway, while letting the county resurface the rest of the existing roadway. He added the city could come back and complete reconstruction of the rest of the roadway at a later date.

Adams said that may or may not be possible, because they would have to splice together two different drainage types between the old and reconstructed sections. He said his office would look into the possibility and report back.

Council member Jimmie McClure asked about Diamond J Ranch’s participation in improvements to Walnut Grove, to which Hastings responded that if the development is approved, the city had the authority to require funds for roadway improvements.

Hastings also mentioned that Walnut Grove was not the city’s first priority in his mind. He felt that the extension of 14th Street was more important to relieve strain on FM 663.

“We can look at the possibility of using park bond monies just for the section of 14th Street to serve the (future Community Park),” he said.

Councilman T.J. Henley stressed to the council that starting on these roadway projects now, when the cost of debt, concrete and steel are at their current low rate, would be the biggest benefit to taxpayers.

“I think it would be a great disservice to the citizens of our city if say we’re going to wait until the traffic gets worse, the cost of material goes up and the interest rates go up,” Henley said.

The council and staff continued to debate whether 14th Street would really relieve much of the stress on FM 663. Frizzell noted that most of the traffic coming in from the south will still take the path of least resistance, and Henley said when the Community Park opens if 14th Street is not completed, FM 663 and Ashford Lane could not handle the additional traffic.

Other items discussed during the work session included establishing a legal, physical area for the Original/Old Town of Midlothian in order to incentivize improvements to that part of the city. Hastings noted how the number of vacant lots, decline in housing and general deterioration.

The council and staff also tried out audience response technology to conduct surveys and demographics during future Comprehensive Plan and public hearing meetings.

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