The need for continued cooperation across Waxahachie governmental bodies was recognized as city council and school board members discussed growth at a joint meeting Thursday night.
Both groups shared insight on new developments within their organizations, how each board could help manage future growth and how to assist one another.
Planning director Shon Brooks told the gathering the city is seeing a lot of its expansion both in population and new developments.
“We have a lot going on. I didn’t take a total count of the developments. As you can see most of the growth is to the north. Our population has increased at about 1,000 people each year for the last five years,” Brooks said. “We are on track to hit 485 building permits. In the spring, from my experience, is when the building picks up when the weather is nice.”
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of Waxahachie at 34,345 as of July 1, 2016, which is a 16-percent increase from 2010.
Waxahachie ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Glenn shared the increase in new housing affects the school district as well. More students mean additional resources, buildings and teachers are needed.
“Speaking with our demographer, with every 1,000 homes that come in you are looking at 500 students coming into WISD. Typically our elementary schools have 500-600 students,” Glenn said. “When you say another 1,000 homes that is another elementary school.”
Glenn stated the concept of neighborhood schools is fundamental to parents in Waxahachie. The growth in areas around schools like Felty Elementary reflects that feeling.
Mayor Pro Tem Mark Singleton told the group that it is essential to keep the lines of communication open and share information with each other. He added the dialog is vital because of work underway on Interstate Highway 35E and State Highway 360. He noted there is a ton of pent-up demand for what the city has to offer future residents and businesses.
“There is a big wave coming. We watch this closely because we don’t want to break our school. This gives us a great deal of pause to think are we ready? That is why we have a big build up in staff,” Singleton stated. “I think the importance is to make sure that we are not hurting one another in our planning.”
Singleton added plans for the future are similar to plans community leaders had in the 1960s when the current Waxahachie High School was built on U.S. Highway 77. At the time, the school was considered to be the edge of town — it is not the center.
Gary Fox, school board secretary, stated he was concerned about safety on the roads, specifically U.S. Highway 287 Business and the 287 Bypass near the new high school. He stressed that the streets need to be studied. He recalled when the existing high school opened there were several fatalities due to speed on Brown Street.
Mayor Kevin Strength stated road safety is a priority, but since those roads are under the control of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the city has no control. Once the vehicle counts on those roads increases, TxDOT would more-than-likely bring in the traffic signals, he added.
Clyde Melick, assistant superintendent of facilities, told the group when the new high school opens it is expected to house around 2,300 students. He noted that three areas on the site are identified as locations for possible future schools.
Dusty Autry, school board vice president, suggested to the city council that the remaining acreage around the high school site be rezoned as a planned development. The rezoning would help control the growth around the school. Council members stated this is something that they could explore.
David Bailey, director of utilities, shared that city officials are considering expanded development opportunities along the Cole Creek Drainage Basin. The area is located along Broadhead Road and runs almost parallel to U.S. Highway 287 Bypass.
Bailey explained the land is vacant at this time with no utility lines connected, but the city working to bring utilities to the site. It is hoped that through this upgrade it will make the property more attractive to developers and kick-start development.
Jeff Chambers, director of public works, updated the group about road projects take place throughout the city. He stated the city is considering a corridor restoration on Kaufman Street. Streets that are completed are Overhill, Olive, Stadium Drive, and Indian Trace. Work on Buffalo Creek, Colonial Acres, and High School Drive is under design at this time.