For about the past two years, staff and consultants of the city of Waxahachie have been working on putting together a comprehensive plan for the city’s future.
And now that plan is nearing its final stages, director of planning Clyde Melick said in a recent interview.
The plan will “hopefully” be submitted to the city council for formal adoption within the next one to two months, Melick said.
Consisting of elements including a baseline analysis, plans for land use and transportation, and downtown strategies, the comprehensive plan is designed to take the city through its next 20 years.
During that time period, the plan will be re-evaluated every five years to monitor both the city and the plan’s status, Melick said.
While the plan does contain a vision for the city, it also “gives Sefko and us a lot of tools,” Melick said, referencing Dunkin, Sefko and Associates Inc., the city’s consultant for the plan.
The plan will help both city staff and developers visualize goals for the city’s growth, Melick said, noting the plan strives toward ideals of positive development and not toward perceived market constraints.
“You don’t want to plan for the market, you want to look at what people want,” Melick said.
In finding what people wanted, the city and its consultants looked to a number of areas, including Waxahachie’s North Texas neighbors.
While the comprehensive plan is not modeled after any one specific city, cities from around the area did play a role in the plan’s development. After all, as Melick said, “there are perfect examples all over of what not to do.”
To find out what people wanted, the plan’s architects made use of public meetings and something known as a “visual character survey,” Melick said.
Text of the plan’s draft (the plan is still subject to change) describes that survey, explaining that it “allowed participants to rate a wide range of image types (and the) resultant ratings then provided a basis for determining how those participants felt about different aspects of the built environment.”
The results of the survey were “extremely helpful in establishing goals and objectives,” the draft states.
The survey’s participants “agree that landscaping is visually important for attractive corridors, and that pedestrian gathering spaces are highly desirable,” the summary states, but adding “participants disagree on whether streets designed with roundabouts are suitable for Waxahachie.
“There was also much disagreement as to whether transit is an appropriate transportation facility to pursue,” the draft continues.
Overall, the survey’s participants were supportive of:
Decorative entryways to the city, Landscaping, Brick and stone exteriors, Open space in relation to development, Public spaces, Retail pedestrian gathering space, Pedestrian-oriented, well-designed retail businesses, The integration of sidewalks with amenities such as brick, lighting and trees into developments, Monument-style (shorter signs consisting of masonry construction) signage for buildings and businesses, Historically-styled homes with porches and “interesting architecture,” Streets designed with landscaping, lighting, trees and landscaped medians, Traditionally-designed townhomes, and Transit solutions such as trolleys and commuter rail
Mixed responses were received on mixed-use developments, single-family zero-lot line homes (a response hinging largely on the design of the homes), modern-design townhomes and transit-oriented development.
Participants did not generally support multi-family dwellings such as apartment complexes and homes designed with garages as the dominant feature.
Based upon this input, issues identified by the survey’s participants and, upon the baseline analysis of the city’s profile, the plan’s draft sets 14 goals for the city, expanding upon each with specific objectives to achieve the goal.
The plan’s goals are divided into several groups, addressing specific areas of development for the city.
The goals are:
livability and image enhancement
1. Support the creation of unique residential properties and retailing to encourage long-term stability and reinvestment
2. Reinforce the vision of Waxahachie as a city of excellence for residents and businesses
3. Review the city’s development standards and examine ways in which such standards can be improved to achieve increased livability and sustainability
4. Ensure that the city’s transportation system is cost-effective and adequate to meet the needs of the current and projected population
5. Plan for transportation needs according to the type of development that is anticipated to be developed in the future
6. Identify how alternative modes of transportation can be incorporated in Waxahachie
7. Work with adjacent cities and county and state governmental entities on efforts to maintain and or expand the transportation system
8. Encourage the most desirable, efficient use of land while maintaining and enhancing local aesthetics
9. Encourage a balance of land uses to serve the needs of citizens and to ensure a diverse economic base
10. Ensure that land use recommendation for development and redevelopment respect important physical features and support innovative development
11. Establish policies that support the maintenance and enhancement of downtown
12. Recognize the importance of continually ensuring that Waxahachie will be a safe community
13. Encourage the development of quality housing throughout the city that meets a diversity of housing needs, for the full life-cycle of citizens
14. Recognize the importance of existing neighborhoods to the character of Waxahachie by implementing policies that will support their long-term sustainability and livability
At least part of the city’s motivation for adopting the plan and achieving the goals and objectives it sets forth can be found in the significant growth the city is expected to experience during the next 20 years.
The plan notes the city of Waxahachie has a population of 26,700, a population expected to rise to somewhere between 44,000 and 71,000 by the year 2026.
An annual growth rate of 2.5 percent is the lowest estimate provided in the plan and is based upon the city’s land use assumptions formulated in 2001. Conversely, the upper-range number is based upon a 5 percent growth rate, which is noted to be more rapid than is anticipated but which could become feasible if the expansion of the Metroplex becomes more focused on Ellis County and if regional transit comes to town.
However, if the 4 percent growth rate anticipated by the North Central Texas Council of Governments is realized, the city will have a population of 42,200 by 2016 and a population of 57,650 in 2026.
To put these numbers in context, the draft states that the ultimate capacity of the city within its current city limits is 167,042.
To accommodate both long-time and new residents, the city will be looking to use a concept known as “context sensitive design” and to attract additional quality developers by showcasing the arts, educational and entertainment opportunities the city offers.
Additionally, the city will undertake steps to promote building community within neighborhoods, striving to have multiple types and sizes of housing available within neighborhoods so that residents don’t have to move out of their immediate communities when they would like to change homes.
This step is just one the city will take to try to get residents “more socially vested” in their neighborhoods and communities, Melick said, adding this will require both quality development and re-development throughout town.
A specific area where re-development is needed - and will present a challenge - is in the city’s old retail centers, a task which could be helped by an economic study the city will probably undertake in a few years, Melick said.
However, the need for beneficial development and re-development is located throughout the city, he notes, emphasizing, “We can’t just keep the character downtown, we’ve got to have it everywhere.”
E-mail Anthony at Anthony.Trojan@waxahachiedailylight.com