The developers behind a 3,000-acre mixed-use development called Emory Lakes were ready to present their updated proposal to the Waxahachie City Council and Planning and Zoning commission during a joint workshop Tuesday at the City Hall chambers.
Unfortunately, the city sent them back to the drawing board.
“It’s been a slow process,” city manager Michael Scott said. “They need to sharpen their pencils from a numbers standpoint.”
Emory Lakes was first presented to the council and planning and zoning commission during a joint workshop in August of last year. The 10,000-lot development is planned to be built between Farm-to-Market Road 875 and Farm-to-Market Road 1446 and consists of five phases comprised of residential, mixed-use and commercial land. The project is anticipated to break ground within the next two years.
“This project is going to take 30, 35, 40 years,” project planner Aaron Duncan said. “It’s how we accommodate that growth.”
Duncan stated that the current zoning allows for a mixture of residential and family use, with 600 acres explicitly zoned for commercial use. Four districts are included under the project’s contemporary design, including general retail, a village center, a town center overlay and a neighborhood village.
Amenities include air-conditioned clubhouses, community pools, sports fields and trails and playgrounds. The developers added the town center after consultation with the city during their previous workshop in 2018.
“It’s actually a bigger landmass than it was back then,” Scott stated.
Duncan explained that the project is currently comprised of one-third commercial development and two-thirds residential development. Lot sizes for the residential developments range between 2,000 to 12,500 square feet.
At the time of the first workshop last August, the city raised concerns about the project’s lack of commercial development and the residential lot sizes.
For the second joint workshop, city officials repeated many of the same concerns they had the first time around.
“We thought their mix of commercial land was pretty light,” Scott stated. “About 25,000 more people are going to need a place to shop. We really feel like there needs to be a more substantial amount of commercial in there.”
Members of the planning and zoning commission also displayed irritation at the residential lot sizes the planners were proposing to the workshop. Planning and zoning commission member, Jim Phillips, iterated that the city's lot size is a minimum of 10,000 square feet.
Phillips said he found this proposal to be 15 percent in compliance with city standards, which he noted is unacceptable.
“You’re asking us to approve 85 percent of your total project that is in smaller lot sizes than what we consider to be our minimum,” Phillips remarked. “This is so far under the small size that it doesn’t even come close.”
Planning and zoning chair Rick Keeler stated that the developers are looking at it from a market standpoint, but it is the commission's job to look at it from a management standpoint.
“You’ve been working on this for two-and-a-half years, and we’ve been asking you to do certain things for two and a half years, and we’re still at that same impasse that we were at two and a half years ago,” Keeler stated.
“It’s not our job to make it financially feasible for you,” Phillips followed up. “We don’t need this project, to be real candid with you.”
Project general manager Matt Robinson said the Emory Lakes team is happy to continue working with the city, and although there’s still much to go over, his team is looking forward to going through the process.
“We’ve been working with staff over the last few years,” Robinson remarked. “We’ve had good discussions with them. We’re trying to come up with a plan that both sides would be proud of.”
Scott remarked that the developers need to re-examine the number of small lots versus larger lots within Emory Lakes. Once they do that and re-work its commercial development, the city will take a second look at the proposal.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” he stated. “It’s really going to change the face of Waxahachie.”