Almost a year after Ellis County developer James Moon approached the Waxahachie City Council about his Easthaven Village development, on the south side of Lake Waxahachie, council members met Monday night to consider giving their approval for the 3,300-lot subdivision.

The proposed subdivision, a fresh water supply district, will be built on about 1,140 acres at the end of East Haven Road, south of the Crystal Cove subdivision.

The Ellis County Commissioners Court has asked all fresh water supply district developers seeking its approval to get approval from neighboring cities and school districts before presenting their plans to the court.

Fresh water supply districts are a funding mechanism approved by the state Legislature that allows developers to issue bonds for infrastructure improvements within the special taxing district.

Bonds are issued to fund improvements and the developers are reimbursed through property taxes collected by future property owners within the special districts.

Moon said property owners could expect a tax rate of an estimated 90-cents to reimburse the developers costs.

Added amenities

“We believe homebuyers are willing to pay extra costs if it means they’ll receive added amenities that we plan to offer,” Moon said. “Our desire is that this is the type of project every city would want to see in their city. It will be heavily amenity-laden with lots of neighborhood parks. It’s our opinion that Easthaven Village is going to be the premiere subdivision or community in Waxahachie. People will want to come, bring their family and friends and the area will see tremendous growth. It’s our anticipation is that it will bring a lot of people and jobs.”

The project is expected to have a value of $800 million to $900 million after the full buildout. It will feature an 18-hole championship golf course, two school sites, a community center, children’s playground, splash parks and pocket parks.

“This will cause us to have the type of community people across the Metroplex will be talking about,” Moon said. “Waxahachie gives a country type of life with city type amenities. People tell us they have the feeling of being in the country setting but they can still get to amenities within five minutes.”

The council was asked to approve a development agreement with the developer, approve petitioning property owners of Easthaven Village Development for their consent to form the fresh water supply district and approve an ordinance granting consent to the formation of the district.

City Manager Paul Stevens said the land use agreement with the development is “probably exactly how we want the city to develop.”

“If it was within the city we would likely be raving about it,” Stevens said. “With all the work that has gone into it we are working towards a very strong agreement that we think will be the standard next time a developer comes to us. I think it’s important that we have a very strong agreement for future developments. If someone came in to do a district as a standard subdivision with no amenities I would say there isn’t any reason to do that.”

Getting to the polls

Attorney Clay Crawford told the council that the developers are hoping for an election to be called in time for a May election, which will give approval for the overall creation of the district.

In order to call for an election, the county commissioners must approve an order for the election by March 9, making Feb. 22 the last day to present a petition requesting the creation of the district to the court.

The only eligible voters will be residents within the proposed district boundaries.

After the initial district is created there will be separate elections, beginning in November to subdivide the district into three separate districts.

Each phase may be annexed by the city at any time but Moon said the city would likely not annex any of the districts until enough of the debt had been cancelled for the city to see an increase on the city’s tax rolls, rather than a decrease.

Moon suggested that would likely take 12 to 14 years after the completion of each phase.

Improved

infrastructure

Moon’s associates assured the council that Easthaven would bring added infrastructure to the south side of the lake at no cost to the city.

The district will construct internal as well as external infrastructure, including off-site roads, the extension of water lines, sewer lines and a temporary sewer plant.

A regional sewer plant will be built later as a partnership between the developer and city to help with future development within and surrounding the district.

Thomas Stroph, an engineer with Jones & Carter Inc., said the 3,300 lots for the Easthaven Village will need an estimated 1.6 million gallons of water a day.

To supply the necessary water, the development will connect to a 16-inch water line that runs through the neighboring Crystal Cove subdivision to serve the initial 300 lots.

After that, the developers will build an additional water line from the city’s current water treatment plant on Howard Road.

The developer will fund the 18-inch to 24-inch water line in advance and the city may choose to fund a portion of a larger water line if future development in the area warrants it. The developer will also dedicate a site for a raised water storage tank to the city.

Property owners within the district will become Waxahachie water customers and will pay the same rates and fees as residents within the city limits.

“To build 3,300 homes on 1,100 acres you’ll need a better sewage system than septic systems,” Stroph said. Current county ordinances only allow one home per acre with septic systems.

To alleviate the density issue, the developers plan to build a temporary wastewater treatment plant while the development is under construction. The plant will be replaced later with a regional treatment plant to be built in conjunction with the city.

Stevens said a future treatment plant would be necessary if the surrounding area is to be developed but the fresh water supply district will speed up the need for a plant.

The interim plant will provide waste water treatment for 500-800 connections and effluent water will be emptied into Waxahachie Creek, which will send the treated water back toward Lake Bardwell.

Along with water and wastewater infrastructure, the developers will improve roads leading to and from the development as well.

The Easthaven Development will have two primary access points to the development - one to U.S. Highway 77 and the other toward the east and Howard Road.

The road construction will be built in phases and once the entire project is complete, East Haven Road will be widened to a divided, 100-foot right-of-way, with four lanes from the development to Interstate 35.

Entrance and exit ramps will be constructed at I-35 and Grainery Road and new turn lanes will be added to Highway 77. Howard Road will also be widened to 100-foot right-of-way.

”We’re trying to phase traffic improvements with development and the number of houses,” Stroph said. “All improvements will be paid for by the developer and the district. The only improvement not paid for by developer is the access ramps to I-35 and we’re hoping to get TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) to pay for a portion and the county or county and district paying for other portion. The city will not be asked to pay for any roadway improvements.”

The district will maintain roadway and drainage while the development remains in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

As part of setting the boundaries for the district, the city plans to disannex 47 acres in exchange for a 10-foot annexation around the property, as well as two sites planned for mixed use and general retail.

The two sites total 47 acres and will allow the city to increase its extra-territorial jurisdiction by an estimated 650 acres.

The city will also be able to collect taxes on the 47 acres planned for mixed-use and general retail.

Financing the district

Jim Sabonis, financial advisor to the project with First Southwest Company, told the council that the city has $67 million in outstanding debt and a $1.6 billion tax value.

”You’re a big city with a $67 million debt,” Sabonis said. “We’re proposing a reassignment of risk for the development of these improvements. We fund the improvements and then the projects are donated to the city. There’s no financial risk to the city.”

While the property tax rates will be higher than the city’s current rate, the estimated 90-cent tax rate will be levied only on properties within the district.

“The district allows for more capital and a higher tax rate can be issued,” Sabonis said. “The higher tax rate will be justified by the quality of development and the added amenities. If you (the city) were to fund capital improvements for the district you’d more than double your current debt. Instead, the development will fund improvements and then donate it to the city as development takes place. The development can be annexed in phases within 12-14 years of the completion of each phase.”

Sabonis also said the district will have tremendous oversight. After getting approval from the city and the county commissioners, the district board will be under constant oversight by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, attorney general and secretary of state.

“This makes this a very safe financial vehicle,” Sabonis said.

Workshop

set for Jan. 29

The council members met in executive session for more than an hour with legal counsel to discuss their plans. They re-turned to open session to say they will discuss the issue further at a workshop Monday, Jan. 29.

The council will hold a joint meeting at 6 p.m. today with the board of directors of Nicholas P. Sims Library, 515 W. Main St., Waxahachie.

E-mail Jonathan at j.blundell@thedailylight.com