More growth is coming to the region and Waxahachie. Is the city ready?
The population growth in North Texas isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Last month Dan Kessler, assistant transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), updated the Regional Transportation Council on the Mobility 2045 update, which includes population projections in the 12-county region for the next 25 years.
While the projections are still in draft form they indicate that the NCTCOG region could increase its population from 7.8 million people in 2020 to 11.4 million people by 2045. Kessler said the region is projected to add 150,000 people per year.
Officials said those projections will likely be higher once the final draft is complete this spring.
“Anytime you have growth rates at this rate over a period of time that we’re talking about it’s remarkable,” Kessler said.
Each county is expected to see significant increases, with Ellis County projected to jump from approximately 192,000 people to 318,000 in that timeframe, a compound annual growth rate of 2.5 percent.
Expected to receive a bulk of that influx is Waxahachie.
According to NCTCOG data Waxahachie could see a population increase from 39,888 in 2020 to 60,266 in 2045.
But city leaders say that boon could be even more dramatic. Shon Brooks, executive director of development services, said he projects the city’s population could grow to 63,000 by 2030. He bases that using several factors, including NCTCOG data, the number of home finishes and past and current growth percentages. The growth rate in 2020 was 5 percent followed by 4.4 percent in 2021.
And while he cautions against looking too far into the future he said preliminary projections suggest the city could reach 150,000 people by 2050.
“Would that happen? Who knows,” Brooks said. “But it could.”
And why not? Brooks said Waxahachie looks to be a prime spot for new residents in part because of its unique community.
“There’s so much development up north that developers are looking to the south,” Brooks said. “As people leave Dallas, Waxahachie is definitely an opportunity to still be close, commute to downtown and still have a good quality of life.”
Brooks said there is also the opportunity to build more homes, saying Waxahachie has not yet reached the 50-percent buildout level.
Population growth drivers
While city leaders can’t predict every project will be proposed for the next two decades they already know what some of the big players will be.
One of the biggest projects expected to drive this growth in Waxahachie is Emory Lakes, a 3,000-acre mixed-use development that will be located west of Interstate 35E, south of US Business 287 and FM 875, east of Lone Elm Road and north of FM 1446.
The project is expected to include 9,000 new homes, which Brooks said could bring in as many as 30,000 residents.
“Emory Lakes will be a large source of the city’s future growth,” Brooks said.
Most of the residential units are expected to be single-family, with some multifamily, commercial and approximately 400 acres of open space.
The zoning for Emory Lakes was approved in April. Various other stages are upcoming, including the platting and a developers agreement.
Brooks said Emory Lakes will likely be built in phases and that it could be 20 years before the project is built out.
Another major project is Saddlebrook Estates, which is being built at US 287 and Parks Schoolhouse Road. The 2,000-acre project will feature more than 2,900 homes – mostly single-family homes with some duplexes and multifamily. Approximately 1,000 acres are being developed now.
North Grove, located east of Highway 77 at N. Grove Boulevard, is one of the city’s larger communities and still has room to grow, Brooks said. The city recently approved a final plat for The Oaks of North Grove, but Brooks said there are still approximately 1,000 acres left to develop between N. Grove Boulevard and Grove Creek Road. Brooks said that area will feature primarily single-family homes, though its mixed-use zoning will allow for some multifamily and commercial.
Among the projects that have been proposed but not yet approved are Montclair Heights, a 188.5-acre residential subdivision proposed to be located north of US 287 at the US 287/Business 286 split. The plan calls for 384 lots. Zoning approval is still needed, as is annexation of part of the land, Brooks said.
“There’s going to be a lot of growth on that side of 287 if that happens,” Brooks said.
A land use study is ahead for county land at the southwest intersection of Old Maypearl Road and Cunningham Meadows Road in the southern outskirts of the city. The proposal is to have 224 lots with homes on at least one acre.
In December developers Green Brick Partners proposed Haven Ranch, a 2,800-home residential development in Waxahachie’s southern extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ), but city leaders had concerns with the project. City Manager Michael Scott said he has not heard if the project is still on the table, and Green Brick Partners could not be reached for comment.
Handling the growth
As growth looms, Waxahachie residents often share their concerns about the upcoming boon and whether the city has enough infrastructure to handle it.
“Enough building already,” one resident said on social media. “How is our town going to handle this growth? The streets, the stores, the schools … it’s so much too quickly.”
But city officials say they are ready. For one thing, Brooks said, the developers play a role in adding to the infrastructure.
“A lot of times we see on social media people saying that the city won’t be able to handle the growth,” Brooks said. “But what isn’t being considered is that in most instances the road network, the water and the sewer are being paid for by the developers. So we don’t have to worry about it. If they want the development they’re going to have to have the water and sewer and build the roads to do it.”
Officials also point to the city’s long-term planning efforts, such as the comprehensive master plan. The city is in the middle of updating its plan, which Scott said will also go a long way in addressing the future residential growth.
Part of the update is examining the future land use map and deciding what types of residential products are wanted in undeveloped parts of the city.
“Where do we see pockets of growth, and what does that look like?” Scott said. “The land use map will give us a blueprint of the areas we want to serve in the future.
“We extend the roads, sewer and water where we think the growth pockets will be,” Scott said.
James Gaertner, public works and engineering director, said the city’s thoroughfare plan provides a guide as to when roads should be built or expanded to handle the future growth.
“The more development happens it justifies building those roads,” Gaertner said.
Among the roads on the city’s thoroughfare plan for the future include a connection between I-35E and Parks School House Road, an extension of E. North Grove Road to connect US 77 and I-35E, a road to connect E. Butcher Road to Washington Avenue and extending Conquest Boulevard farther south to connect US 287 and Business 287 and farther east beyond I-35E.
Some projects are planned in partnership with TxDOT, such as Interstate 35E, which will take the highway from four lanes to six. Waxahachie is also in conversations with TxDOT to improve FM 664. The road north of the US 287 bypass is planned to be expanded in the future, and Gaertner said the city has inquired about improving the road south of the bypass. But a timeline and funding sources are unclear.
Future TxDOT projects may include improvements to the US 287 frontage roads and the US 287 and I-35E corridor as well as flyovers at US 287 and I-35E.
Gaertner said the city can collect impact fees from developers to help pay for city road projects. One example, he said, is the expansion of Farley Street from a two-lane road to a four-lane road from US 287 to Brown Singleton Park.
Scott said phased development, such as at Emory Lakes, also helps the city keep a handle on the growth.
“The current (sewer) expansion won’t be able to handle all of that, but luckily Emory Lakes is a 25- to 30-year buildout,” Scott said. “While there are limitations we’re not concerned. But we’ll hit the point where more improvements are needed to handle the growth.”
In fact, Brooks said county roads and roads in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction will eventually need to be improved as well.
But for now city leaders say the city is in the position to handle the growth as long as they stay on top of it.
“It’s not something that was just sprung on us,” Brooks said. “It’s been occurring the last few years. We saw what was happening in DFW, so we knew it would be coming our way.”