Montclair Heights OK'd, but traffic concerns remain for some

Chris Roark
Waxahachie Daily Light
Montclair Heights is expected to have five housing styles, including Craftsman (above).

The Waxahachie City Council on Tuesday approved a residential development along the north side of US 287, though residents and one councilman expressed concern over safety.

By a vote of 4-1 the council approved a rezoning request for Montclair Heights, a 384-unit project set to be located on 188.5 acres at 2374 W. US 287 Bypass, just west of Cowboy Church of Ellis County. Councilman Travis Smith voted against the motion.

The rezoning approval changes the zoning from general retail and future development to planned development, mixed-use residential.

Montclair Heights is set to include 76.1 acres of single-family residential, 9.4 acres of cottages, 39.3 acres of retail/office, 30.8 acres of parks/open space and 32.9 acres of thoroughfares.

Smith said he had concerns on how the development would add traffic to the US 287 area west of FM 664 and north of Waxahachie High School.

Further, he referenced the residential development The Oaks at Twin Creeks, which was proposed to be located adjacent to Montclair Heights to the east. It was denied last month over a lack of variety in the home styles, but he said the expectation is that project will be resubmitted.

“On the low end that’s 1,600 cars that we’re going to add to an already congested area of town,” Smith said of the two projects together. “And congested is an understatement. There are cars during pick-up and drop-off every single day that are parked and backed up on the side of (US) 287.”

Councilwoman Melissa Olson said the council shouldn’t factor in The Oaks at Twin Creeks when deciding on Montclair Heights.

"You can't look at another zoning case that, for one, has already been denied," Olson said. "So you can't count those, that's just not fair. It'll still be a bunch of cars, but it's not 1,600 cars."

Smith said the city needs to be proactive in addressing traffic and safety issues, noting two recent car crashes that have happened in front of Waxahachie High School – one that claimed the life of 17-year-old Austin Elbert in 2020, and one that paralyzed Robert Rodriguez, a teacher at WHS, in 2020. Smith said he can’t support the project unless a traffic plan in that area can address the traffic. He made a motion to table the item until the city can explore traffic options, but the motioned failed for lack of a second.

Residents at the meeting echoed the traffic concerns.

“What’s going to happen and how is the City Council going to respond to it when you’re going to say, ‘That’s a TxDOT service road. We have nothing we can do about that,’” said resident Charles Stierhoff, who lives near the proposed development. “But that’s where this neighborhood is going to dump out on … the US 287 Service Road. And ‘not my problem’ is what I expect to hear because it’s going to be TxDOT.”

Project leaders and city officials have said attempts are being made to address the traffic. Todd Wintters, president and principal at Engineering Concepts and Design, said at a previous meeting there is a stop light planned on the westbound US 287 frontage road to help with traffic safety.

James Gaertner, the city’s director of public works and engineering, said he has submitted a request to TxDOT for a traffic light south of US 287 near the high school. He said approval of that could take months, but Gaertner said he has sent TxDOT a copy of the traffic study for the project in hopes of expediting the process.

Gaertner said there are also plans by TxDOT to switch the entrance ramp along US 287 west of FM 664 to an exit ramp, and then farther west would be an entrance ramp to US 287, which would allow more stacking on the frontage road.

While the project raised traffic concerns, it also provided a plan to give the city a housing development with the variety city leaders have been asking for.

Following feedback from the Planning and Zoning Commission, which tabled the plan last year because of a lack of housing differentiation, developers returned to P&Z last week with more housing details.

The new plan included five housing styles – Contemporary, Modern farm, Craftsmen, Tudor and Mediterranean – and the presentation included three pictures of each style.

The project’s lot sizes will range from a minimum of 4,400-square-foot lots to a minimum of 13,500-square-foot lots.

Wintters said the plan shows a mix of styles and that the styles will be mixed in within the development.

Helping add to the variety, homes will have a mix of building products – brick, stone, stucco, wood and cementious fiber board.

He said elevation styles won’t repeat until every sixth house.

“This is going to be a really unique subdivision and probably something that you’ve never seen here before,” Wintters said. “Not only will you have the different styles, different colors and different building materials it’s going to have the diversity that you’re looking for. It will not be a cookie cutter subdivision whatsoever.”

Addressing concerns of having too many front-facing entrances, Wintters said no fewer than 74 percent of the units will be served by alleys, J-swings or side entry.

Wintters said developers will also build a collector road that runs from the west side of the property at US 287 along the north side of the project. If The Oaks at Twin Creeks is approved the collector road would extend eastward to connect to FM 664.

Contingent to the rezoning approval the council also approved the annexation of 150.1 acres of land to be part of Montclair Heights.

Terrance Jobe, of Alluvium Development, said construction for Montclair Heights likely wouldn’t begin for approximately two years.