The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization recently received an updated vision of what the demographics of the region may looks like nearly 35 years in the future. As part of work on a county-wide thoroughfare plan, consultants presented the SDMPO technical advisory plan with projections for growth that greatly outpace what the region has historically seen.

Huitt Zollars and Community Development Strategies presented a vision of the region in the year 2050 with a population of more than 330,000 residents. Among the communities expected to see the greatest growth in the forecast are Van Alstyne, Howe and Sherman.

“We are basically saying suburbia arrives in Grayson County,” CDS President Steven Spillette said. “We are saying Grayson County will have very aggressive growth, so ‘get ready’ is the message.”

The demographic forecast was commissioned as part of a thoroughfare plan that will outline the major transportation routes and roads throughout the region.

The growth into Grayson County and Texoma is expected to be part of the growth north from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex as the region continues to suburbanize. What makes the situation in Grayson County unusual is that it represents some of the first growth in “second ring” counties surrounding the Metroplex. As such, there is little precedent or data to look to compare when calculating growth.

“Really, we haven’t seen a county that is one county removed from the central business district see this kind of growth,” SDMPO Executive Director Clay Barnett said.

Past growth numbers

The SDMPO last commissioned a demographic and growth forecast about five years ago as it was preparing for an update to its long-range planning documents. The model used state data that projected growth at about 1 percent based on historic data. However, these estimates range from about 1.8 percent growth from 2020 to 2025 to about 3.5 percent between 2045 and 2050.

“With what we have seen in the last few years, even the state demographer seems to think that this (low estimate) is unreasonable,” Barnett said.

In determining a growth model, consultants used historic and state growth charts and also compared the growth to other areas as they started to see the sprawl from Dallas. These areas include DFW suburbs in Collin and Denton counties and areas surrounding other large urban centers across the state.

Under the projections, the first wave of growth is expected to hit between 2020 and 2030, with growth between 2025 and 2030 expected to be about 2.7 percent. The highest growth areas will be those in the southern portions of the county and those along the U.S. Highway 75 corridor including Howe, Van Alstyne and Sherman. Other city centers, including Denison, will also see growth but not to the levels that areas to the south will.

Last year, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual estimates of resident population for the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Statistical Area that showed the region grew 2.1 percent from 2015 to 2016. That was the largest estimated year-to-year growth the area has seen this decade and placed the region as the 27th highest percent growth in the country.

The SDMPO consultants said the projected growth would start out based simply on population and would not be based on jobs. However, as with other communities, these jobs would eventually come to the region as the population burgeons.

Local responses

Following the meeting, officials with the cities of Sherman and Denison both said that the growth represents an opportunity for the cities, but were uncertain that they would become suburbs of Dallas. Instead, both said the area would become an exurb — a urban area of its own that still retains some influences from the greater Metroplex.

“This is definitely going to be a time of change and growth unlike and far greater than what we have probably seen over the last 35 years,” Denison City Manager Jud Rex said.

In response to the comments that the growth would be driven by population rather than jobs, Rex said the city of Denison has already taken strides to cement its place as the medical center of the region. However, he said there will be some times in development where the region is a bedroom community, describing it as a “chicken and the egg” situation.

Meanwhile, Sherman City Manager Robby Hefton said the city will make efforts through developments to retain its unique qualities even as growth from the Metroplex influences the region.

“As we head into growth, the question becomes how do we avoid losing our fingerprints and what makes us unique,” he said.

One of these aspects that sets Sherman apart from other communities that have seen the influences of suburbanization is its wide industrial base, Hefton said. While communities like McKinney have seen growth from the expansion of Dallas, he said those communities do not have the industrial companies that Sherman does.

“Instead of our growth coming from the proximity of a metro, our growth is due to our industrial and employment base,” Hefton said.

When approached for comment on the story, Van Alstyne Mayor Larry Cooper deferred comments to council member Lee Thomas, citing city policies on who can speak to the media. For his part, Thomas said the impending growth, which is expected to be at least nearly double the current population of the city between the years of 2045 and 2050 alone, needs to be carefully prepared for now by the city with regard to codes and infrastructure.

Unlike some of the other communities in the area, Thomas said Van Alstyne was unique in that it is far enough from DFW and Sherman-Denison that it doesn’t feel direct influences from the two communities. As such, he hopes to maintain this quality as the city continues to grow.

Growth questions

During the SDMPO discussions, representatives from area communities questioned some of the growth projections for some areas. For the purposes of the forecast, the region was broken into 18 small areas based on school district census and other criteria.

Among the areas debated was a large area in the western central portion of the county that encompassed the vast majority of the area between Whitesboro and Sherman. While the area was projected to see significant growth, Barnett argued that this might be based mostly on the growth west of Sherman and would not necessarily reflect growth elsewhere. Likewise, an area south of Sherman that was expected to see light growth drew some questions from the committee.

Another point of concern was expected growth on the western side of the county, which some members of the committee felt might be too optimistic. On the other side of the spectrum, some felt light projects for the Preston peninsula did not fully show the potential growth or Denison’s interests in the area.