The year 2020 is poised to be an important one for the future of Texoma, with multiple projects and developments set to start development. With this and other growth, area leaders believe this may be the start of significant development over the next decade.
Area leaders spoke to Grayson Magazine recently about what they anticipate the coming years will have in store for their communities and what will go into designing them over the next decade.
Grayson County eyes 2020 census
Growth and how to manage it will be a major, recurring conversation point for county and local leaders when making decisions for each community, Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said.
“There is no doubt that the growth of Grayson County is going to be the driving issue of the next decade,” he said. “We don’t just want growth for growth’s sake. We want to have high quality growth.”
In measuring that growth, Magers said it is important to know where you are now, and the answer to that will come this year as the country prepares for the 2020 census. Magers said there are multiple things at stake for Grayson County in 2020 that hinge on accurate population numbers. Among the things that hinge on the census is federal funding for local programs and entities, which is based on population.
“As a county, together we have formed a countywide coalition of leaders because the census is so important,” Magers said. “We need to get our fair share of the tax dollars for Grayson County and the only way to do that is to have an accurate census.”
Beyond tax dollars, Magers said the census could represent an opportunity for Grayson County to gain political power. Following the census, Texas will undergo the process of redistricting and is currently predicted to pick up three seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Magers said Texoma, specifically Grayson County, could be poised to gain representation, but feared losing out to development and growth elsewhere.
“I am concerned that we are going to be put with a high-growth area to the south and lose out on some of that,” he said.
Infrastructure will be key throughout the 2020s
Outside of political influence and the weight of the census, Magers said infrastructure would be one key to growth moving forward. In coming years, there are more than $300 million worth of roadway projects slated to take place.
The largest of those projects — budgeted for nearly $160 million — will see the last remaining section of U.S. Highway 75 in Texas that isn’t at interstate standards improved to modern standards. Dubbed the “gap project,” the improvements will see a four-mile stretch of land between FM 1417 and State Highway 91. Magers previously spoke about the importance an interstate would have on the region, as many employers and major manufacturers prefer locations near major roadways and thoroughfares.
The intersection of U.S. 75 and U.S. 82 is also in line to see improvements over the next few years to alleviate congestion and give drivers more time to maneuver when approaching the intersection. Between the two projects, crews expect to be done with the improvements within 800 days, with construction starting early this year.
Other projects that will help shape the next decade include the construction of Grayson Parkway, which will serve as the primary service road for the extension of the Dallas North Tollway once it is extended north into Texoma.
“A lot of the projects we are starting now will have a very favorable impact to the growth over the next decade,” Magers said.
Despite the importance of north-south connectivity, Magers said it should not come at the expense of east-west connectivity. Roadways including FM 121 and FM 902 should also be considered ahead of growth, as the region could face similar issues to communities to the south, he added.
In addition to road infrastructure, Magers said the state’s water resources will continue to be a major concern throughout the state amid growth. The region is fortunate to have ample water resources in the form of Lake Texoma, and communities like Sherman have taken steps to increase their capacity to process and treat water ahead of the growth.
However, Magers said the region is still lacking in the third necessity for water resources — pipelines and transportation. As the region continues to expand, Magers said communities will still need to focus on extending and improving their water network.
Gunter still deciding its future
As some communities prepare for the growth ahead, other communities are still debating on how they want to handle it. Gunter City Manager Lee Lawrence said the city is currently drafting a comprehensive plan to help guide the city into the next decade. Still, there is debate in the community on how the community should address the growth.
Current plans by the planning and zoning commission and city council call for mostly low density development, with many lots being an acre or more in size. Among the areas being developed with larger lots are those in what will eventually become the toll road extension and eventual prime territory for more dense growth.
“The constraint on this vision is the state legislature, in particular the last legislature, that gave property owners a lot of discretion on how to develop land how ever they want,” Lawrence said, describing property right in Texas as “next to godliness and cleanliness.”
Over the next decade, Lawrence said he expected to see a lot of growth of larger lots, primarily outside of the city and its extraterritorial jurisdiction. However, recent Texas legislation put stiff limits in place on how cities can annex and incorporate land.
“It’s a pattern we are already seeing on the east side of town,” he said, regarding growth outside the city.
In the meantime Lawrence said the city is waiting for the toll road to come in, but the access roads that will serve it must first be put in place.
“Honestly, it may be a long time before that road comes,” he said.
Pottsboro sees the start of growth
Despite the toll road being years away, other communities are already seeing the start of growth. Pottsboro City Manager Kevin Farley said there are three residential subdivisions currently under development, while a fourth just received its preliminary plats. In total, the subdivisions could bring the city another 280 to 300 households.
“We are seeing a lot of folks coming up from the Metroplex,” he said. “Some are retired, but some are younger families. For whatever reason, we got on someone’s map and they seem to prefer smaller towns.”
As the old adage goes, “retail follows rooftops” — and Pottsboro isn’t immune to that. Up to this point, their commercial growth has centered around the intersection of State Highway 289 and FM 120. In 2013, the intersection saw development in the form of a Brookshire’s grocery store and other retailers that have considered building alongside it.
“We’ve put in infrastructure essentially all around that corner that would be needed to bring in retail,” Farley said.
Outside of retail development, Farley said the city is considering upgrading some of its facilities in the coming years. In particular, he said Pottsboro is currently in the conceptual phase for building a new city hall location.
“We’ve talked about it in the last month,” Farley said, “and we’ve had real issue with the building (the Pottsboro Police Department) is currently in.”