Residents discussed housing, employment and future developments at an Envision Oak Point town hall meeting at Oak Point Park and Nature Retreat. On May 14, Plano City Council is set to vote on the plan after 16 months of Envision Oak Point meetings and plans.
Thursday night, Director of Planning Christina Day presented the 30-year plan for the land on the east side of Plano. The 730-acre Oak Point space is bordered by Legacy Drive to the north, Shawnee Park to the south, Collin College to the east and U.S. Highway 75 to the west. Day explained the history of the area, the plan for future usage and the methodology behind the planning vision.
Over the past few weeks, several residents reached out to council members and city staff regarding the housing projections in the plan’s design. Senior Planner Kenneth Schmidt said that by 2050 housing should ideally include “a balance of diverse land use” of existing homes, demolished homes and new development on vacant land.
Schmidt projected over 4,000 total housing units including single-family detached, single-family attached, senior housing, student housing and multifamily for the future east side.
Residents like Lisa Guerra voiced concern over the number of apartments as well as the lax nature of the Envision Oak Point Plan.
“How can the city vote on something that’s just a vision?” Guerra asked.
Because the plan is designed as a outline for future development projects, the housing numbers remain fluid. In reality, she said development could dramatically change the projected numbers of apartments and attached housing, so “How can the city vote on something that has no numbers set in stone?”
Day responded with “focus on the policies.”
Throughout the history of city planning, she said the city has always made a vision plan first as a development guide, then used the guide as a policy reference with future projects. Schmidt added the projected numbers were added due to resident request, but also to help the city have a proactive understanding of what residents want.
When Envision Oak Point is brought before council on May 14, “they’re not really voting on the numbers. What they’re voting on is the policy,” Day said. “If you’re focused on the numbers, frankly, I think you’re missing the boat. The focus is the policies and the development type. The numbers are to give us a ballpark, general idea. They’re hypothetical.”
Plano has always lead with a vision plan, but it takes zoning to implement the ideas, Day said. Without Envision Oak Point, there will likely be no additional housing, no open spaces or proposed gathering spaces since they’re not permitted under existing zoning. Without changes to existing zoning ordinances, these things will not likely happen. So even if the plan gets adopted by council, it will require zoning changes to make the vision a reality.
Guerra was also concerned with the number of attached homes and apartments proposed in the plan. Schmidt responded that throughout the 16 months of planning, residents have continued to request small, single-family detached homes with smaller yards, as well as senior housing for residents looking to downsize and starter homes for young professionals.
The housing methodology was guided by a mission of balance and community desire to “age in place” and experience a life cycle in the same neighborhood.
Transportation and lack of connectivity was also discussed, but since the east side still has several acres of undeveloped land, there are more opportunities for added roadways in case of congestion or traffic build up.
Todd Moore, partner and co-owner of Lavon Farms, spoke Thursday night to offer support for Envision Oak Point and the possibility of marketing the property to be a world-class urban development designed property. For 16 years, he and his family have be looking to develop their family land but were met with a City Council that wasn’t prepared for their vision, he said. Through the Envision Oak Point planning process, “we’ve come full circle,” he said.
“We feel like, as a family, this is the perfect opportunity in the current market climate to execute on the sale and try to divest ourselves of a family heirloom. And when we divest ourselves from it, we want it to be something that the city will be fantastically proud of,” he said.
Plano City Council will vote to approve the Envision Oak Point Plan at the May 14 meeting.