CRESSON — Around this time next year, motorists on U.S. Highway 377 will begin to see the framework of an 1,100-home development rising in Cresson near State Highway 171.
Grant Read, a representative of project developer Mit-Mar Land LP, told the Hood County News on April 20 that the single-family homes are at minimum 1,500 square-feet in size and will be built on the acreage, with each home costing between $300,000 and $350,000.
“In order for Cresson to continue to grow, we have to be very structured and detailed about where the growth is going to be and we have to plan everything ahead of time. What we’re trying to do is really structure, plan and strategically phase out step by step,” Read said, noting that phase one will include housing and streets. “When we get about five to seven years down the road, and we have the first two to three phases built in, a lot of the retailers are going to start calling and that’s the commercial (impact).”
It is this growth that has placed residents on both ends of the discussion.
Some worry about the impact the large development will have on water resources, overcrowding and property taxes. Others see the development as inevitable, even a welcoming sign that more people will want to live here.
“Growth is inevitable,” Doug Franklin said. He said he thinks the development is “going to attract the kind of people that we really want here.”
THE GREEN LIGHT
Mit-Mar, owned by Jim Martin and Joe Mitchell of Glen Rose, got approval to begin work by a 4-1 vote at the Cresson City Council meeting April 12.
“Cresson has a tremendous amount of upside. It’s ideally geographically located in a perfect little sweet spot between Granbury and D-FW,” Read said. “Growth in Granbury is obviously restricted right now. The issue does not seem to be like it’s going to be resolved in the next 12 months and you know, there’s got to be a place for some of these new families to move and we think Cresson is an ideal location and conveniently located just outside of Fort Worth.”
A development moratorium is currently in effect in Granbury due to a delay in constructing a second wastewater treatment plant.
Read said he is unsure how long the full project will take but said his company is “projecting a seven-to-10-year project on a full build-out.”
Following the addition of commercial businesses, Read added, “that’s where we can really start helping the city form a sales tax base.”
Not everyone in Cresson welcomed the news of the developer asking to rezone the property from agricultural to residential on Feb. 8. Questions bubbled up at the Feb. 22 city council meeting about how the project may affect Cresson’s water resources, especially during drought years.
Cresson Mayor Teena Putteet-Conway reminded residents at the meeting that Mit-Mar already had an extensive water study conducted. Jarrod Reynolds, director of the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, also assured residents that the Trinity will not run out of water and that the level will decline but then “recharge” itself.
Issues of runoff and impact on personal water wells were also raised at the meeting.
Reynolds, of the conservation district, told the people at the meeting that he does not foresee the development adversely affecting personal water wells.
Beyond the concerns for water, Laticia Morton, a resident of Clearview Hills Estates, reminded the council that she “had not found one person who was excited about the proposed development and all of the problems that overcrowding brings to Cresson.”
The specter of the city levying property taxes also hung over the discussions. Cresson has never levied property taxes since it was incorporated 20 years ago. It has been small enough for sales tax revenues to fund city services.
Read, attempting to soothe citizens’ fears, said Mit-Mar had been working with the attorneys to protect the city as best as they can. He stated that the Municipal Utility District will maintain all responsibility for the maintenance of the road as well as the utilities that will still be owned by the district.
“There’d be no impact long-term for the city to have to impose a tax on that,” he said. “If anything, it’s only going to help with the sales tax that will be brought on by the commercial side of things. As businesses come in, we’ll be able to limit and offset any sales tax, hopefully preventing long-term use of property tax.”
COUNCIL WEIGHS IN
Cresson Mayor Pro-Tem Ron Becker said he was sympathetic to everyone concerned, but said the council approved the Cresson Pods Rentals several years ago — increasing the average annual sales tax by 78%.
“We will not be able to avoid property taxes in the future without additional population that drives additional sales tax and the pods have already proved that that works. It’s undisputed that it works,” Becker said. “This is the only tool that we’ve got in our toolbox anymore to try to protect our sales tax base and our revenue.
“We’re not paying for the infrastructure; we’re not paying for the upkeep of the infrastructure. We are hedging our bets on what happens to the city’s finances that could collapse with the bypass having an additional population that this type of proposal will bring, so while I may get tarred and feathered, I’m gonna vote for it.”
The lone voice in dissent was Kenneth Benzenhoefer, who said he moved to Cresson to get out of “the city.”
He added, “(I don’t) know anybody who’s working who can buy a $350,000 home.”