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Dayton City Council green-lights MUD, River Ranch Improvement District

March 22, 2017

Following a two-hour executive session consulting with city attorney Brandon Davis, the Dayton City Council returned to chambers to approve the Municipal Utility District (MUD) and River Ranch Improvement District. The vote crosses off yet another to-do item on a long list in preparation for the coming River Ranch community for developer Ed Gray.

“I want to thank the council and the staff for all of their hard work that they put in on this,” Gray said in a statement at the end of the meeting.

“I look forward to working with you and we will try our best to live up to everything in the agreement and more,” he told council.

Council members and the mayor were all smiles following the vote.

“It’s a big development in a prime location,” said Dayton Mayor Jeff Lambright. “It’s good development, good housing, good value.”

While most of the development is not in the city limits or the extra-territorial jurisdiction (ETJ), the city in the agreement still benefits and prevents the disaster seen in other areas around the county for lack of leadership.

“This agreement allows the city to have some control over what goes in there because they have to use our subdivision codes, and other development criteria,” he said. “It’s been our goal to have some control in our growth and not take just whatever comes. If we’re going to grow, we want to make sure it’s in a positive direction.”

The mayor and council had nothing but praise for Gray and his willingness to work with them.

“The developer has been great to work with us and agreeing to this stuff because there’s benefit to both sides,” Lambright said.

NO ADDITIONAL TAX BURDEN FOR DAYTON

The city’s coffers stand to benefit with the agreement.

“There’s a 1,000-foot strip that, hopefully, will all be commercial along SH 146 and that has the ability to be extended so that any of the commercial development along SH 146 will be in the city limits,” the mayor said.

The agreement also allows the city to receive all of the sales tax off the 7,000-acre development, even though it’s not in the city.

“That’s a huge plus. There’s a limited annexation agreement that allows us to get the sales tax,” the mayor said.

The MUD and River Ranch Improvement District will allow the developer to recoup expenses laid out in advance for the infrastructure including water, sewer, and roads.

In prior months, the council was also faced with the possibility of spending millions to provide a new water plant, but there is new focus on that now.

“We won’t be out any cost of the infrastructure because of the MUD district. They’ll be responsible for putting that in,” he said. “We’re still looking at a water plant for future growth, but us running water down there is not a requirement. They may want it, but if they do, they’ll pay for it,” the mayor said.

With the development agreement, the mayor said taxpayers in the rest of the city would not bear any additional tax burden for that development.

TURNING DIRT

While the project received the green light from the city, it must still go before the commissioners’ court for their approval of the MUD and River Ranch Improvement District. Commissioners are scheduled to meet and expected to approve the project on Thursday morning at 8:30.

With that, it would be passed on to the state legislature for approval so while it has the support of the city and possibly the county as well, it must still face additional scrutiny.

“This is a long-term program. It’s not an over-the-night project or even a five-year project, it’s a 10-15-20-year build-out project,” Lambright said. “The first phase they are proposing was supposed to start real soon, but it still takes time to put in infrastructure.”

Lambright said the first phase, most likely, would be large-acre development with half-acre and larger lots. Subdivision tract development would follow. He expected turning dirt on the project to begin within weeks or a couple of months depending on the passage of the measure by the state.

“It’s a win for the city and the first of many to come,” the mayor said.

WHAT ABOUT DOWNTOWN

Critics are concerned the downtown area will turn into a ghost town, but Lambright said this council wasn’t going to allow that to happen.

“Our goal is to maintain our downtown area. It has to change with the times, but our goal in these agreements with the developments is trying to make sure we don’t lose our downtown area and our identity,” he said.

Dayton has some distinct differences in that all major thoroughfares run through the downtown area, the mayor said.

“Usually a city dies when you put a loop around it,” Lambright said. “The road patterns change and that’s not likely to happen in Dayton. Certainly, if we don’t stay up-to-date and make sure that’s not a goal of the city, it has a real possibility that downtown would transfer. Not that there won’t be retail centers at major intersections, of course there will be and you want that, but our goal is to maintain Dayton downtown as viable.”

Lambright said he didn’t know what that meant exactly but that the current council and future councils would have a lot of planning and work to ensure it doesn’t happen.

MORE TRAFFIC?

Traffic remains a sore spot for many residents, particularly in the morning and afternoon hours, and, of course, the train.

With that, the council is examining the possibility of doing a traffic study to see if it’s feasible.

“Certainly, with the cost of roads nowadays, you don’t want to go out and spend $6 or $7 million dollars on roads because you think they’re going to make things better. We want to be sure that the new road or the extension is going to make things better,” Lambright said.

Since many of the roads in Dayton belong to the county or Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the city cannot act unilaterally to resolve the issue. They will have to work with TxDOT and the county to plan and work to build new roads or thoroughfares and maintain the ones already in existence.

“There’s a lot of groups working with the city and county to address the train and the traffic. It’s nice that we have that camaraderie and everybody is willing to work together because in years past, it’s not always been with a common goal,” Lambright said.

The mayor also said that traffic in the city is the top priority of the council, but it comes with a price tag.

“You have to be cautious on how and where we spend the money and whether or not it’s beneficial. A lot of this is new to us, so we’re doing our due diligence and taking our time to get it right,” the mayor said.

With the heavy development planned five and 10 years out, the mayor said the city is already at the point that they can’t wait to address the issue.

“We need a solution today to help. We have our ideas that we think are going to work so we’re investigating those now, but traffic is definitely the No. 1 issue in our area. As we grow, it has the potential to get worse,” he said.