Engage D2 (11/29/15): Buc-ee’s, Affordable Housing, and More

On Tuesday, December 1, 2015 your city council will meet at 12PM for a work session followed by a regular council meeting at 6PM.  The agenda for that day is linked here:  http://denton-tx.granicus.com/AgendaViewer.php?view_id=3&event_id=1073

Work Session Items of Note (these are discussions, not votes yet):

Please let me know if you have questions about these or any other work session items on the agenda.

3B – ID 15-1171 – Receive a report, hold a discussion, and give staff direction on the Denton Renewable plan, activities, and possible financial options related to the future power supply plans to meet the City’s growth and needs. (This topic is tentatively scheduled for a public hearing and potential decision on December 15, 2015.)

3D – ID 15-1235 Receive a report, hold a discussion, and give staff direction regarding a proposed ordinance of the City of Denton, Texas, setting Planning and Development Fees as it concerns gas well drilling and production in the City of Denton and its extraterritorial jurisdiction.

For Individual Consideration (scheduled for a vote)

5B – ID 15-1222 Buc-ee’s Economic Development Incentive Package

On Tuesday night council is scheduled to vote on whether or not to approve an estimated $9.4 million incentive package for the development of a Buc-ee’s and associated out parcels.  There are people in this city speaking out for the Buc-ee’s development and people in this city speaking out against the Buc-ee’s development.  And each side has many reasons for their stance.  For me, an important consideration in this decision is the incentive itself.

I believe that incentives can be a powerful economic development tool and I believe that they do have their place when used properly.   Thankfully our city has policy guidelines in place to reference when considering the use of tax abatements and incentives.

According to the Denton Economic Development Partnership (EDP), “Incentives are a tool for attracting and encouraging the right types of projects for Denton,” and they “are negotiated with new and expanding businesses on a case-by-case basis subject to the qualifications, conditions, and requirements of the City of Denton’s Tax Abatement and Incentive Policy and the approval of the Denton City Council.” The following guidelines are taken from Denton’s Tax Abatement and Incentive Policy:

The City of Denton will consider, on a case-by-case basis, the use of grants and loans as incentives to accomplish one or more of the following economic development objectives:

  1. Development and diversification of the economy
  2. Elimination of unemployment or underemployment
  3. Expansion of transportation or commerce
  4. Attraction of major investment
  5. Expansion of primary employment
  6. Stimulation of agricultural innovation

Below is my scorecard of how the Buc-ee’s project measures against each of the above 6 guidelines for abatements and incentives from the Denton EDP.

According to my assessment this Buc-ee’s project does successfully satisfy at least one of the EDP incentive guidelines – expansion of transportation and commerce – and is therefore eligible for council consideration of approval.

However, because the one clearly satisfied criteria is a $2 million dollar investment in an overpass (an investment fronted by the developer but paid back in approximately 3 years by the city) then I feel the total estimated $9.4 million incentive package being asked for by Buc-ee’s and the associated out parcel development is an unnecessary investment for the city at this time.  If the Brinker Road overpass is indeed critical to our economic and transportation infrastructure then let’s consider it but as a potential investment made by the city directly and not through a third party developer.

As for the remaining $7.4 million in estimated incentives… without it Buc-ee’s says it will walk the deal because they feel that their business model does not work on its own at this site, even though the site offers prime frontage on one of the busiest interstate corridors in one of the fastest growing regions in the United States.

The site in question is zoned to allow the type of development being proposed by Buc-ee’s. While the zoning may be appropriate, asking for $9.4 million in incentives over 20 years is not.

Learn More About It
The Buc-ee’s proposed development is generally located along the south side of I-35E in between the Unicorn Lake development and the Southridge Village development.  You can learn more about the proposed development and the incentives currently being considered for approval by City Council on Tuesday December 1, 2015 by viewing the presentation linked here: Buc-ee’s Presentation

Public Hearing and Consideration (scheduled for a vote)
6A – S15-0009a Affordable Housing Development on McKinney Street

The shortage of affordable housing options within Denton is an important issue to me.  According to the Denton 2030 plan nearly 58% of renters in Denton are “cost burdened” meaning that they pay over 30% of their income towards housing costs which forces these citizens to make tough choices between the costs of health care, child care, and food.  There are over 1,500 Denton residents on waiting lists for affordable housing.

At the same time I respect that any type of significant development will have both positive and negative stakeholder impacts to consider.  I look forward to the opportunity to hear from the public, stakeholders, staff, and fellow council members as we learn more about this project and consider its approval.  The planning and zoning commission recommends this project 6-0.  There will need to be a super majority approval by council (6 out of a possible 7 votes to approve) if this project is go forward because at least 20% of the property owners within 200 feet are opposed to the project.
Your humble representative,

Keely G. Briggs
Council Member – District 2