Unless you want to live in a zoning-free city (Hi, Houston!), both the government and the demands of the market are going to have to be involved (and, yes, even in Houston there are regulations about land use) in determining what type of development should be built in an area. But there’s an interesting, ongoing debate in Plano about where to strike that balance, as described in this DMN article.
Plano is running out of empty space, with only about 8 percent of its land undeveloped. A couple years ago the city staff took a look at what’s left and recommended that any spots that are currently zoned for non-residential use should be “reserved for corporate facilities, research and development, hospitals and medical uses and other generators of high-paying jobs and tax base.”
My immediate response in reading this was to wonder whether Plano really needs any more corporate campuses. Isn’t its west side already lousy with them? EDS, J.C. Penney, Frito-Lay, Dr Pepper Snapple, just to name a few?
I’m no urban planner, however, so it could be that the suburb does need to maintain its ability to attract more major companies that desire sprawling estates on which to house their headquarters. The City Council so far has agreed with this approach, having recently rejected two big mixed-used office/retail/residential projects. One of them was proposed by the Billingsley Co.:
The decisions can be frustrating to developers or residents who think the private sector knows the best use of the land. Officials from the Billingsley Co. told the council that their property has sat empty for years. Even though the North Texas market is hot for office space, no one had even asked to see that particular tract of land in recent months, they said.
“Sometimes you think you have commercial zoning and you don’t want to give it away, but the market is telling you … that it is not the best use for this,” said the company’s president for development, Lucilo Pena, at the April meeting.
City officials say they will continue to evaluate requests on a case-by-case basis. But they expect the difficult choices to continue.
“What we have left is precious,” Mayor Harry LaRosiliere said. “We want to take a look at each opportunity as unique and go with a very open mind.”