On Saturday morning a group of interested residents chose to attend “Coffee with the Mayor”, a casual group discussion that is hosted monthly by Forney Mayor Rick Wilson.
The breakfast gathering was held at McDonald’s where a group of about twenty citizens questioned Mayor Wilson about residential development in and near the city, and more specifically about promises made to the city by Petro-Hunt developers.
Being very specific one resident asked, “The whole retail thing, did they just put the kibosh on that and they’re not going to do it? Is it still laid out or they changed their mind? Are we never going to get the retail part?
Mayor Wilson responded, “Of course, this is a private developer so it’s up to their timeline. We had a 360, I mean 380 Agreement with them. That allowed them to go in and do a lot of infrastructure like drainage and water and sewer and all the other items. And then they (the developers) get all the infrastructure money they put in back through sales tax.”
Wilson said “Like Kroger, that developer gets the sales tax back for so many years for doing that development. Well, this is the same thing but this developer already missed the deadline so we don’t have an agreement at all with them right now, to reimburse them with sales tax. They will have to come back to us if they come up with somebody but they don’t have anybody right now.”
Responding to Wilson’s statement another resident asked, “Ok, so the Gateway was supposed to have a shopping center and they’re not going to do that. So will it stay the shopping center proposal or will they come back and say ‘well now we’re going to put houses up’?
Speaking openly, Mayor Wilson responded “Well, I mean we want retail and a shopping center but we’d also like to see some development come in and bring jobs. Maybe we can encourage the Hunts to go find something high-tech or something that would bring jobs to the community.”
Explaining he said “We have a huge job base here it Forney but it all leaves. We’d like to build the job base here in the community and that would help us attract nice restaurants and things like that because that is what they look at. What is your noon base support for a nice restaurant? We have the evening and we have the morning base, but we don’t have the noon support because we don’t have the jobs here.”
While being questions about the residential developments currently being built across Forney, Wilson stated “Well it’s a concern. Because they mainly didn’t, I’m not going to call any of the developers out, but they didn’t propose it properly, the way it is. It should have been proposed as multi-family housing because some are actually renting the homes instead of selling the homes, as it was proposed.”
He said “That’s a concern and what I’ve asked our city attorney and our city planner to do, is to come in and stiffen our language in all the development agreements and requirements for doing that. We need to develop new language because the problem is, like the Gateway and these other developments that have come in, they promise us all these things on the front end, the amenity center, bigger homes, brick fences. All these things they promise us on the front end, and then by the time we actually get the product they’ve come back to us at least six or seven times saying ‘well we can’t do this, we need to change that’.
Proposing a solution, Mayor Wilson said “What I’m proposing to do is change the language to say that if the developer changes to development by more than fifteen or twenty percent, then they have to start all over again. Come back before P&Z, go through all the process again and ask for it again.”
He said “Now that’s reasonable and it’s something the council is going to have to agree on. We need to stiffen up because our community is going to grow out and when we’re out of land, we’re out of land. So what people are promising us on the front end, we need to make sure we’re getting it on the back end.”
While explaining the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement with Hunt developers, Wilson stated “The taxpayers are on the hook for a lot of money out there. That TIF Agreement allowed Petro-Hunt to borrow up to $150 million dollars and the County up to $50 million dollars. So, $200 million dollars is set aside in that TIF, as far as them being able to spend up to that amount of money.”
He explained “The problem with that is, they promised us a retail center and commercial development and a big shopping center to do that agreement and now all we have is residential, and the residential will not support that type of tax base. The TIF agreement is at 12% interest. Right now, the Hunts have turned in receipts I believe for right at $30 million dollars.”
The group went on the speak about plans for the Pinson Road farm which was recently purchased by the city, the upcoming expected increase in train traffic and the communities outreach effort to assist the victims of Hurricane Harvey.
The video clips used for this transcribed article, as well as additional clips captured during the September “Coffee with the Mayor” meeting will be available for viewing at www.theforneypost/facebook
Written by: Denise Bell