On Monday, June 26, 2023 the Plano City Council failed to reach a super majority to overturn the denial of the Planning and Zoning Board for case 2022-008 and 2022-009. Both cases have to do with the old Fry’s property in East Plano on Executive Drive, East Plano Parkway, Central Expressway, and 190. The developer wanted to change the current commercial zoning to another mixed use development.
The developer, Onalp Property Owner, LLC, wants to put 501 apartments and 33 townhouses in the first phase of construction. In the second phase Onalp would add a hotel, office building, and retail. Of course, if the office and retail real-estate market does not change they won’t get built. So, like other plans for multi-use developments, we will just be left with more multi-family housing.
City staff did not recommend approval for this project. One reason was it did not conform to the Comprehensive Plan, which took blood, sweat, and a year to pass. This property is also on the corner of two major highways, so it will be too noisy for residential units.
A majority of the Planning and Zoning Board agreed with staff and voted to deny the zoning change on May 1st. Commissioners Brounoff, Bronsky, and Cary had concerns with the fact that it did not conform with the comprehensive plan. Commissioner Cary had concerns with city sewer and water capacity, which is at its maximum now. More multi-family will only put an additional strain on our systems. “This project, right now, is just another multi-family project, and how many multi-family units do we want in Plano?” he said. He instead thought this spot would be good for a business headquarters.
Commissioner Bronsky thought it would be too noisy for residents, and worried about the pollution from the highways. Likewise, he thinks the commercial market will come back to Plano. Commissioner Bronsky also felt adding more multi-family will not benefit Plano economically.
Commissioner Olley did not think this project was right for this spot either. The other members of the board, however, thought this project was just fine. When the project went in front of City Council to be heard, City staff were still against it for the reasons given before. Since the zoning cases were denied by Planning and Zoning, the City Council had to pass it by a super majority for the project to be approved.
Council member Prince asked staff what they thought would be a good fit at this site. Their answer was a technology company or manufacturing. Member Prince went on to ignore that answer, and the fact that the project does not conform to the comprehensive plan. Her reason for this was, “It pains me to see a building sitting empty.”
The newest member to the council, Rick Horne, thought it was unfair to not approve this project, because we changed our comprehensive plan while this developer was working on plans for this property. He also said, “The comprehensive plan is just a guide.” Apparently, it is only a guide when it is inconvenient to follow it. I wonder if the residents who sat on the comprehensive plan committee for a year, trying to come to a compromise to get it passed, felt they were working on “just a guide”? I wonder if they would be fine with the council ignoring the plan whenever they wanted? I know I would not be happy if I had spent my time fixing something just for it to be ignored.
Council member Holmer seemed concerned about the highway noise levels at first. She got over it quickly though, because she thought residential made the most sense for the site. Plus, she also does not like to see empty buildings, and is sensitive to other business owners. I guess she is not sensitive to residents breathing in large amounts of Carbon Monoxide, and being disturbed by traffic noise.
Council member Tu was torn over the project. She also thought there was a misunderstanding at Planning and Zoning. I am not sure what the misunderstanding was, though, since staff did not recommend approval for the project in the first place.
Mayor Muns does not like to see empty buildings either, or blighted areas. Muns also thought the project was a wonderful opportunity to have employment housing with great access to the dart rail. Apparently, the noise from the trains did not concern him. He also has no interest in seeing another office building, and thinks this is the kind of development we need.
Councilman Smith has some trepidation about the project, but thinks it could be fixed. He wanted to see the project go back to Planning and Zoning.
Councilman Ricciardelli was also torn about the project. He thought it had some pluses, but the commercial was too light. He thought light manufacturing or tech. would do well in this spot. Member Ricciardelli also pointed out that we have a lot of these kinds of multi-family developments already. He feels we should have a variety of developments, so when one kind of market is down the other can still bring in revenue. This was the best idea I heard from any of the members.
Councilman Williams also does not like seeing empty lots, but if we approve a development and it turns out to be a mistake, the mistake is literally in concrete. Williams said, “The comprehensive plan is not “just a plan”, [and]because of what went into getting that plan we need to take it seriously. With two major highways on this corner, he does not think residential is appropriate for this lot. Member Williams also doesn't think the dust has settled for office space from the pandemic.
When the council finally voted on the zoning cases, the vote was five for the project and three against. Member Smith then made a motion to send the cases back to Planning and Zoning. That motion passed seven - one with Williams voting against.
So, back to Planning and Zoning the project goes. I looked at the area in question and I noticed something that was not there; the area does not have an average price large grocery store. There are apartments around, and more will be added when the Collin Creek development is finished. A Whole Foods is across 190, but it is technically in Richardson and is very expensive. There are small specialty stores in the area, but if you don’t eat Middle Eastern or Asian food where are you to go? The nearest Plano Tom Thumb is a 39 minute walk away. The closest Plano Super Target is a 32 minute walk. Walmart is also too far, and Kroger is not in this area at all.
In this writer’s humble opinion, a large average price grocery store is needed in this area. If the city wants walk-able neighborhoods they must have grocery stores. However, like most of City Council and Planning and Zoning, I don’t live in this area or East Plano. The only people who really know what would go well in this area, and what is needed are the people who live there. What are you missing? What do need? Is it a large grocery store, or a certain retail store that would be useful to the residents? Instead of an out of state company or a government board telling you what needs to go in your section of town, you tell them what kind of business the area needs. Therefore, please contact the members of the city council and let them know what you need on this property. Their government emails are listed below. You can also leave your opinion for the Planning and Zoning on the Current Land Based Zoning Case Map. https://planogis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/CrowdsourcePolling/index.html?appid=440f9aa7eae44ff0b53aadeb72ea4ff0
At the end of the day, the owner of the property wants to make money. Right now the company is losing money on an empty retail building, and the city is losing sales tax revenue. Both entities want something to be put there, and residents need to let their government know what they need in that area. For, it is the residents that will be affected the most by what is developed, not the government or the developer.
This is Mary Lema for Plano’s Political Pit Bull signing off.
Maria Tu email@example.com
Anthony Ricciardelli firstname.lastname@example.org
Rick Horne email@example.com
Kayci Prince firstname.lastname@example.org
Shelby Williams email@example.com
Mayor Muns firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Holmer email@example.com
Rick Smith firstname.lastname@example.org