On March 25, 2019 zoning case 2018-025 was withdrawn by the developer, but not before corporate neighbors had their say. If you don’t know what case 2018-025 means, it is the application to build 800 apartments and a multi-use development where the old JC Penney's headquarters currently stands.
Developer Sam Ware bought the JC Penney property, but instead of just renting out the office building to a business, Sam Ware wants to build apartments, retail, and restaurants. Of course his plan passed the Planning and Zoning Board. When it came to City Council on March 18th it was tabled for March 25th.
At the March 25th meeting we saw some new and surprising faces speak against the multi-use development. The first speaker came all the way from DC. He represents the firm that owns the Federal Express building at the Legacy Office Park which is across the street from the JC Penney complex.
The gentleman first told us how the Legacy Office Park came into existence. The Office Park was the brain child of Ross Perot in the 1980s. According to the speaker, “[Ross Perot] thoughtfully planned the area. He felt strongly back in the 80s that there be no apartments in the development. He laid out strict guidelines for it. As a buyer we took a lot of solace in the way that was put fourth. Had we known that an apartment development was going to be put up across the street from us we would have thought twice about the investment.” Fed Ex wants to expand, and having apartments across the street would impact them. The speaker also said, “Legacy Office Park has brought 25,000 jobs to the area in 10 years. I would really hate to see anything happen that could have a negative impact on the job growth that it brings to this community.” WOW was my reaction. Clearly Fed Ex does not want this project and feels so strongly about it that they would spend money to send a spokesman to a little city council meeting to let the members and city know it. While the speaker did not say it directly, he inferred that Fed Ex would leave if the City Council went ahead with this development.
The next speaker was a women representing the company that developed One Legacy West in the Office Park. Her company wants the Office Park to stay as it was originally planned. She said, “It would be highly detrimental to us if you change [the zoning or] character of the [office park] because its success depends on being what it is today.
The last speaker basically said the same thing. He was happy that the owner is withdrawing the plan; however, he added, “If they ever come back, the [other owners] will come back and [fight it]. Toyota is another company that has said it is against the apartments.
A person representing the developer also spoke. He made it clear that while the company was withdrawing this proposal, they would come back with another plan in the future. It seems like the developer wants to talk with the neighbors before moving forward.
This fight between companies puts the Mayor and his people on city council in a difficult position. Sam Ware, the owner of the old JC Penney's land and other property in Plano, has donated to the campaigns of the Mayor, Councilman Rick Grady, and Councilman Ron Kelly. Of course they will feel some obligation to him. That is why some residents have called for the Mayor and anyone on council who has taken donations from Sam Ware to recuse themselves from any vote dealing with this case. It is obviously a conflict of interest to be voting on a development owned by a person who has given money to a council member’s election.
The other problem the Mayor has is companies that have been a part of Legacy Office Park since the beginning now appear to be ready to pick up and leave if Sam Ware’s 800 apartments are approved. With the loss of Dr. Pepper and JC Penney, it would be a tremendous blow to Plano’s Economy and the Mayor’s legacy, if we lost Fed Ex or any of the companies currently in the office park. Imagine being known as the Mayor who drove major corporations out of Plano over apartments. I wonder which big corporation the Mayor will side with?
This is Plano’s Political Pit Bull Signing off.