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Ennis begins approval of 20-year plan for future

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JIM WILLIAMS
Ellis County Press
ENNIS - Amidst a lengthy discussion involving citizens Bill Moore and Scott Rider, the Ennis City Commission Monday night unanimously approved the Comprehensive Plan, 2000-2020: A Vision for the Future in public hearings of regular session at city hall.

The plan will be up for second reading during the city commission's next regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 5 at 7 p.m.

Although a portion of the plan dictates 'brick fences' to be constructed around town, nothing is seemingly set in concrete.

City Manager Steve Howerton said there would be periodic reviews and amendments.

'The plan is concepts that are broadly followed,' Howerton said.

Consultant Dan Sefko, who worked with the Ennis Planning and Zoning Commission on the plan, called it a continuation of what the city has.

'It's an update,' Sefko said.

Moore said people have expressed to him they don't know what is in the plan.

'When you draw a plan you have to base it on facts,' he said. 'We have to be realistic. It has to be something Ennis can afford. Our foundation is not sufficient to sustain brick fences. They're too expensive. Things do concern me. Lenders are very concerned. You've got to work with builders and developers.'

Moore said many of people who work in Dallas shop in Dallas. He said people go to Waxahachie to eat.

'I don't believe Wal-Mart is going to save us,' he said of the new super center coming to Ennis.

'You've got trees along West Ennis Avenue that will hide the businesses.'

Moore said the best north and south route is FM 1722, Country Club Road and Jeter Drive. He said Bluebonnet Hills Drive and West Denton Street could be vital roadways with the right planning.

Moore said work on FM 1722 could receive state funding.

'Sleepy Hollow is important, especially from Park Street to 1722,' he said. 'To have retail you have to have traffic. You don't need truck traffic. The bypass around Ennis is something the state should take care of.

'We talk a lot about growth. I think we should wait until it gets here.'

Moore said railroad traffic is a problem.

'You're complicated in Ennis,' he said. 'You've got Main Street on either side [of the railroad tracks].'

Mayor Russell Thomas said an overpass for vehicular traffic over the tracks on Creechville Road is a possibility, along with lowering the grading for the current underpasses on West Belknap and West Baylor Streets.

Thomas called the city's 20-year comprehensive plan a directive and said the commission would deal with each issue.

'This doesn't set definite standards and time lines,' he said.

City commissioners Byron Walker told Moore he agreed with him on certain things about the plan.

'Like the brick fences, with our black soil they're just going to tump over,' Walker said.

Walker said past bond issues had repaired existing streets. He said he felt there was also a need to build extensions.

Moore said there hadn't been adequate notification of the more than a half of a dozen public meetings held since last spring concerning the plan.

'It's always good to put when you're going to have a public hearing to put it in the [news]paper,' he said.

'All those meetings were publicized and published,' Thomas said.

Those living in Ennis could read the Ellis County Press.

'It's not something done over night,' Thomas said. 'It was a six-to-eight-month project. These meetings just weren't attended. I don't know why.'

He said there probably was more Sefko and Moore agreed upon than what it sounded.

'You need to ask if you want to raise the bar a little,' Moore said. 'If you're going to ask people to play you need to set the rules. I'm in favor of Ennis going forward.'

'Thanks to Bill Moore and his wife for what they brought up,' Rider said. 'I'm as guilty as any citizen in Ennis for not coming to the meetings.'

Rider asked how many attended meetings concerning the plan.

No one could give him a number.

Howerton said he didn't know.

Rider said if he had sat in the meetings he would know how many attended.

'A plan like this is what my children and grandchildren will have to deal with,' he said. 'I feel like the notification process is something that something needs to be done about.'

Howerton said Moore had a lot of points already in the plan.

'Some of the things are difficult to understand,' Howerton said.

'With the least amount of citizen input it scared me of what might be in here,' Rider said of the plan.

Howerton said the original plan began with citizens' input in 1966.

'In my experiences the rules have changed as the game progresses,' Rider said. 'A plan is a plan, and a plan is changed periodically. These commission members won't be here 25 years from now.'

Following some remarks from the commission, Rider clarified he didn't mean the commission members would no longer be living. He said they wouldn't be there due to city elections.

Thomas told Rider he should've been attending meetings before this one.

'I don't know why they didn't attend,' Thomas said. 'Possibly they're comfortable with the commission and people who represent them.'

Walker said the plan was going to be on a CD to go on a computer.

'Hopefully copies will be in the library,' he said.

Copies of the plan can been viewed at the Ennis Library and city hall. Copies can be purchased for $25 each.

'Twenty-five dollars wouldn't put you in the poorhouse,' Walker told Moore. 'There are people in this community $25 would put them in the poorhouse.'

Walker made the motion to approve the plan on first reading. Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Taylor seconded the motion.

City commissioner Lola Searcy thanked Rider and Moore for their comments.

'All of us need to be involved in our city as a whole,' Searcy said. 'We're not going to let anyone pull the wool over your eyes. We thank God to serve you all.'

'One thing I've always maintained: this is your plan, not my plan,' Sefko said. 'We were directed to work with the Planning and Zoning Commission. Considering input let me look at the zoning ordinance and meet back with you. We can decide how much surgery we need to do. There's never been a change to higher standard without pain. This process will work if you give it a chance to work. The plan, we don't have to implement it all at once. Cities have to have some sort of picture to work from, to set a framework the market can flourish in.'

Rider said he served on a commission for an Ennis Independent School District bond election.

'I would behoove the commissioners to ask citizens in your ward to serve on a committee,' he said. 'Ask these people for input.'

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