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Ferris wants MUD district proposal in writing

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The Ellis County Press

FERRIS - A municipal utility district will still be constructed west of Ferris in the county on FM 664 outside the city's extra territorial jurisdiction, despite the city council not approving the creation of the district, the developer said.

The developer, Timberland Companies, property owner Mack McCoy and other pro-MUD supporters said they would build the special utility district with or without the city's consent by petitioning the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Wayne Shelton, vice-president of Shelcan Land Development said the district would be 350 acres in Ellis County and would not extend into the city's ETJ.

Shelton is working with Timberland Companies owner Tommy Cansler and McCoy to get the district built.

Councilman Victor Burnett said he did not want to run the developers off, but simply wanted to work out the consent agreement before the council agreed to anything.

The consent agreement would allow the city to approve the plat, inspect the infrastructure construction and describe what fees the city would be paid to contract services to the district.

'There are things that have been tossed around as far as we can work out all these issues, but once we've consented to do it what initiative does anyone have to work anything out,' Mayor Pro-Tem Scott Born said.

'To me, we should hammer all those things out ahead of time, then everybody agrees ‘yes, this works' for both parties and approve it and go forward at that point.'

Tim Green, an attorney for developer Cansler said if the city had consented to the creation of the MUD, the city would have the authority to inspect and approve plat.

Since the council did not consent to the MUD creation, he said, he would speak with his clients and approach the TCEQ for creation approval.

Green, a Houston-based lawyer, had told the council earlier he could draw up a consent or developers agreement within two weeks.

Shelton said it could take months for the exact details of the agreement to be worked out and the developer did not want to wait any longer for the consent to move forward with the district.

'I think in a perfect world that could be done and I guess my comment would be it could've, should've done starting two weeks after we submitted our petition,' Green said.

'We're well beyond the time period in which the city is supposed to act.'

The lawyer said the city had plenty of leverage to hang over the developers' heads because the developers would come back to the city to ask for police, fire, EMS, garbage services and platting approval.

Born said he did not care what the city would receive monetarily; because he did not thing it would be much.

He said he was worried about what type of burden the district would be upon the city of Ferris.

Green did acknowledge he had worked with a district where an agreement was approved before the MUD creation was approved by the city.

'We're trying to keep them from coming in here and slam dunking the city of Ferris and give us the runaround,' Councilman Jessie Hernandez said.

Rockett Special Utility District Board Member Matt Craig said the TCEQ might not approve the district because there is another special utility district, Rockett Water, serving the same area.

'I think that what we see as part of the Rockett Special Utility District that this district is already within an utility district served by water,' Craig said.

'The necessity for a new district with an new board of directors that would not be required to account to anyone except for the property owners and residents of the land within the MUD.'

Craig and Rockett General Manager Terry Haffer said the developers have never formally came before the utility district to inform them of the their intentions to request any service agreements.

Craig, also the city engineer, said he had not seen a preliminary engineering plan for sewage service.

Haffer said the projections Rockett gave Ferris six months ago were for the city's current service to include the two new subdivisions, Shaw Creek and South Meadows.

He said there was nothing mentioned for projections for the MUD at that time.

Shelton said he is a man of his word and would work with the city on a fair consent agreement if the city would approve his MUD creation.

'When I started in the business everything in the construction industry was mostly on a handshake. I never lost a dime when I was doing business on a handshake,' he said.

'When contracts came along, all of a sudden people started using contracts as a loophole. I believe a man's word is more important than something that is on a piece of paper.'

MUDs are special utility districts regulated by the TCEQ, allowed to sell bonds to pay for the construction of water, sewer and drainage services.

The bonds are used to reimburse the developers for their initial costs and must be paid off through the taxes of the homeowners living in the district.

Cansler said bonds would allow the homes to be priced competitively for first time homeowners and allow him to remain competitive with other residential developers in the area.

District homeowners will also be responsible for paying school and county taxes as well.

Green said the city would eventually be able to annex the district into the city limits 'as its debt is paid off there will come a point and time when it will become economically attractive,' but could take 15 to 25 years.

After further questioning he acknowledged it could take 16 or 25 years before the area can be annexed into the city.

Homeowners living within the district would not be required to pay city taxes, until the land is annexed.

Councilwoman Lori Perkins asked McCoy if he was sure the homes would sell when other residential developments in town are not selling.

McCoy told council members the developed lots would be sold to national builders in 50 acres slots and the project would be conducted in phases.

'Realtors are what sell the homes and a marketing plan sells them. The reason the houses are not selling over there,' McCoy said.

'I mean do you have any billboards over there on I-45? Aggressive marketing is what we are going to use to sell the homes.'

He said the national home builders would do marketing studies and then buy the lots when they are sure there is a market for the homes.

MUDs are extremely popular in Houston and Austin, but are relatively new to the housing landscape of North Texas.

Green said MUDs need at least 250 acres to be developed.

These districts are commonly found in rural areas just outside the city limits, this has many communities within North Texas anxious of how their cities, counties and school districts will be affected by the tremendous growth.

Ferris council members have said for a long time growth is coming whether anybody likes it or not.

Cities throughout the county have tried managing the growth, not wanting to scramble to build new roads, new infrastructure and new schools overnight as rooftops begin popping up.

Ferris council members have asked what the city would get out of the deal.

A MUD near the city of Lavon in Collin County has offered $450,000 to help the city build a municipal center.

Near Mesquite, a developer has agreed to give the school district a portion of money for every home sold to offset the cost of building new schools to house the incoming number of students.

Born has said been worried how the new development would affect the city's streets.

At a previous meeting, Perkins expressed concern on how the new homes would affect the school district.

She said the developer needed to speak with the school district board members so new facilities could be planned for the future students Ferris Independent School District would be serving.

'We think you are getting a lot of things by allowing us to move forward and from our perspective you are not giving up anything, Green said.'

The developers have continually said this will be a long-range project and would be developed over the next 15 to 20 years.

McCoy said the city council is looking too short term and should look at the bigger picture ahead.

'If they would agree to be annexed into the city limits the city would have to provide all the utilities,' Burnett said.

'We would not have to negotiate a consent agreement with the district.'

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