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Ferris council to decide developers request for MUD

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MUD (problems) slung on former council
ERIC CORNELISON
Editor
FERRIS - Developers and a land owner want the creation of a Municipal Utility District before they continue with plans for a major development of 448 acres west of downtown on Hwy. 664 but accuse Ferris of reneging on a former agreement allowing them to do so.

The Ferris City Council held a work session on Tuesday, Feb. 13, to discuss the City of Ferris' position relative to the creation of the Ellis County MUD.

Discussions included conversations among the city council, staff, city attorneys and representatives of the MUD.

According to a memo from Ferris City Manager Gus Pappas to the mayor and city council, a meeting was held in Waxahachie by an official mediator of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Feb. 8, with regard to the upcoming hearing and decision by TCEQ on the establishment of the MUD west of town.

During the meeting there had been little movement in the position of the MUD representatives.

They contended they could not be competitive unless they had the ability, given to them by a MUD, to issue bonds to pay for the development infrastructure (water and sewer lines, street, etc.) and then be repaid by MUD taxes levied on the new homeowners.

Without that financial advantage, they said, a developer could not afford to build homes in Ferris and be competitive.

The MUD representatives said the City of Ferris had, 'gone back on its word' by passing a resolution canceling an earlier resolution agreeing to the MUD.

They admitted during the Waxahachie meeting they have already talked to Rocket Special Utility District about getting water from them and that they were ready to proceed with the agreement as approved with the city.

Since the City of Ferris had already passed a new resolution repealing the original agreement between the city and the MUD and Ferris' objections to the creation of a MUD, it seemed there was little to be accomplished with a mediator.

In the memo, Pappas said the MUD representatives implied they believed they were pretty likely to get approval even without the consent of the City of Ferris.

When it looked as if the meeting was going to end at an impasse, the MUD offered a new proposal in which they would agree to annexation if the city would agree to collect taxes and reimburse them for their development expenses from the taxes generated.

This proposal would place the development inside the city and all of the normal benefits or problems would be the same as any other part of the city.

The only special consideration would be the city would be collecting a tax and then turning around and giving a portion of that tax to the developers to reimburse them for the expense of installing the infrastructure.

The work discussion began with all of this in consideration and was immediately interrupted by Councilman Billy Dunn as he read a prepared statement recusing himself because he believed there may be a conflict of interest on his part, since he was a real estate broker.

The work session then began with Gus Pappas explaining the reasons behind the work session.

At first, both the MUD representatives and the city was unable to get past the original problems and MUD attorney Timothy Green said, 'There is a lot of consternation because once you get into the city you can't get out.

'My clients feel as though the city has reneged on the original agreement and we are not ready to hammer out an agreement because the original agreement was cancelled.'

'It looked as though you got past that by what was said at the end of last week's meeting,' replied Councilman Rick Barrett.

After a lengthy debate the representatives from MUD excused themselves from the work session in order to discuss matters privately.

Upon returning it was decided the entities would continue to have a dialogue but the TCEQ hearing set for March 7 would stand.

Ferris Mayor Jim Parks Jr said he thought the matter could easily be resolved for the benefit of both parties and wanted desperately to have the city grow.

Parks said during the meeting, 'I really want Ferris to grow, it seemed as though the previous city council did not want that.'

'I definitely think that this city council is more open than the last one (the city council that approved an agreement with MUD then repealed that same agreement) and we are currently working things out through the attorneys and because of the recent meeting, feel more comfortable,' said land owner Mac McCoy.

The proposed development includes approximately 1,600 lots, schools, shopping center and other buildings.

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