The topic of apartments has been a contentious issue in Flower Mound for years, and this year it was the deciding factor in the Town Council election.
Last week Ann Martin defeated incumbent Claudio Forest in Place 5, and incumbent Sandeep Sharma defeated David Johnson in Place 2.
Martin said she was cautiously optimistic in her first run of public office in Flower Mound and even a little surprised by the outcome. She secured 74.9 percent of the votes.
But Martin said she knew what was important to the voters.
“Based on my time at the polls, most residents wanted to talk about density,” Martin said. “The shared the idea that we have enough apartments.”
Martin said residents she spoke to placed an emphasis on preserving trees and the open space.
“They want to preserve the gem that Flower Mound is,” Martin said. “We’re different from other towns around us. They moved here for a reason.”
Sharma, too, said the voters he spoke with were concerned about the number of apartments in the town. According to town records, there are 10 multifamily developments in Flower Mound, including the Lakeside Tower condominiums, totaling 2,857 units. Six of those developments have come to the town since 2016.
There are three projects – The Point and two senior housing projects – that are under construction. Lakeside Village and The Point (Phase 2) have zoning approval for multifamily (795 and 225 units, respectively), but construction has not begun.
Southgate has approval for 99 residential units, but the type of unit that will come in is unclear.
The application has been submitted for Silveron Park, which calls for 502 units. A zoning request has been submitted for Furst Ranch in west Flower Mound, and the application requests 4,000 units.
“People realize that it’s getting out of hand,” Sharma said. “So our message to voters was resonating, and it’s good that we had the pulse of the voters.”
Sharma said he also told voters about what has happened in the past with multi-family projects in Flower Mound.
“They ask, ‘What else is coming?’” Sharma said. “We have two areas of Flower Mound that are available – the south and the west. We need more commercial and high-paying jobs. When you take land for other purposes, you don’t have the land for that.”
But others say it’s quite the opposite. Forest said the multi-family units are necessary for the town’s economic growth.
“The narrative my opponent and Sandeep put out was that there was plenty of stuff approved and that more will hurt the town,” Forest said. “That we don’t need more apartments, townhomes and condos, that we need to stick to single-family residences.
“The fallacy to that is that in the development world, without higher density office and retail aren’t going to come,” Forest said. “There’s no developer in the world who’s going to put up millions of dollars for a retail center and office if residential doesn’t support it. Unfortunately that means apartments, condos and townhomes.”
Forest said the single-family vision isn’t what everyone wants.
“The vast number of people doesn’t want an acre of land,” Forest said. “Especially people who are coming down here from the north because they’re not used to that.”
Sharma questions the correlation between an abundance of multi-family units and commercial growth.
“My question is, if that correct then what’s the threshold?” Sharma said. “After that, do we need more? We get to the point where enough is enough.”
Sharma said looking at the mixed-use areas of Lakeside and not factoring in the Lakeside Business District there is 76 percent residential uses.
“If the other side doesn’t think that 76 percent residential can help other projects, then maybe those aren’t good projects,” Sharma said.
Forest said he doesn’t see how the town will attract good projects if there is such strong opposition to multi-family.
“People scream that they want a Trader Joe’s,” Forest said. “But those same people say they don’t want the density to support it.”
“I laugh when (Martin) said she’ll get development but on our terms,” Forest said. “The problem is, find a developer who will do things on our terms. There aren’t any.”
Town manager search
Martin and Sharma both said a key issue the council will face once they are sworn in is the search for a new town manager.
Jimmy Stathatos left the town in September after eight years to become the city manager in Bedford.
“We want to make sure we pick the right person and move forward,” Martin said.
Sharma said he expects a decision to be made on the new town manager in January. He said the council will take its time interviewing candidates, adding that the town has already received several applications from people both in and out of Texas.
Johnson said the town leadership will be something else to watch following last week’s election results.
“The consequences of this election will have a long term impact on our town since this council will be choosing our new town manager, a new town CFO and likely other town executives,” Johnson said.