By Yvonne Mintz
There are at least two good reasons Brazoria County Commissioners Court should give serious consideration to approving a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone for a housing and retail development in Manvel and Iowa Colony.
• The road developers want to pave along CR 56 from Highway 288 to Highway 6 and the overpass they want to build on Highway 288 provide a regional benefit, not just a pricey road only to be used by people who live there.
• Establishing infrastructure done right in that area will help development take hold at the county’s center, which is good news for Angleton and points south.
Seven Oaks Ranch, as the 2,000-acre, master-planned community is called, is laid out in a crescent shape starting at Highway 288 and looping around to meet McCoy Road at Highway 6 in Manvel — right in front of the new Manvel High School. Along Seven Oaks Parkway, as developers propose to call it, will be retail shops, schools, recreation centers, a nature preserve and a projected 5,000 homes.
Developers envision a well-landscaped, aesthetically pleasing road that not only would be the main thoroughfare through the subdivision but also would provide a shortcut of sorts from Highway 288 to Highway 6 — an area already seeing development pop up since the school opened.
There’s no questioning the need for the road. In fact, county commissioners and voters included it in the $50 million mobility bond project approved in 2004. However, since time has driven construction costs up, the project got bumped.
A developer willing to front the money in exchange for a cut of added tax revenue coming in through the development seems like an excellent way to get a road we need at minimal tax impact. As a bonus, the developer, Gromax Development, wants to build an overpass on Highway 288 at CR 58 — another benefit for the region.
Like most folks, we were unsure about the tax zone Commissioners Court approved in 2000 for Shadow Creek Ranch developers. The deal was negotiated largely in secret, with commissioners leaving an open meeting to meet two by two with developers behind closed doors, only to emerge with what was widely regarded as a sweetheart deal for the developers.
The development proved successful, but nonetheless left many in the rest of the county grumbling that there was nothing in it for them.
We should remember lessons learned from that development while considering a tax zone for this one. But this is a different Commissioners Court, and circumstances here are vastly different than in Shadow Creek Ranch.
We also see more potential for county benefit in this proposed zone than in one pitched to commissioners for the Jamison Medical Complex. In that case, we advocated the city of Angleton participate in the zone for what it would provide them — water and wastewater service and an access road — that the city needed in the area and was responsible for putting in but could not afford. We didn’t see any benefit to the county and therefore encouraged commissioners to stay out of the zone.
That’s not the case with this latest request.
New home starts and a massive retail awakening in Pearland have pushed the weight of Brazoria County’s population north. Seven Oaks Ranch and Sterling Lakes, a projected 274-acre subdivision in the same area near Manvel, could begin to provide the center weight and encourage more.
An early look at a proposed Seven Oaks Ranch tax zone passes the smell test, and we hope commissioners will look at it closely — on its own merits and in an open setting that will build consensus around a decision to grant the request.
This editorial was written by Yvonne Mintz, managing editor of The Facts
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