Parkland Dedication Ordinance discussion

Chris Hall, president of the East Texas Builders Association, speaks to the city of Longview-Parks and Recreation Advisory Board about a proposed Parkland Dedication Ordinance at City Hall Monday. (Jimmy Daniell Isaac/News-Journal photo)

Longview municipal staff and consultants are proposing ordinances that would require developers to pay fees or donate land for parks and open spaces when they build new homes — a plan that could increase costs to buyers in the city.

Instead of approving the idea Monday, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board members chose to delay their decision a month after hearing opposition from a local builders group.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Caron said the ordinance would result in about a $1,400 fee for each new dwelling unit that is built, if a developer did not choose to donate land.

East Texas Builders Association President Chris Hall quoted a Texas A&M Real Estate Center study that reported about 20,000 Texans are priced out of homeownership with every $1,000 increase in the cost of a home.

“This kills building and homeownership,” Hall said, “and we want to keep building in Longview.”

The A&M Real Estate Center ranks Longview fifth among cities in Texas for average homeownership affordability since 2005 — trailing Odessa, Midland, Abilene and The Woodlands. Tyler ranked 19th in the state.

To become law, the ordinance needs City Council approval. However, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission first must consider whether to recommend the proposed ordinance to the council members.

The Parkland Dedication Ordinance was an idea that originated from the Comprehensive Plan, in which residents said the city needs more parkland, and the creation and development of the city’s Unified Development Code.

The proposed ordinance would require developers to dedicate land for parks, recreation or open space when they build residential developments or new housing in Longview or within the extraterritorial jurisdiction, which extends 3.5 miles beyond the city boundaries.

Instead of land, a developer also could pay fees that would be dedicated to building parkland, Caron said. The fees would only be used on land and improvements in the zone of the city where the development is constructed.

For the past 18 months, the city and outside consultants with Freese and Nichols have worked to update and bring together the city’s code of development ordinances — many that have been on the books since the 1960s, Caron said. Consultants and staff have held public meetings, multiple reviews with stakeholders including utility companies and the East Texas Builders Association.

Staff and consultants worked to determine a fee low enough to ease burdens on developers, Caron said.

Builders support most of the Unified Development Code, but not the Parkland Dedication Ordinance, Hall said.

Before the parks board voted to wait until its July regular meeting, board member Laci McRee asked what would more time give them. Board President David Stanton and member Sherry Krueger replied they would like more time to look at the ordinance before they make a decision.

“All we’re trying to do is keep building affordable,” Hall said.