Recovery from the crash of 2008 has been volatile in this community
Valley Mills – An ultra-mysterious proposal by city officials to acquire 259 acres of ranch property from the Robert Hall estate is headed for executive session in a called meeting today at 5:45 pm.
Mayor Ray Bickerstaff refuses to voice any details about how the city administration will participate in the development of what he has said will be custom home lots complete with fire protection, streets, and storm drainage. He says it’s up to developers – two groups of them, to give more facts to he and City Council members.
The proposal to go into executive session for discussion of the matter came to a fiery impasse when first mentioned at a stated meeting in October. Former Mayor Jerry V. Pierce, who was voted out of office in a landslide over his open practice of a gay lifestyle and the suspension of the City Judge and City Secretary over forensic audits that raised multiple questions about money objected so strenuously that Bickerstaff and the council sought a later meeting – behind closed doors.
Said Bickerstaff at the time, the Waco city limits are crowding Wolf Lane, just down Highway Six, a rural road that angles away from the main stem into a collection of trailer parks and undeveloped acreage with modular housing that city residents deem undesirable.
They kicked the can down the road a week or two, then backed out when extensive publicity aroused a renewed interest in the proposal.
Normally, cities first plait a subdivision based on a proposal from developers who have acquisition and development capital on-hand. Their next step is to approve the plan, with the proviso that they will reserve their acceptance of streets and roads for maintenance only if they come up to DOT standards.
But Bickerstaff and company won’t give any details of how they propose to proceed. It’s all up to the developers, and he won’t even say who they are.
Now, they’re back again with a closed-door meeting Bickerstaff said will probably clear up a lot of their questions.
The public can wait, he said. Their opinions will be welcome once the tribunal has made its decision.
Quite simply, people in this charming little city at the junction of a river valley, a railroad, and the County Line don’t have much confidence in something they cannot hear, see, or weigh in their collective experience.
Said a homeowner who lives in an unincorporated area called Buffalo Estates, adjacent to a new High School located on the city limits, “Well, I don’t want to be annexed. If they can’t take care of what they have, streets water and sewer, we won’t get anything but city taxes. And as for the land, I see trailer city…”
In the housing development of Buffalo Estates, there is a strong homeowners’ association that rides herd on all proposed development. Their concern is quality, home values, and getting their money’s worth out of what taxes they are obliged to pay.
“…If they don’t have good restrictions in their by-laws and a bank roll to back it up, they are dreaming. They will need streets, street lights, sewer, water and water meters. Thought they had a water mater shortage? That’s why the other land back there didn’t develop…”
The person talking said it brought to mind a similar, ill-fated venture caught in the crippling crisis of 2008 when lenders and developers went belly-up throughout America.
“…If they get desperate, they won’t give a hoot who they sell to. It’s all about their tax base. We will look like Wolf Lane. And more kids on the free lunch program.”
Bickerstaff has big plans for economic development, a vision of bringing resorts, hotels, amusements to the area.
“…I can’t see where land development, housing (HOTELS), etc, belongs in City Hall.”
“But we really can’t do anything unless we are annexed.”