By Betsy Dolan
By the time spring rolls round, the City of Richmond will be in the midst of a re-birth, thanks to a bounty of undeveloped land and freedom that comes from a new city charter approved by voters in May.
City leaders have hired a Houston urban planning firm, Kendig Keast, to help in the development of a comprehensive master plan that will help guide the city’s development for the next 20 years. The plan must be in place by May 2014.
“Our existing plan dates back to the early 1940’s, so we have decided to formulate a new modernized plan that makes sense for today and tomorrow’s Richmond”, said Mayor Evalyn Moore.
Last May, Richmond voters approved a change to the city’s charter from general law to home rule and ok’d a planning and zoning board. The changes mean Richmond can now use its city charter to govern its own affairs rather than rely on state statues. In addition, citizens can push for change through the petition process and the city now has increased annexation powers.
With 42 square miles in its extra-territorial jurisdiction, city officials say the master plan will be a living document that will help guide them on issues like land use, economic development opportunities and the ability to work in tandem with parks and transportation master plans.
“Highway 59 and FM 762 is really our front door”, said Gary Gillen, one of three city commissioners in Richmond. “We would like to see a high quality development go in there like a corporate campus or a hotel and some shopping”.
Other areas with growth potential include FM 359 and along U.S. 90A.
“Prior to the charter change, Richmond was constrained in its growth potential”, said Moore. “But through strategic annexations and planning and zoning, Richmond can move forward with business growth and tax reductions for our residents”.
Richmond’s property tax rate is currently $.78, among the highest in Fort Bend County. But already change is happening in Richmond. Apartments are going up on land the city owns near the Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital along the Southwest Freeway. Commercial development will be built in that location in the next year or two. And Richmond is in the process of hiring an Economic Development Director to handle what everyone knows is coming.
“We’re at a moment of great importance”, said Gillen. “The potential for growth can overwhelm us or we can prepare for it.”