Meet Texas Leaders Saying "No" to the Wrong Kinds of Development

We're less than a month away from our first ever Strong Towns Regional Gathering, which is taking place in Plano, Texas from Wednesday, October 3rd to Friday, October 5th, 2018!

The gathering will be a one-of-a-kind opportunity for anyone diehard, enthusiastic, or even just curious about Strong Towns to CONNECT with each other, LEARN from local and national experts how to build more resilient communities, and CREATE an action plan to put those lessons to work and make real-world change. Tickets are on sale for only $125.

We chose North Texas as the location to kick off our regional gathering program for many reasons. For one, it's a place with a unique set of challenges. The Dallas-Fort Worth region has grown tremendously, it's grown rapidly, and too often it's grown in an unproductive way—as a poster child for the Suburban Experiment, which leaves places choking on unsupportable infrastructure costs.

For another reason, many of Strong Towns's longtime friends and supporters are in Texas, and we wanted to spotlight and show off to you some of the brilliant, inspiring work they're doing to move past business-as-usual in their communities.

Today, let's take a look at how communities in Texas are starting to #DoTheMath when it comes to the long-term costs of their development pattern. And even more importantly, having done the math, they're starting to actually do things differently.

Scoring Development's Fiscal Impact in Fate

Most cities assume that new development will be a net positive for their fiscal position—after all, they're "growing," right? And growth brings new revenue? The problem is that growth also brings long-term liabilities, in the form of infrastructure a city promises to maintain in perpetuity.

The small suburb of Fate, near I-30 on the eastern fringe of Dallas, could have gone the route of its predecessors throughout the region: cities that gambled it all on quick, unsustainable growth. Instead, they dared to be visionary, and are beginning to chart a different path, one rooted in Strong Towns principles.

A couple years ago, Fate City Manager Michael Kovacs began sharing some Strong Towns videos with his city council. (You can view the whole video series he chose here, and we agree with Michael that it's a great way to introduce people to our mission.)

That led local leaders to begin thinking a lot more seriously about Fate's financial future and planning for development in a way that ensures a sufficient return on each investment—one that will pay for the city's needs, not bankrupt it. Michael and his colleagues developed a strategy for analyzing the ratio of private to public investment and implemented a system that takes this into account when a new development is proposed.

Not only that, but they shared their knowledge and system with a room full of Strong Towns members at our national summit in Tulsa in 2017. They also led a web broadcast about it for a virtual audience of Strong Towns members. (Check that video out here.)

Michael Kovacs and Justin Weiss from Fate will be at the Strong Towns Regional Gathering in Plano. Come and learn from them how to #dothemath on new development in your town.

Having the Vision and Courage to Say "No" in Bastrop

Bastrop is a small city near Austin, and its municipal leaders are also taking the smart road Fate has taken. They're embracing a commitment to rigorously do the math on the cost of development, speak candidly with citizens about their own infrastructure funding gap, and know when it's time to say, "No."

Go Cultivate!, a collaborative project started by our longtime friends and sponsors at Verdunity, recently featured three Bastrop city officials on its podcast, in an episode titled "No is an acceptable answer to unsustainable development." You can learn more about the city's Building Bastrop initiative, which is intended to “to streamline the development process and create fiscally sustainable standards for future projects.”

Bastrop City Manager Lynda Humble will be at the Strong Towns Regional Gathering in Plano. Come and learn from her how to be a better public servant by asking a probing, honest set of questions, and being honest with your citizens about the answers.

Helping Communities See a Better Way

Speaking of our longtime friends and sponsors at Verdunity....

Verdunity is a planning and engineering firm in the Dallas area which does things differently. Strong Towns member Kevin Shepherd, a civil engineer, had a similar epiphany in the wake of the Great Recession to that of our founder and president Chuck Marohn. Shepherd realized that the way we planned for development and built infrastructure was bankrupting communities, and most would never be able to maintain everything they'd already built in the long term.

This insight led him to start Verdunity, which helps its clients design and build communities for long-term fiscal and environmental sustainability. Read Kevin's thoughts here on how Strong Towns principles inspire his firm and inform its work.

Kevin Shepherd will be at the Strong Towns Regional Gathering in Plano. Come and learn from him how to do planning and engineering in a better way, one that recognizes the value of incremental development and the importance of long-term sustainability.

These are just a few of the inspiring thought leaders and Strong Citizens who will be present at our North Texas Regional Gathering. Do you live in North Texas? Do you have roots in North Texas? Do you simply love North Texas and care about its future? Buy your ticket today!