Planning the "Right" Residential to Commercial Mix

In the last election cycle, we heard a lot about the imbalance of residential to commercial as the reason the residential tax burden is so high in McKinney. The seemingly obvious answer would be to just bring in more commercial. But, it really isn’t that easy. According to the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, to have the right mix, we’ve got to diversify our residential base as well. Many residents may not like what the results of a balanced mix will look like—less single family and more high density living.

The right mix of residential to commercial is different for residents, cities, and school districts. What a resident might want for the city: nature, open spaces, different kinds of single family neighborhoods, not as many apartments, smaller and efficient school district, parks, lack of traffic, work close by, and various food and retail choices might be miles apart from what a city is looking for, and miles apart from what a school district is looking for.
Cities are looking for revenue in the form of property taxes, sales taxes, and other fees or fines. They look for revenue to pay for the services they need to provide, like utilities, infrastructure, essential services (police and fire), and services they want to provide (like, parks, recreation services, and an airport). Cities want to optimize the kinds of revenue they can get. A comprehensive plan can help them attain that goal.

So, from the city’s perspective, single family residential is a drag because the city doesn’t get as much in property tax revenue as it would from town homes. And, town homes wouldn’t give the city as much revenue as apartments. The service costs per unit are less for multifamily than they are for single family. The slides do not make it clear if those costs include police and fire. However, to residents, this means a more crowded city with more crime. To the local school district, this means building more schools and hiring more staff. More apartments are a win from the city’s viewpoint, but residents and the school district might see it differently.

In the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the city of McKinney wants to decrease the share of single family homes and increase the share of town homes and multifamily.  “Urban Residential” is a higher density residential that is everywhere in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. According to the CP planners, our city will need to be much less single family to have a more fiscally responsible residential to commercial mix.

There are fewer parking spaces in most urban residential development so people can “live, work, play.” McKinney tried this in the 2004 Comprehensive Plan by making the Regional Employment Center (REC) with disastrous results. The REC was the area of 121, 75, McKinney Ranch Parkway, and Custer. Land stayed vacant for a long time because there were no developers who wanted to spend more money on land to build high density developments. Eventually, it led to the large apartment cluster on the West side (5 different apartment buildings in a very small area). Many of the landowners eventually got zoning changed to single family. Most of the REC requirements for high density urban design were abandoned in 2013. Downtown McKinney is trying the urban design live, work, play with the 9-acre development. We will see if the time has come for it or not.

Maybe it was a matter of timing and more people will find the urban residential more appealing in the future. However, a city that is mostly single family, like it is now, will look very different as a city with more balanced amounts of single family, town home, and mulitfamily. 

See One McKinney 2040 for more information

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