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Council calls for diverse views

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Variety of perspectives sought for citizen panel on comprehensive plan

Council members asked the city planning staff this week to reach out to more neighborhood representatives as they assemble a citizen advisory committee for Denton’s new comprehensive plan.

Council member Jim Engelbrecht said he wanted to see varied residential interests better represented. Seats had been designated for the Chamber of Commerce and large and small businesses, as well as the Planning and Zoning Commission and large landowners — which Engelbrecht characterized as business interests, too.

“I’m not so concerned about whether we have neighborhood association interests, or homeowner associations, but multifamily interests — we don’t have that,” Engelbrecht said, adding that someone who has opted to live in Denton as a renter may have yet another perspective. 

Engelbrecht also asked that bicycle and pedestrian interests be represented.

Having served on committees for previous comprehensive plans, Engelbrecht has seen different community interests learn from each other when they serve together on such committees.

The feedback came during a City Council work session Tuesday afternoon.

Both the city staff and the planning consultants have recommended the City Council appoint such a committee to oversee the planning process. The committee would consist of 25 to 30 residents, business owners and large landowners.

The business owners and large landowners — people who have interest in 125 acres or more — would not have to be residents to participate, since the plan affects their interests whether they are residents or not, City Planner Brian Lockley said.

Denton’s latest comprehensive plan, drafted in 1999, needs updating because the population has increased 40 percent and the city has annexed about 3,000 acres since then. In addition, other major and unforeseen changes have affected Denton, including the downtown transit center, the Barnett Shale natural gas boom and increases in enrollment at University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University.

Planners have said the city should plan for another 100,000 people over the next two decades.

A team of consultants, costing about $628,000, has been retained by the city to help with the plan’s update over the next 18 months, including Florida-based Wallace Roberts & Todd, Gresham Smith & Partners of Dallas and Maryland-based TischlerBise.

Even though the citizens advisory committee is among the best practices in shaping a comprehensive plan, such a committee is a new element for Denton, Lockley told the council.

The current plan, created in 1999, used a different committee structure to enlist the help of residents in drafting the plan. Past participants would also be included on the new committee, for historical perspective, Lockley said.

The current committee would be asked to represent broad community views as they review and comment on technical reports and documents prepared by the consultants and the city staff for the city’s plan, Lockley said. 

Committee members would also represent institutions. For example, seats on the committee would be set aside to represent Denton County, the Denton County Transportation Authority, the Denton school district, TWU and UNT.

Mayor Mark Burroughs suggested seats from interests that represent “the edge,” including not only communities such as Krum, Argyle, Northlake and Sanger and the Lake Ray Roberts Planning and Zoning Commission, but large landowners in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction.

Burroughs also suggested that the downtown area have its own representative, since the current plan emphasizes the area.

The advisory committee also is likely to include members from the city’s standing boards and commissions.

Committees can be valuable in dealing with issues as they arise in the planning process, but “if issues need further vetting, they can go to the council before moving forward,” Lockley said.

Applications for service on the committee are on the website for the comprehensive plan, Applications are due Sept. 28.

The council is expected to appoint the committee in October, as the committee’s first meeting and briefing are already scheduled for Nov. 6. The group would meet about every other month for a few hours and consistent attendance is important, Lockley said.

A three-day community forum, the first of three such forums to which the entire community is invited, is also scheduled for Nov. 8-10, Lockley said.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is