— By CHRISTIN COYNE
WILLOW PARK – Willow Park came one step closer Tuesday night to adopting a plan that sets goals for city infrastructure improvements and lays out a framework for developers to pay for those projects.
A capital improvements plan that looks at Willow Park’s water and sewer system needs through 2040 was expected to go to the council Wednesday night for adoption after approval Tuesday night by the plan review committee.
The plan review committee, consisting of the city’s planning and zoning commission, as well as a resident of the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction, held a public hearing on the plan. However, no member of the public spoke.
City officials have been working on the plan in recent months, citing a need to adopt a plan as soon as possible to ensure the city’s infrastructure needs are met as the city grows.
The city does not have a current capital improvements plan, something that council members say has been a challenge for the city when negotiating with developers looking to connect to the city’s water and sewer systems.
The plan was designed by an engineer in compliance with state law and looked at what long-range water and wastewater system capital improvements are needed as the city reaches maximum build-out, according to City Administrator Matt Shaffstall.
The plan predicts how the city will grow using some of the land use assumptions, Shaffstall said, adding that the city is expected to max out between 10,000 and 12,000 residents. The city’s population is currently estimated at more than 4,300.
“In order to be able to service a system of 10,000 or 12,000, it makes a series of recommendations of what we will need,” Shaffstall said. “On the water side, one of the first things the city’s going to have to do in the near-term future is address a surface water solution.”
The plan states that an additional source of water is currently needed for the city to meet demand.
Drilling additional wells will only be a Band-Aid to the system’s water demands so there is a need to purchase surface water from Weatherford or Fort Worth, according to the plan.
“It also talked about some other immediate needs - that the system would benefit from being a looped system,” Shaffstall said. “Right now we have a single main line on Ranch House Road. That’s part of the pressure issues and part of the maintenance issues. When something interupts that main line it cuts off the flow to the south of town.”
“It also talks about over time, where it envisions the natural points of development to occur,” Shaffstall said.
Those are located particularly in the southern part of the city, along Bankhead Highway, along Interstate 20 because there is land to be developed and infrastructure to reach it, he said, adding that the plan lays out where additional water lines should be located.
The sewer system is also addressed in the capital development plan.
“The most immediate needs are to increase the size and replace the existing waste water lift stations,” Shaffstall said.
In addition to addressing the city’s three lift stations, the plan also addresses areas were future development is expected and lays out areas where line upsizing will likely be needed.
“The final step in this is it creates an impact fee recommendation for the city,” Shaffstall said. “An impact fee would be a charge per standard unit to the developer.”
“Those are charges that would be applied to developers, not applied to existing homeowners, not applied to existing businesses,” Shaffstall said.
After adoption of the plan, if a developer came in looking to put in a housing development, the city would be able to charge them based on the number of new homes, Shaffstall said. “It’s a way for new development to help fund the cost of adding to our existing water system.”
“The other thing that we talked about in our committee meeting was that some of these projects are going to be built by the developer directly,” Shaffstall said., adding “We’ve outlined a skeleton or a framework of how we would like to see our system developed.”
The committee recommended adoption of the capital improvements plan and offered several observations.
There appears to be no provisions to provide sewer service to the northern portion of the city, curtailing the opportunity for growth in the area, P&Z Chairman David Fritz noted in his motion.
The committee also observed that current development may cause the city to reach greater population levels earlier than anticipated in the plan, Fritz stated.
Because the plan uses projections, rather than historical data, of production capabilities of three water wells the city recently drilled, the committee also recommended the city look again at the plan several months later to see if adjustments are warranted.
Shaffstall said he does recommend the city look at the plan again but do so after a comprehensive plan is adopted.
The comprehensive plan will look at land use assumptions and they will want to make sure those two match, as well as look the well production information, Shaffstall said.