After years of anticipation and months of intense negotiations, the city has finally approved a master plan for the Dry Creek Preserve area, a 795-acre space of wildlife and agricultural lands generally bounded by Nees Avenue to the south, Big Dry Creek to the west, Enterprise Canal on the east, and Shepherd Avenue to the north.
For years, rural area resident Dale Mitchell and his neighbors worked tirelessly on a plan that would ensure their Clovis way of life—one where they could maintain their agricultural uses, keep their horses, livestock and other animals, and maintain their own wells and septic systems. In late 2016, Mitchell joined forces with an unlikely ally—Woodside Homes—which originally had heated discussions with the neighborhood in its quest to bring forth a new development. While neighbors opposed any and all development, after much negotiation neighbors relented that development was inevitable and most agreed Woodside’s plan for much larger homes spread out at 2.3 per acre was a best-case scenario.
With a majority of the 250 neighbors in the area in agreement with Woodside Homes, the tedious work began on creating a plan that would suit both parties, as well as the city.
In June, a master plan serving the needs of all three was finally approved unanimously by the city council.
“We’ve been through a journey here,” said Matt Smith with Woodside Homes. “I came on with Woodside five years ago and the first thing that I did was work with the northernmost proposal we had and that ended up not working out. About three years ago, we started putting the pieces together for this project and as we started working on it we saw this as a project. We saw it as homes coming in. There were no good new projects near Buchanan High School at the time and we thought this would be perfect for people who would potentially work at the cancer center. That was our thought and it has evolved since then because I started to work more with the neighbors.
“We had five neighborhood meetings. The first it was incredibly contentious and it has slowly evolved to where it’s not perfect but we’ve found a way to work together so I’m proud of that. I take pride in the fact that Dale has been working on this plan for such a long time and as I look at it now, I smile because we are helping the neighbors preserve 70 to 80 percent of this area out there and my opinion has changed. We would typically go and fight for what the developer wants, what Woodside wants, but we’ve found ourselves in multiple meetings where we are instead trying to offer our help to the neighbors with the city, and that is reflective of when we came before you six months ago. I’m proud to be just a small part of it as well as the annexation agreement that has come forward.”
Mitchell said the final document may not give every person everything they want, but it represents the compromises of many parties coming together and deciding the best course of action for everyone involved.
“Because it represents compromises, very few people got every single thing they wanted but we do think we ended up with a product that will make most people happy. I don’t think we’ve got anything in the plan that should unreasonably damage any party, including the city and the county.” Mitchell said. “The new plan for Focus Area 7 eliminates that hurdle of having to develop a master plan for those individuals in the area that seek the development property, it gives them a couple options for development either for rural residential or they can develop if they have 10 acres or more at 2.3 units per acre. Those density standards have received a lot of discussion and I think most folks within the reserve are consensual with that. Because it preserves the 80 percent of the Dry Creek Preserve area as rural residential, we think that is a pretty fair balance for maintaining the way of life in the area. We also think it maintains an area of linkage for this historical background in Clovis as well. As Clovis develops further north and further east, it would be easy for that agricultural history. This will represent at least for the next 20 years a place that people in Clovis can actually see some agriculture and see a rural lifestyle that is very close to the Clovis I remember from my childhood almost 70 years ago.”
While a couple residents in the Dry Creek Preserve said they didn’t feel they were represented in the master plan, the majority said they are very happy with the result of all the negotiations.
“This is civic engagement at its finest,” resident Casey Belmont said. “As a county resident at the moment, this addresses all of my concerns. I don’t see no development in the Dry Creek Preserve being a real sustainable direction so development is going to happen. In that case, I would like to see this plan and I appreciate we do have a path to development in the area but it’s smart. This is a common sense development that fits with the character of the area and isn’t a huge burden to current residents.”
Aside from approving the master plan, the city also approved an annexation agreement for a portion of the Dry Creek Preserve where Woodside Homes will be constructing its development. The annexation involves bringing in eight current properties at the northwest corner of Teague and Fowler avenues into the city of Clovis.
While the affected residents in this area had some concerns, mostly with the flow of traffic during and after construction, the majority, again, were in favor of the Woodside Homes project and believe it will be a good fit for the area.