By ANDY HOGUE
Register Staff Writer
Using the above quote from a well-known children’s play in her presentation, the mayor of the city of Frisco during a time of significant growth urged a room of Cooke County residents to prepare for population growth.
In December a group of students from Valley View ISD took a field trip to Frisco to meet with former Frisco Mayor Kathy Seei, who now works as an urban development consultant. Suzanne McCann, one of the organizers of the field trip, spoke with Seei about speaking to a Cooke County audience, to which she agreed.
Seei spoke to about 30 invited county residents at a lunchtime meeting in the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce building.
Introducing the former Frisco mayor, McCann said she grew up in Gainesville but left for Dallas after marrying. But returning to Gainesville she found many changes.
“Some things are different and some things are the same. But it’s interesting to look at it from both and insider and an outsider point of view,” McCann said, noting that while a population boom is arguable change is not.
Seei, upon being introduced, said growth occurs rapidly and must be planned for in advance if a city wishes to maintain its leadership in a given area.
“Thematically, some of the small towns around Gainesville could be larger than Gainesville one day,” she said.
She said she and her husband, Bob Seei, purchased land in rural Frisco in 1977.
“Well aren’t you lucky,” quipped Earl Russell of Gainesville, meeting laughter, noting the skyrocketing property values there.
When Seei and her husband built a home on the land in 1985, she said, the city had a population of 5,400. The size is comparable to nearby Sanger.
Becoming rapidly involved in the community, Seei served on the city council and later became mayor from 1996 to 2002. The city grew from 16,000 to an estimated 95,000.
“All this happened In 10 short years,” she said. “And we’re only 40 percent developed.”
She said estimates indicate Frisco could “max out” at 200,000 residents within the 71-square-mile city limits.
Though many residents of smaller towns have said to her, “We don’t want our town becoming a Frisco,” she said that is okay. She said Frisco had a plan, based on observations of growth in nearby Plano, and accommodated the home building and commerce in Frisco’s direction.
“If I had an eraser and could go back and some change things Frisco would be different,” she said. “But we did what we could.”
Seei said Frisco was in the early ’90s known for five dubious “massage parlors” and was otherwise an agricultural community such as Pilot Point. She said an economic development proposal called the “millennium plan” helped guide Frisco’s sex-based industries out and high-end retail in within a decade.
John Nobblett, Gainesville city planning technician, said Gainesville has about 11 square miles in its city limits at this time, but could fill in “between the fingers.” Nobblett noted Gainesville has city jurisdiction following roadways, with land in between as extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).
Steve Key, Precinct 2 County Commissioner, said there is about 900 square miles of land in Cooke County.
Seei said that is room to build a dynamic infrastructure and to even preserve the rural feel of the area.
“I never encourage people in a town to grow unless they want to grow,” she said. “Some people like being in small towns.”
But, she warned, a town that does not plan to control the growth could be overrun by neighboring, developing urban areas.
In her presentation, “Growth by destination, not by default,” Seei outlined several suggestions she has for cities on the cusps of a population expansion.
Firstly, she said, it is crucial to have a plan. Using a worksheet, she asked participants to list what would make their community “unique in the year 2016.” After participants scratched down some points, she asked how many had a plan to see those aspects preserved or developed.
“If you don’t have a plan in place and you don’t have those things codified (in city code), then guess what? It probably ain’t gonna happen,” she said.
Frisco developed its arts community by making city code that earmarks 2 percent of a capital project within the city limits to fund the arts. She said the result has been “organic” growth of local galleries, sculptors, theaters and other aesthetic amenities.
Another element of a growth plan is to cooperate with neighboring communities.
She applauded the city of Tioga, which has “boundary agreements” with neighboring towns in the event of population growth. She said Tioga has a plan to expand its city limits to match the Tioga ISD boundaries.
She noted there will be disagreements among residents in determining what kind of growth should take place. But she said in most cases concerned residents find they have more goals in common than in conflict.
She said residents of the city of Pottsboro, for example, met and agreed on 104 items they would like to see improved, developed or changed in 20 years. There were about 20 things the group did not agree on, Seei said.
Seei stressed the importance of involving a diversity of persons from within the community — avoiding what she calls the “STP (Same Ten People) Syndrome.” She said it is important to involve who she calls “naysayers,” as well, as they are a part of the community.
She said Gainesville has much going for it should a rapid population growth occur, soon.
“I thought Gainesville is bigger than it is, just from the impression I got meeting some of you and from driving through town,” Seei said.
Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
By ANDY HOGUE
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