By Shirley Dupriest
Every parent wants their kids to grow up in a neighborhood where they are safe, confident and loved. College Station’s neighborhoods have this reputation, but it may not continue to be the case if we don’t encourage leadership to envision, fund, and execute policy that will serve the next generation. There are a number of factors that are taking us down a different path.
A major problem for families is that the central area of the city is being transformed by Stealth Dorms and the rent-by-the room investor model is spreading beyond that. Stealth dorms create unsafe conditions for children including heavy street parking and traffic congestion. Second, families move away if they can afford it, and new residents stop buying as soon as they become aware the neighborhood has been targeted. The competition for lots by Stealth Dorm investors has also increased land values and taxes by thousands of dollars per year. And yet some candidates for city council have argued that an investor has a “personal property right” do anything they want with their property, despite how much damage it does to the families and the quality of life in the neighborhood.
The city has also failed to implement the vast majority of the neighborhood improvements promised in the neighborhood plans developed around 2012. Bike lanes needed to provide a safe path for children in congested areas have not been created. And rental investors are allowed to pay a fee instead of building the sidewalks required by code, so children have no option but the travel on the street. Despite collecting this fee, the city does not appear to have a plan to ever build sidewalks.
Despite College Station doubling in size, there has been no significant investment in new city parks in 20 years. Residents that use older facilities, like Thomas Pool, have had to battle for funding to keep them functioning. Some walking trails that have been damaged appear to have been abandoned due to lack of funding. The Veterans Park and Athletic Complex is the last visionary facility to have been developed. But it was built to attract tennis, soccer, football and baseball tournaments from across the state. This is great for hotels and restaurants, but our families get pushed to the sidelines when they are rented out. So Veterans Park is not a good alternative to a strong local park or trail system
Too often, growth occurs wherever investors are willing to invest. That’s fine for getting new houses built, but we can’t assume those companies’ actions are going to automatically make our city a great place for families and children. We are told we have $300 million in unfunded projects planned, and it appears the reason we cannot pay for them is that our tax dollars are being used to pay for infrastructure for the developers. Yet at the same time, developers pay only 10% of the cost of the impact they impose on the city’s infrastructure costs. Hence, our lack of funding for the types of amenities that would improve our community as a whole is a direct result of the development-friendly fiscal policies that the city has adopted. We can’t really say that city leadership is intentionally neglecting the next generation, but it does not seem to be actively developing and pursuing the needs of the families of College Station.
A pro-family philosophy is not anti-business. If we invest in making the city a great place for children and families, we make it a great place for companies. In fact, if we fail to remain a great place for families, we will not attract the types of new industry and business we desire.
When selecting your candidate for city council, look for people with experience and a “vision” for College Station, a city of diversity and economic health, but with the ambiance of a small town community. Vote for Dennis Maloney and Joe Guerra Jr. for city council for College Station families.