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Fair Oaks Ranch plans for future

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FAIR OAKS RANCH — With elections in the rearview mirror, City Council is focusing on challenges ahead, including fine-tuning the Comprehensive Plan, managing road construction and controlling development.

“We’ve got a large number of foundational plans in place,” said Garry Manitzas, re-elected May 5 for a second mayoral term. “We’re running quickly here and trying to catch up.  We’ve got a lot to do.”

While the town’s embryonic Planning and Zoning Commission forms, Manitzas said developing the comprehensive plan will help guide decisions regarding city policies and departments overseeing land use, transportation, utility infrastructure, recreation, housing and capital improvements.

Several analyses are underway to better understand issues and determine taxpayers’ ballpark costs, said City Manager Tobin Maples.

“We’re wrapping up all these studies to do over the next year,” Maples said.

Councilwoman Snehal Patel said meeting many people’s wants on various issues is difficult.

“With the City Council, we all have a shared vision of a beautiful Hill Country community that meets the needs of all our citizens including families with children, empty nesters and retirees,” she said. “We also need to plan for the future, which is what we’re doing with a much-needed systematic evaluation and updates to our core infrastructure, including developing a comprehensive plan for effectively handling our wastewater, drinking water and stormwater needs.”

Echoing Manitzas, Councilman Roy Elizondo said completing the comprehensive plan and zoning regulations is a priority. But there are other needs as well.

“In addition, we have the master water and wastewater study, drainage study and utility-rate study that we need to complete,” he said. “Public Works has mapped all the existing fire hydrants, and we’re studying opportunities to improve fire-hydrant coverage in the city as part of the wastewater study.”

Construction and roadway development are big concerns. While running for office, Elizondo said many residents expressed worries over betterments at the city’s entrance, plus future expansion of FM 3351.

The burg has aligned with Scott Polikov, president of Gateway Planning, to work with the Texas Department of Transportation in hopes of developing the major thoroughfares around the municipality without affecting its “small-town” feel, the councilman said.

Continued traffic development north of the bedroom community along Texas 46 — which some predict will be like San Antonio’s jam-packed north Loop 1604 in the future — also troubles residents.

“We want to make sure that the changes consider the impacts on our residential areas. The Cibolo Creek bridge at Fair Oaks Ranch is an example of the changes we can expect to see as the population mushrooms around us,” Elizondo said.

Manitzas agreed, adding that development is taking the city in new directions.

“A lot of people have been concerned with traffic noise and construction,” Manitzas said. “Some people have complained to me they can’t even enjoy their backyards because of the noise. During the election, I (spoke about) focusing on protecting our way of life and managing growth.” “We’re starting to get younger generations and people curious about more parks and recreational opportunities,” he added.

Though the city doesn’t have a parks and recreation deapartment, it works with Fair Oaks Ranch Homeowners Association, which maintains trails and natural areas.

“(We) have a very good relationship with them, but (a municipal parks and recreation department) may be something to look into in the future,” the mayor said.

Councilman Steve Hartpence’s approach to planning is simple.

“My thought on development in Fair Oaks Ranch: Less is more,” he said.

Elizondo said the city also would continue addressing the abundant deer and wildlife including feral hogs; the latter “are a higher risk to property and safety than the deer.”

“My observation is that the current deer-feeding program has resulted in less congregation of (white-tailed) deer around homes,” Elizondo said. “There’s been a lot of argument about whether we’ve reached our limit on how many deer our community can accommodate, but the latest expert opinion is that we are at an acceptable level.”

The deer-control program will be reviewed later this year, he added.

Meanwhile, the councilman encourages residents to get involved in their city.

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