Dean Cardwell, PE Headshot

Small Increases in
Open-Space Can Mean Big Shifts in Approach

Frisco’s Dean Cardwell weighs in on development impacts

Last year, the City of Frisco – commonly referred to as the fastest-growing community in America – decided to increase their minimum open-space requirement on new development projects from seven to 10 percent.

Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney has noted that the change is designed to help balance the pace of development with the quality or “right type” of development.

Additional revisions included requiring the open space be consolidated in one area rather than dispersed throughout the project, that the area be a minimum of 50-feet wide and have a minimum of eight amenities from a city-approved list alongside other required features.

So how are these changes – designed to encourage quality, accessible open-space vs. any open-space – impacting development opportunities in the community?

Certain Uses Are Feeling the Squeeze

Some commercial uses do not require large sites, but they do require indoor and outdoor space. A great example is a childcare facility. A stand-alone center may use no more space than a quick-serve restaurant; however, a major component of their use is an outdoor play space. To carve out an additional 10 percent of open space that meets the city’s requirements would require more land which may challenge the larger business case.

Proactive planning can minimize the impacts and maximize the opportunity, but regional and program developers will need to factor this additional requirement into their proformas. The ordinance does allow for exceptions that cater to certain businesses and uses that may also be applicable.

Larger Sites = More Options

On the positive side, we have seen developments in the area where the previous open-space requirement was met, but the actual open space was not accessible, connected or valuable in nature. In many cases, a few considerations in the early planning stages could have created a more comprehensive project approach including open space amenities that enhance the project, its cohesiveness into surrounding uses and even the connectivity within the growing region.

While the percentage drives a larger percentage of land use, any larger site or a master-planned project will provide more flexible upfront options for both meeting the requirements and finding valuable amenities in line with the development use(s).

Upfront Reality Check

If nothing else, we see this ordinance creating a filter of sorts for the unprecedented amount of envisioned or proposed projects in Frisco. The city has set their standard and, in some cases, the serious and sophisticated organizations will be able to make sites work when the more novice, upstart developers may not be able or willing to invest in the land or some of the costlier permitted amenity options such as water features and mature tree groves.

It seems like Frisco has no problem setting the standard and working with those who agree and share the same values and long-term vision for the community.

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