‘Smart Growth’ Means Planning Ahead

Jesse Davis, Council Member, District 3, City of Denton

The Census 2020 numbers are in. The City of Denton has grown to a population of 139,369—an increase of over 26,000 people since 2010.

Of course, this isn’t really news for most of us. Signs of growth are everywhere in Denton. Longer lines at stores and red lights. More houses and businesses, and rising property values. More orange cones as we work to improve roads and utilities. It even seems harder to get a doctor’s appointment.

There are some positives to balance out the headaches. Denton is eligible for more federal grant money for housing and community services. Denton County has gained a Texas House of Representatives district, which includes a southern part of the city, amplifying our voice in Austin. More people shopping here means more sales tax dollars, which help offset the need for property tax dollars. Speaking of property taxes, adding more homes and businesses to the tax rolls is the only way we can keep lowering the city’s tax rate (as City Council did again this year).

We also know the growth’s not going to stop anytime soon, because it plowed right on through the COVID-19 pandemic. So, what do we do about it? We have to practice “smart growth,” using the limited tools we have to shape and manage our growth for maximum community benefit.

One of these tools is the Denton Development Code (DDC). Most people know about the zoning part of the DDC—the set of ordinances that prevents things like an ammunition factory next to an elementary school. Lesser known are rules like commercial design standards (that prevent sub-par and eyesore building) and parking minimums (to reduce the need to park in the street). We can even target specific goals, like tree preservation or appropriate buildings on the historic downtown Square. We are constantly updating and improving the DDC, often through a task force I chair called the Development Code Review Committee.

Another tool is our Comprehensive Plan, which we are updating right now. It includes things like the Mobility Plan and Future Land Use Map (FLUM). The Mobility Plan shows where we need to expand roads or build new ones. It also shows where we need to add bike and pedestrian options. By including these things in our Mobility Plan, we can require developers to build their roads and sidewalks in the places we’ve already planned, rather than using taxpayer money after the fact. The FLUM shows developers and landowners what kind of development we expect or encourage in any given area and informs future project approvals or zoning changes.

The best part about updating the Comprehensive Plan is that it’s a team effort, and you’re part of the team! Visit www.discussdenton.com/denton2040 for more information and to give your input.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me on these issues and any others before the Denton City Council. You can reach me by email at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll see you around town!