Manvel city council ultimately agreed to table a vote on a Master Thoroughfare Plan (MTP) after several testy exchanges between members. A revised plan was originally discussed in March and then again in May with action both times returning the Plan to the Planning, Development, & Zoning Commission (PD&Z) for modification. The consideration of the matter this week was anticipated to be a formality. But passionate arguments from member Melody Hanson opposing a provision of the plan set off a lengthy debate on private property rights. At issue was a provision calling for the use of drainage easements for the installation of an off-street trail system with bicycles being the primary expected user. Hanson interpreted the verbiage to mean an owner of property along a watershed, be it a bayou or creek or tributary, would be subject to a public bike trail running through their property whether it was desired or not. Member Adrian Gaspar interpreted the document differently explaining the easement would only effect a property if and when development occurred. Member Lorraine Hehne sided with Gaspar in explaining that a current property owner would not be subject to any part of the Plan. She considers the Plan necessary to protect the interests of Manvel citizens long term.
City Manager Kyle Jung more clearly elucidated the point saying the requirement to meet the subdivision ordinance, of which the MTP would be part of, would be necessary any time a property is subdivided. The intention of that part of the Plan, as is the case with most of the Plan, is contemplated for larger scale developments containing many acres of individual lots; the expectation being that developers would fund the majority of the provisions of the Plan. Member Lew Shuffler raised an issue that apparently was not included in the deliberations by PD&Z when he reminded his fellow members that a recent meeting saw council approve a request from a Manvel landowner to subdivide his property so that he could give one acre to his son-in-law in order to build a home. Strict adherence to the MTP as contemplated would necessarily demand the entire subdivided acreage meet the conditions of the city’s subdivision ordinance. Members took poise at that consequence and further considered the likely detriment to a sale of property that would require so large a land contribution to accord with the Plan.
The original revised plan submitted in March called for generally smaller roads than the previous plan called for. Many on council and PD&Z took exception to that citing the 2008 and the 2015 Comprehensive Plans as supporting their claim that Manvel citizens expressed a strong desire to keep a rural feel as the town grows. PD&Z member Brian Wilmer explained his view at the time that “the amount of space we set aside for roadways can never be made bigger.” He referred to the city of Pearland as an example of the need to retain wide road right of ways (ROW’s), “Pearland is contemplating purchasing (or using eminent domain) to acquire space along FM 518 to widen the road at a huge monetary and political cost. Are we going to give away ROW’s now, for no real reason, and then have to fight to get them back in the future?”
The plan as submitted by PD&Z that prompted this week’s discussion calls for 14 major corridors each providing 120 feet of ROW. That width would allow six 12 foot traffic lanes (3 in each direction), a 16 foot median, and a 16 foot green space on either side to accommodate sidewalks, trails, and such. Arterials “typically carry the highest amounts of traffic and also have the highest speeds depending on the context of the environment.” Arterials would require 100 feet of ROW, typically providing four 12 foot traffic lanes with the remaining 52 feet used in some configuration of median and side green space for multi-purpose use. Collector streets “focus on moving traffic between neighborhoods and different areas within the city,” and would require an 80 foot ROW with the number of lanes varying from two to four “depending on the current and future demands and the potential development.” Developers generally consider the Plan as overreaching and oppose the mandating of so many wide road ways as further encumbering project margins. Land owners along the plans roadways that one day desire to sell their property would likewise be unhappy with the prospect of a loss of property value due to the amount of land essentially being given to the city in order to meet the ROW mandates.
The plan excludes SH 288, SH 6, and SH 1128 which are all controlled by TxDOT. The Plan is envisioned to comprise a range of transportation choices, described as multi-modal, which will offer opportunities to drive, bike, and walk. A focus on mobility choice will serve to promote a vibrant community and would support strong neighborhoods, employment centers, and activity centers.
SH 288 and SH 6 are the two major thoroughfares within the community and set the foundation for overall network development as they are the key focal points for future residential and commercial development. Current traffic counts on each of those roadways are typically in excess of 20,000 vehicles each day. A limiting factor the Plan contends with is the lack of contiguous connectivity through the city limits and its ETJ. Croix Road (CR 58) is projected as a major corridor but it ends at the middle of DelBello Road (CR 90), another major corridor, and fails to continue east to Masters and even further east towards Pearland and Friendswood. Bissel Road (CR 190) is shown as an arterial and could be another viable east-west route to relieve SH 6 traffic but it is not contiguous throughout the city limits. The growing number of master-planned communities presents the challenge of adding critical linkages in order to prevent system congestion.
The Plan considers it important to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle activity and includes a non-motorized network including both on-street and off-street bike facilities and the inclusion of sidewalks and pedestrian amenities along a number of corridors within the city. These areas will provide access to schools, shopping, and transit stops, and will provide public spaces for people to enjoy recreational activities. Along with the use of wider rights-of way and open space along drainage corridors, bayous, and undeveloped areas, the bicycle and pedestrian amenities will serve to better balance the city’s traditional rural character with future development.
Manvel Mayor Delores Martin encouraged council members to study the Plan in advance of the next scheduled meeting on September 28.