People are a lot more active than they were 10 or 15 years ago and they’re wanting Frisco to have trails and open spaces to hike, bike, walk or run. As the former Planning and Zoning Commission chairman and throughout my three years on City Council, I have been a huge advocate for parks and open spaces, especially within neighborhoods and commercial developments. This article highlights how the city plans to utilize the former Exide property to expand Grand Park by 170 acres, to bring the total amount of land reserved for parks and open spaces to 600 acres in the heart of the city.
Since the process for naming our parks has garnered so much attention lately, I’m posting my comments from last night below. All of Councils comments are available on video from the City website. The video from the meeting should be posted and indexed within a couple of days.
I’ve spent many hours researching various aspects of this request. As I mentioned in my comments on March 13th I have a philosophical aversion to naming any facility after an individual, unless posthumously. I have several thoughts I’d like to get across and I ask that you bear with me while I read this, so I don’t forget something.
As I explained previously my aversion to naming parks and buildings for individuals stems from incidents I’ve witnessed in other City’s I’ve lived in, as well as by an incident in Coppell, incidents where names of facilities had to be changed after being named for various individuals. That is certainly not a disparagement against any currently named, or proposed individuals, it is simply a statement of fact that incidents in the past have happened, and will always remain a possibility when naming after any individual, and should always be considered with the utmost care and diligence. This is only a policy and procedure issue for me.
Further we will have a very limited number of these large community parks, or other municipal facilities, to name, maybe only 8 or 9 of these parks for the entire city, and 4 already have names (Bacchus, Phillips, Warren, Frisco Commons).
I believe facility names, and in particular our large community park names should represent the heritage of our great City, and the greatest care should be given to choosing those names. To that end I do not believe any facility being named after an individual should be on a consent agenda, and that it is always worthy of an open dialogue and significant citizen input, naming a facility for an individual should never be a “routine” item at any point in the process. In fact in 2005 Councilman Allen pulled the naming of the SE Park, now Bacchus Park, and SW Park, now Philips, from the consent agenda and tabled them for a meeting, so that multiple names of the SE park could be discussed, rather than just the one presented at the time. Not only do we have very few of these parks, but its been over 11 years since we named Bacchus and Philips parks.
Our current naming ordinance states:
“When considering the naming of a park or park facilities in honor of a person, the person should have made a major contribution to the City and/or the Parks and Recreation system, or the person should be known for some other significant accomplishment”
While this allows us to name for individuals, it doesn’t really define a process, as I believe it should.
Over the last few weeks I’ve talked to all members of our naming committee, our parks board chair, as well as our parks department and city manager staff. What I’ve found is we have a very simple process. A name is suggested to the naming committee, who recommends to our parks board, then to Council, our parks staff facilitates that process. That was followed because its “what we’ve always done”.
I’ve also heard from several residents regarding the issue, since it made it into The Frisco Enterprise, and various Social Media threads. Some residents saying yes we should name it as proposed, some saying we should not, and others asking who is this, and why, and how did we get here?
I mention all of this because I believe it highlights the flaws in the current process. Sometimes “the way we’ve always done it” is no longer satisfactory, and I believe that to be the case here.
We’ve been compared to FISD who name facilities after living individuals and I’ve been asked “they can do it why shouldn’t we”? To that I answer that FISD has a very well defined process that includes a more thorough research and vetting of each nominated person that is to have a facility named for them. FISD also has significantly more facilities to name than the City will and they are building them far faster than we will build out our facilities, so naming after individuals posthumously is less of an option for them, but they do have a thoroughly researched waiting list.
A more detailed process, for naming after individuals, should include background information and reasons from the person making the nomination, comparisons during the process with other possible names, and comparisons with accomplishments of already named facilities, and more input from the community. We should be able to hold the history and accomplishments of an individual up to the community and present why that nomination is the best nomination. I appreciate the input from Mrs. Sem and Mrs. Shipman during this process. Outside of my own research they provided background that otherwise might not have been heard.
I do not, however, believe there was sufficient detail, or research for this request in our current process and there was a lack of community input. Little background or reasoning wwas given to our parks department when the name was submitted, and likewise little information was provided to the naming committee regarding background or accomplishments. There was also only brief discussion on alternatives, or comparisons with others.
I find no fault with the naming committee, our parks board or our staff, in fact I commend them on their continued work and input into all the areas they reach, these individuals are the very essence of what our City needs to make it great. Everyone proceeded with “how we always have proceeded”, but I don’t think “how we’ve always done it” lives up to our standards any longer and the process is in need of significant improvements. I’ve been told we should ”trust the process”, and to an extent this is true, unless the process is in need of change, then it should be changed first. How we’ve always done it may have been ok when we were 40 or 50 thousand, but I don’t think it works at 160,000.
I still believe facilities should be named posthumously, but I suspect I may be in the minority on that, and if that is the case then we should have a process that is both comprehensive, robust, and which requires community input so that should a facility be named after a person it captures not only their accomplishments but the history and values of the community and area of the facility as well. Further the process should be such that by the end the community (both those living directly next to it, as well as the city as a whole) understand that person’s accomplishments, what they have meant to the city, and there can be a consensus that person is the right person to be recognized. Over the last 3 weeks, given the feedback I’ve seen, and the research I’ve done, having community consensus and input, prior to reaching council, is not appearing to be the case, which is problematic for me. Any recommended name should also be viewed in the eyes of history so that comparisons can be made to other leaders throughout Frisco’s history. Lastly, we have a project coming up, that has been in the works for some time that could impact how we view the naming of many of our facilities. A comprehensive review of our naming policy should also include that as a factor.
Given all of this it is my recommendation that we take no action on this item at this time, we leave the name as simply the NE Community park for the time being, and we work on a more robust process that will better define the criteria and process of naming of facilities for individuals, as well as take into consideration possible upcoming changes to other policies. I believe it is time for a holistic review of this process. As part of my research I have provided staff with some ideas that define in more depth and detail the items I’ve mentioned tonight, I do not believe those ideas to be final in any way, but merely a starting point for additional discussions for changes to our procedures.
I look forward to hearing my colleague’s comments and thoughts.
I’ve been asked several times in multiple places about my stance on the matter of the possible Legacy substation.
As previously stated, on Facebook and in public meetings, I share many of the same concerns as our residents, and I have asked City Planning to seek alternate sites. As I indicated at Tuesday’s meeting, I’m not in favor of this request given the available information. In fact, all of the commissioners were unanimous in wanting to know more about alternative locations.
As a City Council representative, I would be proactively seeking the right solution long before it is time for a vote. As explained below, P&Z Commissioners are not apprised of cases before to the 72 hours prior to the meeting.
It’s important to understand the process by which a case is seen by P&Z Commission. When an applicant submits a request, our Development Services Department (City staff) reviews it for a variety of technical issues, as well as compliance with our comprehensive plan. Some cases can take months, or years, to work out the details and diligence to bring it into compliance with our ordinances and with the spirit and intent of our comprehensive plan. Some may only take a few weeks, and some requests may get withdrawn prior to ever being seen by the Commission.
Once sufficient information is in hand, the case will be placed on the agenda and is advertised for a public hearing. The Friday before the Commission meeting, a packet is posted to the City website with the agenda and supporting documentation for all items. The Commission members see the same information, and at the exact same time, the public does. This is by design, because the P&Z Commission is a litmus test of citizen perspective for the applicant’s case. Further, just because City staff recommends approval of a applicant, does not mean the Commission approves it.
In the instance of the possible Legacy substation, the case was placed on public agenda prior to all relevant facts and information being received. This is unusual, and was due to simple human error. But since a public hearing had been advertised, the Commission wanted to go ahead and hold the public hearing—to gather residents’ thoughts. The Commission then accepted staff’s request to take no action, since the application was not in a state to be approved or denied.
This will allow time for the actual facts of the case to be gathered. It will also allow for meetings to be held between the residents, Oncor, and City staff. I will be attending some of those as well. The fact that this may have been worked on for many months by Oncor or City staff before coming to the public’s attention has no bearing on the public comment portion of the item.
The public has always, and will always have public input into anything requiring re-zoning, or the Specific Use Permit (SUP) process. Substations require an SUP for a reason. The P&Z Commission (made up of Frisco residents) and ultimately City Council (made up of Frisco residents) have the ability to approve, deny or make changes to the requirements in any SUP submitted to us. This is all part of the normal public hearing process and is a critical part of government transparency.
This was exactly the type of public input the process is designed to solicit. I have spoken with City leaders and staff and requested the applicant seriously look at other potential sites. In the last week, I have personally proposed other options.
I have met and talked to many residents in this area, and will continue to talk to any resident that would like to speak with me. I have done so on every case, and with every resident that has ever requested to meet with me, over the last 5+ years.
Many are claiming a lack of transparency on this matter on behalf of P & Z Commissioners, and by City staff. I can say that those claims are either intentional electioneering or simply ignorance of the City process and how it works. It is easy to confuse “I didn’t get the information I wanted, when I wanted it” with “lack of transparency.” There are federal, state and local laws that regulate how planning and zoning process must be managed by a municipality, and Frisco is stalwart about following those rules—as I have always been as a Commissioner, and will continue to be as a Councilmember.