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State of the Cities: Rockwall, Heath, Fate and McLendon-Chisholm

A drone’s eye view of Rockwall County. Photo by Danny Siminiuk, SulpoVAR, LLC.

(ROCKWALL, TX — February 28, 2019) At its partnership luncheon on Feb. 20, Rockwall Chamber of Commerce welcomed State of the City addresses from the mayors of Rockwall, Heath, Fate and McLendon-Chisholm. Here are some highlights from each of the mayors’ presentations.

City of Rockwall

In his State of the City presentation, Mayor Jim Pruitt highlighted the exponential growth of Rockwall within the past 10 years. In that time frame, the city’s population increased 39 percent, with a residential tax base increase of 80 percent and a non-residential tax base increase of 69 percent.

To go along with those growing population numbers, the city had $17.5 million in sales taxes, $76 million in new home permits and $97 million in commercial permits last year alone.

“Every dollar we get in commercial buildings that go on the tax roll is a dollar that you’re not going to have to pay as a homeowner in the City of Rockwall,” Pruitt said.

For music lovers, there’s no better place to call home than the city of Rockwall – the official Free Live Music Capital of North Texas. Pruitt said residents can look forward to more than 150 free live concerts within the city this year, along with a public art fiberglass guitar project from the Rockwall Art Commission. The project will see five fiberglass guitars measuring approximately five feet in stature (six feet once mounted on their concrete bases) installed in five locations around the city. Each guitar will bear the Free Live Music Capital of North Texas logo on its base and be painted by local volunteer artists.

Pruitt spotlighted some other exciting developments coming to Rockwall, including covered pickleball courts in Harry Myers Park and a new white tablecloth Italian restaurant called Giovanni’s coming soon to The Harbor.

Pruitt also addressed one major project that will have an impact not only on the city, but the county as a whole: the I-30 expansion. TxDOT’s proposed improvements to I-30 include widening the highway from six main lanes (three in each direction) to eight main lanes (four in each direction) from Dalrock Road to SH 205, and reconstructing the four discontinuous frontage roads (two lanes in each direction) to six-lane continuous frontage roads (three lanes in each direction), to include bicycle and pedestrian accommodations crossing Lake Ray Hubbard.

“For business owners along I-30, it’s going to be a mess. We’ve teamed up with a couple cities that are on I-30 to try and work out a plan to keep these businesses open during construction,” Pruitt said. “When we had the construction going on for San Jacinto Plaza downtown, we were able to keep every one of those businesses open to where they were able to get customers into their businesses.”

Construction for the I-30 project is expected to begin in the fall of 2022.

City of Heath

The City of Heath continues to strive towards encouraging large lots, investing in a citywide trail system, and providing amenities that reflect its semi-rural charm.

Mayor Kelson Elam said the city recently signed an agreement with the JER Chilton YMCA at Rockwall for them to manage the ball fields at Town Center Park, with plans in the works to bring park enhancements that benefit all ages.

“We’re going to gather data to see how many people are using our ball fields, and our goal is to build a satellite of the JER Chilton YMCA at Rockwall,” Elam said.

Elam also mentioned the city will work with a top designer of all-inclusive park equipment to bring a tranquil playground area to accommodate kids with special needs. In the fall of this year, residents can also look forward to the opening of the city’s first grocery store in Tom Thumb.

A rendering of the SouthRidge dining and entertainment venue in Heath. Photo courtesy of the City of Heath.

Another exciting development opening in Heath this year is the SouthRidge dining and entertainment venue (formerly known as the Heath Hub). This venue located at the northwest corner of FM 740 and FM 1140 will feature a Standard Service restaurant with an expanded menu; a weekend market with eight to 10 vendors; a food truck court; a public stage for live music and community events;  a jumbo outdoor LED screen for family movies and sports; two large turf areas for gaming and relaxing; five fire pits with seating for 20 each; and 220 parking spots. Crews are working hard to have the venue open for residents this summer.

Elam said the city will also look to expand on its downtown area near City Hall, bringing in more retail to the town’s center for families to walk around,eat and shop.

“We’re looking for a very warm, walkable downtown,” Elam said.

City of Fate 

At 17,000 people, the City of Fate ranks as the second largest city in Rockwall County. Statistics around the web show Fate as the 6th fastest-growing city in the state of Texas. However, Mayor Lorne Megyesi said those numbers don’t accurately reflect the growth of the city.

“Next year in 2020, the new census comes out and that is going to be very critical to the City of Fate. The biggest challenge that we face right now is that the growth numbers shown on paper don’t match up with reality,” Megyesi said. “If we can get those numbers right, we can show the business community that we are viable and have that community base here, and then we’ll start getting all the commercial we need for our growth.”

City of Fate Development Landscape. Image courtesy of the City of Fate.

Megyesi said the city will focus on attracting commercial businesses to help sustain the fast growth. The city recently purchased land for development for a downtown revitalization, with concept plans for the downtown area including three-story, multi-use buildings with apartments on the top floors and retail on the bottom floors

To compliment the Robert Smith Family Park on the city’s north side, Megyesi said the city is looking at some 20 acres of land near Royse City to implement a park for families living on the city’s south side. Megyesi said the city is also currently planning ways to develop a plot of 300 acres located north of I-30 in Fate.

“One of the things we’re looking at is how we are going to develop this area to make sure it’s going to last 50 years down the road,” he said. “If we have that vision now, then 10 to 15 years from now, we’re not going to be in trouble.”

City of McLendon-Chisholm

Even the smallest city in the county in McLendon-Chisholm has seen a lot of growth in recent years. In 1990, the city had a little over 500 people; Today, more than 3,200 call McLendon-Chisholm their home. The city has roughly 1,200 homes and small businesses on the ground and a Certified Market Value of $534 million.

In his presentation, Mayor Keith Short touched on the city’s recently-established McLendon-Chisholm Fire/Rescue Department. The new department serves Fire District 22, which is a part of the city and also includes the unincorporated areas of the southern part of Rockwall County.

With a majority of the city zoned as agriculture, Short said they will look to preserve the rural lifestyle within the city by maintaining the open spaces and larger lots. Short said the incoming SH 205 expansion project will also afford McLendon-Chisholm more opportunities to draw in more businesses.

“We want commercial development consistent with our city along that 205 corridor – solid businesses that look pleasing but are here to stay,” Short said. “We’re currently working with the county and TxDOT to ensure that the 205 project benefits all of us.”

By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News.

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