City of Rowlett Responds to Public Outcry Regarding Change in Bayside Plans

City officials and Rowlett residents are upset that the highly publicized Crystal Lagoon planned for Rowlett’s $1 billion Bayside project has been removed from the developer’s plan. Also nixed from the plan is a one-acre fountain. The revised development would include a smaller, more natural lagoon and other features, but not the showpiece lagoon initially planned.

A revision also calls for a build-out of 15 years, instead of the four-year goal previously spelled out.

In response to public outcry over the recent news regarding the Bayside Lagoon project, the City of Rowlett published the following to address questions regarding the planned development on Lake Ray Hubbard:

Rowlett, Texas — July 31, 2018 — We’d like to provide you with some further information regarding the Bayside project, based upon the questions received from Rowlett residents over the past few days. You may also find this information, along with the original FAQ shared last week, at www.ci.rowlett.tx.us/FAQ

Has the Crystal Lagoon been scrapped?
No. Any changes to the approved vision will require City approval.

What are the allowable uses of the Lagoon?
The Crystal Lagoon was always envisioned to be one of the key attractions and differentiators to establish Bayside as a world class destination. The design of the Crystal Lagoon accommodates multiple uses including public water sports and recreational activities and amenities; private beach areas for the resort and conference center and condominium owners and guests; and the one-acre show fountain. It is important to the City that the general public have access to the lagoon.

What is a Public Improvement District?
A Public Improvement District (PID) is a special assessment area created at the request of the developer in the district to fund higher quality or special improvements and services within a designated area. Property owners pay a supplemental assessment in addition to their taxes, which is used to pay off the public funds provided to the developer for project costs associated with the property development, such as water, sewer, drainage, roads, parks, police, fire, libraries and other development enhancements.

The Rowlett PID for Bayside South totals $36.5 million and includes funding for roadway improvements, utilities, and public open space and amenities. Public open space and amenities include trails, parks, distinctive lighting, signs, pedestrian malls, public art, and a multi-acre lagoon. A separate agreement between the City and Bayside requires the lagoon to be eight-acres.

Who pays the assessments for a Public Improvement District?
The assessments of a public improvement district are paid by the owners of the property or the developers until the property is sold. Rowlett taxpayers are not responsible for the payment of those assessments. Rowlett’s responsibility is limited to establishing the assessments each year and billing the property owners.

When did the developer submit their change to the approved vision?
Since 2013, the City has been actively involved in the Bayside project. The City spent two years negotiating with the City of Dallas and Donahue Development to acquire the 262-acre property.

In May, 2015, the City and its development partner, Donahue Development (now operating as Bayside Land Partners), closed on the former Elgin B. Robertson Park, acquiring the property from the City of Dallas. Funding for the property totaling $31.8 million was paid by the developer. No City taxes were used.

In April 2015, the City and Bayside Land Partners entered into a development agreement establishing the vision. From May 2015 until September 2017, City staff and Bayside worked on formalizing plans, including creating important amenities believed to make the project successful and provide a regional, multi-state draw. The most significant amenities of that vision were the crystal lagoon, show fountain and trolley. These were amenities originally identified by the developer as part of their research and design. Bayside hired a series of highly qualified consultants to do the financial analysis to confirm the feasibility of these amenities. The City relied upon this information, this analysis laid the foundation to support the $36.5 public improvement district on Bayside South.

Also, during this period, the City of Rowlett and Bayside Land Partners entered into a series of contractual agreements regarding the public improvement district and the construction of a conference center. Each of these agreements commit both Rowlett and Bayside to the approved vision including the amenities outlined previously in this document.

On September 28, 2017, Bayside notified the City of Rowlett that they were evaluating their management team structure. On October 10, 2017, Bayside notified the City of Rowlett that they had hired Tom D’Alesandro of Blakefield Development as the new Development Manager of Bayside. Since that time, City staff have met on a number of occasions with Bayside ownership, Tom D’Alesandro and a new slate of consultants hired by Bayside. While Bayside’s new consulting team raised concerns regarding the sizing of the condo towers, the operating cost of the lagoon and the viability of the show fountain, Bayside continued to assure the City that they were committed to the approved vision. Over the course of the last ten months, the City continuously requested supporting details, information and phasing schedules related to the completion of the approved vision for Bayside South.

The City of Rowlett did not see a comprehensive proposal of the changes to the approved vision until July 10, 2018. City staff, at the Mayor’s direction, immediately called an Executive Session to brief the City Council at the first available opportunity on July 17th. The City Council was told at that time that Bayside had requested to share their proposed vision with the entire City Council. The Council agreed and called a special work session that was held on July 26th.

It is important to note that the City wasn’t “stunned” as subsequent news articles indicated, but more disappointed and upset that important amenities included to make the project successful were removed. These were amenities that previous consultants hired by Bayside analyzed and concluded would work and were necessary to make Bayside successful and sustainable.

What is the original estimate for the completion of Bayside?
In 2015, when the original vision was established, the developer believed that Bayside would have an 8-10 year build-out.

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On July 26, 2018, the city published an outline of the Bayside project:

In May, 2015, the City of Rowlett and its development partner, Donahue Development (now operating as Bayside Land Partners), closed on the former Elgin B. Robertson Park, acquiring the property from the City of Dallas. Since that time, the City of Rowlett has been working with Bayside Land Partners to realize the vision for Bayside, a unique 262-acre, $1 billion mixed-use waterfront development unlike any other in the DFW area. This vision has the power to turn Rowlett into a resort destination, both for permanent residents as well as day and short-stay visitors.

In particular, the eight-acre Crystal Lagoon and show fountain will differentiate Rowlett from other high-end communities in the area that are primarily anchored by golf courses. The lagoon will feature two beaches and will be the first in the United States with a one-acre show fountain, which will serve as an exclusive landmark for the City of Rowlett, the DFW area and the State of Texas.

An open-style battery-operated bench trolley adds another dimension to the Bayside experience, serving as another key differentiator and incentive for engaging in the City’s attractions.

Other Bayside attractions include:

 

  • 500 room resort and conference center
  • World class marina
  • Mixed use entertainment/restaurants
  • Mixed use office/retail
  • 8-acre Crystal Lagoon
  • One-acre show fountain
  • Open-style bench trolley
  • 45 acres of programmed parks
  • 4+ miles of hike-and-bike trails

 

The total build-out is expected to be completed over eight to ten years and will include 1.75 million square feet of commercial space and 3,000 residential units. Bayside is projected to add nearly $1 billion in new taxable value, resulting in nearly $150 million in revenue from property, sales and hotel occupancy taxes over the next twenty years.

City of Rowlett
www.ci.rowlett.tx.us

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