Frisco considers new wetlands preservation project in response to homeowner concerns
FRISCO — Frisco has some new plans for the required wetlands mitigation project west of Meadow Creek Park following pushback from homeowners who feared a water diversion would hit their property values.
The town is considering efforts to preserve an almost 11-acre parcel north of Hawn Drive in perpetuity — a move officials hope will return the wetlands to their natural state and satisfy concerns from nearby residents.
“We’re not necessarily doing additional mitigation work, but we would protect this whole wetlands area in perpetuity, giving the neighbors some assurances that there will never be additional development between them and the Whole Foods and that area,” said Chris Guarino, a consultant with NV5. “It protects far more wetlands … and that’s what led us here today.”
Earlier this year, Frisco launched into the Big Dig project as part of the Frisco Bay Marina Master Plan, a major excavation of 85,000 cubic yards of dirt from the reservoir’s lakebed. As part of the project, the town disturbed about 1.03 acres of wetlands and is required by the Army Corps of Engineers to replace the wetlands via restoration projects at a two-to-one ratio, or about 2.1 acres.
In May, representatives with AlpineEco Consulting proposed two sites for the mitigation, including 0.41 acres north of Hawn Drive and 1.7 acres at the Willow Preserve Open Space. The proposal would have diverted water from a privately owned channel running along the north side of Hawn Drive, rallying some homeowners to speak out against the plans because they believe losing the water feature would negatively impact their property values.
Some residents, like Bastiaan Pot, who’s lived along the creek for more than a decade, said the proposal might be more tolerable if there were an effort to protect the area from further development in the future. In response, town staff and consultants reached back out to the Army Corps with the new idea.
The new proposal, which town staff said the Army Corps responded to positively, calls for the originally planned restoration of 0.41 acres north of Hawn Drive along with the preservation of 10.9 acres between Basecamp and Hawn Drive. The 1.7 acres in the Willow Preserve no longer would be part of the project. Of note, the switch in plans would end up shaving more than $200,000 off the original $360,500 price tag for the project.
“I think it’s a really great gesture on behalf of the town,” said Pot, who said the new proposal helped to ease his mind. “It shows their willingness to expand conservation efforts as well as listen to the feedback of homeowners. Many of our concerns were with the potential loss of property value, and losing the creek could adversely affect that. But there’s also the aspect of conservation, and if they’re going to do all that work, then why not protect the whole area? It’s really great they heard us out and listened to our ideas and put that into practice.”
Other residents still wanted additional assurances that the town would work to protect their property values.
“We don’t want to be obstructionists, but we don’t want our property values going down,” said Nancy Partyka, another Hawn Drive resident. “I would like to see something in writing … that says, ‘We will try to work with you as best we can to keep that creek going, and not just dump dirt in it and dump plants in it.’ I want something in writing that says what your intention is, that you will work with homeowners, and that you will actually try to do stuff so we have a flow.”
Guarino said the ultimate goal of the project is to return the wetlands to their natural state, turning the clock back to before a diversion was placed in the floodplain in the 1970s. Guarino continued to say that in an ideal scenario, the move would naturally encourage water to flow to the privately held channel, though it wasn’t a guarantee.
“This is truly to continue the flow and natural functions of the wetlands, which is beneficial to the flora and fauna that love this area so much,” Guarino said.
“The goal is to encourage as much of this water to go towards the south and exit the town property as much as possible towards those private lands, and hopefully have a win-win scenario,” he said. “The non-guarantee, of course, is nature doing what it wants. Wetlands tend to shift over time.”
Ultimately, town officials directed staff to move forward with the new proposal. The land is owned by the town and zoned as an open space district, meaning the Town Charter already restricts the land from being leased or sold without a public vote but doesn’t limit the council’s ability to grant licenses, permits or easements on the land. In addition to final approval from the Army Corps, the project also would require the town council to pass an ordinance dedicating the conservation easement to a land trust, which would protect the area in perpetuity.
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