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How Will the New Cornerstone Subdivision Change Rockdale?

Some folks made negative comments following the announcement that the Rockdale Municipal Development District (RMDD) and the City of Rockdale completed the sale of the old industrial park for the new Cornerstone subdivision.  The RMDD wants to be a good partner in the community and we are going to try to address these concerns.  We will discuss some here; others we will discuss later.  Let’s leave any toxic Facebook comments for the rubbish pile.

  1. Is Rockdale going to turn into a town of 35,000 like Hutto?  First, this subdivision will have 660 units and will be developed over the course of 7-9 years from right now.  That will be a population increase between 660 and around 3,300.  More realistically, the figure will be around 2,000.  That means Rockdale will grow from a town of less than 6,000 to around 8,000 people over the next 7-9 years.
  1. Traffic and congestion are going to be so bad in Rockdale!  This is a legitimate concern and we do not want to minimize the matter.  Congestion in town is already bad – especially on Hwy 79 and would get worse anyway as Texas’ population grows fast with Central Texas growing faster.  The City is about to do a formal comprehensive plan; transportation mobility within the City will be a big issue to address. 

We need to get out ahead of this and find some solutions.Does Rockdale need a loop or bypass around town?Some say yes and others no, but let’s debate that later.

  1. What about vehicle safety on FM 487?  TxDOT requires a traffic impact study for the new subdivision.  Any identified remedies (which will be the responsibility of the developer, not the City) could range from: reduced speed limits in that area, some form of intersection signaling (for example, a blinking yellow yield light) or extra turn lanes.  Of course, we cannot stop all traffic accidents but we can take measures to improve safety as Rockdale grows.
  1. Rockdale won’t be rural anymore!  No one wants Rockdale to lose its rural character but rural-ness is a relative concept.  There are plenty of large towns (think 80,000 to 100,000 in population) that are considered rural or small towns.  The towns of Tyler, Longview, Amarillo, Lubbock, Victoria all come to mind.  Just because a town grows does not mean it will lose its rural character.  We need to figure out what elements of Rockdale are sacred and defended as the town grows, which elements are allowed to be changed, and what elements must change.
  1. My City taxes are going to go up because of this subdivision!  We analyzed this question early in the process to make sure new tax revenue will offset any increased City costs.  The City is going to have to hire new staff to accommodate new residents.  But, each new house in Cornerstone will be paying City property taxes.  The taxes received from the new development will be sufficient to cover any increased cost.  It may even be possible that the increased value will allow the City to reduce the tax rate.
  1. Will Rockdale get an HEB out of this?  The short answer is not yet.  Retailers and restaurants follow housetops.  A new subdivision will get the attention of the HEB’s and Whataburger’s and we will have a much greater chance of getting one.  We will talk more about this topic later.
  1. Will Rockdale get a new doctor’s office or hospital?  Rural health care is a difficult, politically sensitive policy topic to crack.  Just like retailers, we will need to experience some population growth before we see health care.

I would like to offer a few key takeaways from this.

First, growth in Rockdale needs to be managed.  Towns that were late to the game or unprepared for growth find themselves plowed over.  The City and RMDD do not want that to happen.  Going through a strong community vision process in the comprehensive plan will help.

Second, this growth gives all Rockdale residents a greater chance to do other things.  These could be reducing the tax rate, getting more restaurants and stores, and getting more access to health care.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the new residents will support local businesses.  Sagging populations in rural communities bring everyone down but can especially be a drag on locally-owned businesses.  The new subdivision will work to correct that trend in Rockdale.

We hope that the Cornerstone subdivision will be the first of a new wave of development – we simply need to ensure that this growth is for everyone’s benefit and that Rockdale does not lose its identity.