At the corner of Travis Street and Pecan Grove Road in Sherman, the lot is reddish brown with overturned earth, crisscrossed by excavator tracks. Less than half-a-mile north on Travis, dense vegetation stands defiantly, just to the north of a small subdivision of 38 homes. Both sites were earmarked for luxury apartments, but only one will serve that purpose.
The juxtaposition is a very tangible embodiment of a town in need of new rental units but wary of upsetting current residents. The Sherman Planning and Zoning Commission approved the Pecan Grove development — formally called Creed Canyon Apartments — in March of 2012 but denied a request from Bluestone Partners in September to build a similar apartment complex a few hundred yards away.
“There’s been history of that in the past, where … the city usually thinks that it would be a pretty good place for apartments there in that location, but then the property owners obviously don’t,” said Bluestone President Kyle Boothe. “We knew that was kind of an uphill battle.”
Dozens of concerned residents packed the City Council chambers in September to oppose Bluestone’s proposal, which the Commission denied in a 5-3 vote. In contrast, only one individual spoke against the Creed Canyon project two years ago, and the Commission approved it unanimously.
“The fact that there have only been two new complexes built in Sherman in the last five years suggested we were in a pretty good position and that we would have adequate city leadership help,” said Matthew Looney, a developer with Creed Canyon. “This entire area is starving for apartments.”
According to the city of Sherman’s Comprehensive Plan, which was formalized and released in 2009, local leaders agree. The plan estimates the city will need 1,982 additional rental units in the next two decades, or about 90 each year. Looney said the timing of his project likely buoyed its case for approval.
“If you were to read the comprehensive master plan that the city of Sherman established, it suggested a great need for apartments in Sherman through 2030, a 20-year look,” said Looney. “So us dumping 176 units in the second or third year of the comprehensive plan (clearly helped).”
Neighborhood concerns over increased traffic was one of the Commission’s prime reasons for nixing the Bluestone project, but Commission members judged the Creed Canyon project, which is farther from existing houses, differently.
Minutes from the 2012 meeting during which Creed Canyon received approval show several commission members deferring to the Texas Department of Transportation on traffic issues, with Vice Chairman Don Hicks going as far to say he would prefer the Commission “leave the traffic up to (TxDOT).”
Hicks, who now serves as the Commission’s chair, said he could not recall enough details from the two meeting to feel comfortable comparing them directly. Transcribed remarks from the September meeting suggest the commissioners were concerned about a multiplier effect on traffic.
“We have already approved the Creed Canyon Apartments on the corner of Travis and Canyon Grove Road (now Pecan Grove Road), and TxDOT has changed some of the routing there and installed some traffic lights,” said Hicks according to the minutes. “That’s a lot of vehicles if you have 100 units, two vehicles per unit; that’s 200 more vehicles.
In the case of Creed Canyon, the developer’s agreement to undertake traffic improvements was important, according to Looney.
“Within the agreement with the city of Sherman, we had to provide for widening of (Pecan) Grove Road,” said Looney. “But ultimately, as traffic is going to increase along FM 131, it’s my understanding that TxDOT is going to be widening that road. Not only because of what’s happening within the development of that particular corner, it’s just going to have to happen.”
The $17.5 million Creed Canyon apartments broke ground in November and will open to residents in late spring or early summer, said Looney. Initial rent targets ranged from $615 to $1,150 per month, but Looney cautioned that those figures are now two years old and may not accurately reflect market rates in a few months.
Bluestone Partners still hopes to build a high-end apartment complex in Sherman, but it is not aggressively pursuing new sites, said Boothe.
“There’s a couple other properties that we’ve looked at that we may entertain trying to purchase and develop another apartment complex. But nothing that’s a high priority right away.”
Finding a piece of ground that’s close enough to retail yet not too close to existing homes might prove to be the holy grail for local developers. Shermanite Andy Boyd, whose home would have backed-up to the Bluestone project, put a bow on the quandary during his testimony to the commission in September.
“Do you want this in your backyard?” he said. “I don’t.”