Thursday, November 04, 2010

Is Telfair Over the Proverbial Barrel?

Telfair is a huge master planned community that is going up here in Fort Bend County. It has been tough, I think, to attract new residents during these times of higher unemployment and foreclosures, and I bet Telfair is feeling the pinch as well.

So it comes to no surprise that the Telfair developers find themselves somewhat over a barrel with the promises they have made to people who have already bought homes there. It seems that part of their master plan was to set aside some land to build two schools, with Fort Bend ISD, the school district that surrounds Telfair on all sides, as the obvious choice to buy that land and build the schools.

Having neighborhood schools are a big selling point, you see. It is one of those intangibles that factor in to quality of life.

But now there is a letter circulating in Telfair that is doing some finger pointing at said school district.

From FortBendNow:

“Within the next 18 months, Newland will finish with the planning and development of Telfair. In order for us to timely complete the community we need to definitively understand FBISD’s intention for these two proposed school locations. Newland is strongly committed to working with FBISD to bring the potential high school and second elementary school to Telfair. We have requested FBISD to let us know their decision on whether or not they’ll purchase the land for schools by the end of January, 2011”
Trouble is, while they used this plan to lure customers, no one at Fort Bend ISD had any plans to build anything there.

And now the lawyers are involved. Fort Bend ISD general counsel Leila Feldman planted this little bomb:

“Fort Bend ISD was not consulted in the development of the plan and is not obligated in any way to purchase the sites. This notation by the developer simply means that the potential school sites could be used for schools in the designated areas.”
Could be used. Not will be.

Telfair developers complain that they have offered the land to the school district “at deeply discounted prices,” but I am now wondering whether they may have given the district some bargaining leverage in that they have already sold homes on the basis of their plan, and that plan was never run by the school district.

So get this: this developer is looking askance at a school district to buy its land. Its deeply discounted land. A school district that is so cash-strapped that it lays off teachers, and promises more to come. A school district that is holding its breath waiting to see how the Texas legislature is going to make up that $18 billion budget shortfall. Education makes up more than half the state budget, you see.

Now here is what I think. Schools bring value to a neighborhood like nothing else. Schools bind the community together. Telfair needs Fort Bend ISD more than Fort Bend ISD needs Telfair. My suggestion is that they drop all notions of selling this property they have set aside for new unplanned schools.

My suggestion is that if Telfair wants Fort Bend ISD to play in their backyard, outright donating that land to the school district would be a fine idea. An act that displays the kind of public spirit and commitment to the development and their customers that will simply bring more buyers to their area.

And not to Aliana.

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