Fannin County planners engage impact of Bois d'Arc Lake on housing, economy
As developers buy lakefront properties, local officials hope regulations preserve beauty of future reservoir.
Fannin County Judge Randy Moore says he has “no hard data” to help him project with any accuracy about the potential economic impact coming from the development of two reservoirs in the county he serves.
“Everything is projection,” Moore said. “But we can look and see what has been done at other lakes and we can expect tremendous economic impact.”
So it goes as Moore, along with county and municipal planners, await the filling of Bois d’Arc Lake.
Developers, though, aren’t waiting for the lake to fill up, Moore said. “Developers are buying up property” along the prospective lake shore, Moore said. “Property values are going up,” he said, adding that “we’re seeing things happening right here in Bonham.”
Demand for property, though, is putting pressure on Bonham city officials to deal with what they consider to be an acute shortage of available housing. “Housing is a problem in Bonham,” according to City Manager Sean Pate, who said “I’ve been here 6 ½ years and when I got here, the lake was still in its inner-working planning stage.” The city, he said, has had difficulty recruiting “talented contractors” who are able to meet the increased demand in housing.
Pate said the city has been proactive in its hunt for that talent, which he said is essential as Bois d’Arc Lake draws closer to becoming a reality.
Mark Kinnaird, Bonham’s director of community development, echoed Pate’s assessment of the housing “problem.” He said the city is in the initial stages of negotiating an agreement to add single-family units on about 1,000 acres. “Most of this is confidential,” Kinnaird said while declining to deliver too many specifics about what he hopes will become prime real estate for the city.
Moore referred jokingly to Fannin County as the “land of lakes,” but was quickly informed by his administrative assistant Lisa Loiselle that “we’re not ‘Land O’ Lakes,’ because we don’t sell butter,” referring to the dairy company.
The county, Moore said, is establishing new zoning requirements around the lake. The requirements set aside a 5,000-foot corridor around where Bois d’Arc Lake will eventually cover. He said the county also is working to set up a similar corridor around Lake Ralph Hall, a smaller project being built south of Bois d’Arc Lake. The county will establish restrictions in the corridor on development on the property, ensuring that it is appropriate for what the county wants to see developed, Moore said. “We don’t want a lake that is junked up,” Moore said. “These planning and zoning ordinances will ensure that the lake remains beautiful,” he said.
“We’re not seeing much of an economic impact just yet,” Moore said, explaining that although developers are purchasing property throughout the lake area, “they want to see what the 16,000-acre lake is going to look like” before starting construction.
Plans do call for the construction of possibly three marinas to enhance water-based recreational activities on the lake, Moore said. There could be as many as three marinas to entice boaters to fish or just to enjoy the water.
The lake currently sits at 511 feet above sea level. The goal at the dam will be 534 feet elevation, Moore said. He said construction of the dam will be completed by the first of the year.
Moore’s reluctance to project Bois d’Arc Lake’s economic impact on the county isn’t shared by the North Texas Municipal Water District. In 2015, NTMWD filed a list of projections for the county based on data it had on hand.
NTWMD projected $166 million worth of “annual economic activity in Fannin County. It said “non-local recreational visitors” to the lake would “contribute $17 million to $22 million to the Fannin County economy and increase local labor income between $6.2 million and $8.3 million.” The lake would contribute to the addition of 2,400 “long-term jobs in Fannin County,” according to the NTMWD projections. The water district said that “new permanent and weekend residents will contribute more than $81 million annually in economic activity in Fannin County.”
The water district does seem to echo what Moore said about developers purchasing property along the lake front. According to NTMWD, “Demand for waterfront and near-waterfront homes will support residential construction of approximately 3,200 homes over a 30-year period.”
The water district projections made more than six years ago paint a rosy picture, but Moore said that at this moment, “We’re not seeing it just yet.”
Moore also indicated that despite the projections and hope for immense economic impact, it cannot be guaranteed. He said that Cooper Lake State Park is an example of “minimal economic impact” on a neighboring community.
Cooper Lake was the most recent lake developed by the state prior to the construction of Bois d’Arc Lake and Lake Ralph Hall. Moore indicated that as best he could determine, the state park hasn’t generated the kind of economic vitality that privately run operations, such as what will occur at Bois d’Arc Lake, generate for the community.
Local water authority officials along with Fannin County’s judge feel confident in presuming the economic impact will come and it will lend a significant boost to the region.
A report prepared for the North Texas Municipal Water District, which was revised in 2015, projects the following: “The lake will also likely attract many new residents to Fannin County. It is estimated that over a 30-year period at least 1,100 new full-time resident households will be established around the lake. An additional 2,100 residences will likely be built as vacation/weekend/second homes. These new households will be in addition to any other growth projected for Fannin County. The construction of these homes will bring an average of about 133 jobs per year to the local economy over the development period.”
Judge Moore is standing on those projections to this day as construction of the lake proceeds.