Maso Comments on Planned Growth: City’s ready for sizable development

Frisco: Officials say they’ve planned for growth, see no trouble

By Bill Lodge, The Dallas Morning News

The big residential development announced last week for western Frisco is expected to draw about 10,000 residents – about 10 percent of the city’s projected population for late 2007.

But city and school officials said this week that Phillips Creek Ranch was not expected to pose any significant problems for the emerging metropolis north of Dallas and Plano.

“There’s no problem,” Richard Wilkinson, Frisco school district’s assistant superintendent for facilities and finance, said Tuesday. “We just have to prepare for the growth.

“We’ve got two elementary school sites in there to handle the additional [residential] units,” he said.

In May, voters approved the sale of $798 million in bonds for construction of 19 schools and other education improvements.

Last week, the Frisco City Council approved a request by Michigan-based developer Crosswinds Communities Inc. for construction of 3,228 residential units on 943 acres along the east side of FM423, from Newman Road on the north to just below Lebanon Road on the south.

The tract known as Phillips Creek Ranch features a rolling series of pastures dotted by an occasional home or stock pond and a few horses grazing beneath a smattering of small oaks.

Some of that pastoral setting will be retained, Crosswinds officials said last week. They said 140 acres would be devoted to parks and the development would feature ponds, waterfalls, landscaped boulevards and bronze sculptures of horses.

Phillips Creek Ranch is not the largest residential development in Frisco’s history, Mayor Pro Tem Maher Maso said. “But it’s one of the largest,” he said.

In 1990, Frisco’s population was 6,138. Today, it is approaching 90,000.

Mr. Maso said some of that growth had been fueled by the city’s successful efforts to attract major league soccer team FC Dallas, a practice facility for the Dallas Stars hockey team and a minor league baseball team, the Rough Riders.

Large retailers, such as IKEA, and a regional mall, Stonebriar Centre, also have drawn new residents, he said.

“Frisco is where everyone wants to be,” Mr. Maso said. “We don’t expect that to change anytime soon.”

City planners estimate that Frisco’s population will reach 120,000 by 2010 and jump to 275,000 by 2020. “You can get it all here,” Mr. Maso said. “The developers recognize that, and they’re bringing some good projects here.”


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Frisco Enterprise Editorial – On Tollroads

Policy must be re-examined

Frisco Enterprise Editorial Board

State bureaucrats, aided by an absence of political leadership from members of the Legislature in the affected communities, appear to have won the war of attrition that will result in tolls being added to State Highway 121 in Collin County.

We thank Frisco Mayor Pro Tem Maher Maso for being courageous enough to have stood up against the wave of mass conformity that eventually swept over city councils and for his having raised a series of substantial questions that still remain unanswered, among them:

*Toll roads can be helpful. Dallas North Tollway is an example. But tolls as a tool for financing all future highways — a policy supported by Gov. Rick Perry’s appointee, Ric Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation – “is not a good long-term plan.” And, even more unfortunately, the Regional Transportation Council became a Perry-Williamson puppet by not recommending the North Texas Tollway Authority proposal, which would have ensured maximum return for Collin County.

*Drivers already pay gas taxes to build roads. State bureaucrats claim this revenue is insufficient to meet construction demands. But that is not the point. As Maso put it, “This is a prime example of double taxation,” pure and simple.

*Tolls from this project are going to provide an abundant and tempting revenue flow – enough not just to cover the costs of the project, per se, but other road-building projects elsewhere in Texas. Gas-tax revenues already are siphoned off for non-highway programs while the toll movement progresses. Why should residents of Collin County have to pay this, especially when city councils and the commissioners’ court expressly said they want all the money to stay local. “As many have said, it’s Robin Hood all over again,” said Masa.

*Only toll tags will be allowed to make payments. What about people who don’t have them, say, visitors from other states?

Even though these major issues remain unresolved, the project now seems to be moving forward. In these kinds of public policy debates, one does reach a point when debate must be closed and action must be taken.

And that point has arrived, as another out-of-the-box thinker, Frisco City Manager George Purefoy, said.

Purefoy worked hard on the question and deserves great credit for his efforts to produce an innovative solution. But practical reality, as he pointed out, now demands compromise. The plan decided upon will not draw uniform agreement, but, he said, “everybody gets a little bit of what they want.”

Still, the unanswered questions raised by Maso demand examination.

The decision on S.H. 121 does not end this debate; it most certainly does not resolve issues surrounding the charging of tolls for highway use, in particular the idea that every new highway should have them, which is a radical departure from traditional road funding as part of public infrastructure. It must be studied very carefully.

Legislators in the communities affected by the S.H. 121 disagreement should take the initiative to conduct a statewide review of road finances and produce practicable, realistic recommendations to guide these projects in the future. Collin County commissioners took a tentative step toward enlisting stronger support from legislators on Valentine’s Day when they considered asking them to draft legislation to limit the transportation department’s ability to force cities and counties to accept comprehensive development agreements with private companies to operate toll roads.

That is a step in the right direction, but the broad policies governing highway finance and who decides how they should be implemented must be reconsidered before, for many Texans, it simply becomes too expensive to drive.

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Maso Stands Firm – SH Should Not Be Tolled

Council nearly united on 121 plan

By Mike Raye, Staff Writer, The Frisco Enterprise

It takes conviction to stand firm in your beliefs. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.”

Frisco’s mayor pro tem took the Founding Father’s advice and stood as steady as granite Tuesday night, casting the lone dissenting vote against the approval of a plan by the North Texas Tollway Authority to build, maintain, and toll Texas State Highway 121. The proposal passed by a 5-1 vote.

Maher Maso said he wasn’t concerned about the fact he was the only council member in the four-city consortium of Frisco, Allen, McKinney, and Plano to vote against the resolution. A bad deal is a bad deal, he said. Collin County Commissioner Jerry Hoagland of Plano also voted against the plan Monday night in a special session.

“Toll roads have a time and a place,” Maso said in an e-mail Wednesday. “The DNT (Dallas North Tollway) is an example of a good toll road and NTTA is an example of a good organization. However, tolling as a tool for all future state highways is not a good long-term plan. Citizens have already paid a gas tax to build many of these roads. This is a prime example of double taxation.”

Under the NTTA plan, which was to be presented to the Regional Transportation Council, a 40-member board of North Texas appointees yesterday, the tollway authority would enter a 50-year partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in which the NTTA would “develop, operate and maintain the project and provide to TxDOT all annual toll revenues” after its annual operating costs have been met, according to proposal’s executive summary. NTTA officials admit it goes against their own Prime Directive of investing revenue back in its own system, but the potential windfalls – between $500 million and $1 billion by some accounts – to be spent on Collin County road projects, is too favorable a scenario to deny, they said.

That doesn’t mean that all of the money sent to TxDOT will return to the region like the original resolution approved by the cities of Frisco, Plano, Allen, McKinney and the Collin County Commissioners Court intended. Some could be used for TxDOT projects elsewhere, a major sticking point for Maso.

“I cannot support any funds going from SH 121 to build other roadways,” Maso said. “That simply is not right. As many have said, it is Robin Hood all over again. We are collecting funds from a small portion of our residents to pay for the use of free roads by others. The potential toll charge, when converted to what it would translate to as a gas tax, could be as high as a $2 per gallon gas tax,” Maso said.

The NTTA plan would assess tolls at the same rate as on the DNT and the President George Bush Turnpike – currently 12 cents per mile – growing at 1.5 percent a year, and adjusted every five years. The NTTA would finance SH 121 as part of the DNT system, promising an opening date of 2010, including building interchanges at the DNT in Frisco and at US Highway 75 (Central Expressway) in McKinney. TxDOT district engineers said the construction of the highway’s six main lanes (three northbound and three southbound) wouldn’t begin until 2007 after all environmental impact approvals are secured. Construction of the highway’s three-lane frontage roads is already under way, and some sections have already opened. The construction of the main lanes and frontage roads from the DNT to Hillcrest Road in Frisco has already been paid for by the state’s gasoline tax.

“[That] is currently funded with $86 million and is already under construction to be completed by 2008 even without doing anything,” Maso said.

The NTTA said it would build SH 121 for $370 million, and, along with other projects like the Lewisville Lake Bridge, Trinity Parkway, Southwest Parkway, and the eastern extension of the Bush Turnpike, pour $4.5 billion into North Texas Transportation projects, relieving cash-strapped TxDOT of those financial burdens. The NTTA’s plan would be more fiscally attractive to the state than private companies’ offers the state is considering under a comprehensive development agreement, or CDA. Foreign and domestic firms have entered bids on the project, which due to the nature of the bids the state is not obliged to divulge. A CDA could provide the state with more money up front while the NTTA plan would spread payments over 50 years.

Maso argued that tolling what is now a free SH 121 would have a bigger cost than benefit to area drivers, and he presented calculations to his council colleagues to illustrate his point.

“A policy that dictates tolls on state highways is highly unfair and inequitable,” he said. “A 30-mile (round) trip, at 12.5
cents a mile, five days-a-week translates to $975 per year. If you drive a car that gets 15 miles-per-gallon the same distance on a free road and increase the gas tax 10 cents a gallon, your increased taxes for a year are $52. If your car gets 20 miles-per-gallon, that increased cost is $39 per year. That is a major difference. That $975 translates to a $1.88 per-gallon gas tax at 15 miles-per-gallon or $2.50 per gallon tax at 20 miles-per-gallon.”

According to the NTTA proposal, the cost of a round trip between the DNT in Frisco and Central Expressway in McKinney – 25.6 miles – would cost $1.34 when the highway opens in 2010. If predictions for annual increases hold true, that cost could rise to $1.44 by 2015; $1.56 by 2020; $1.68 by 2025; $1.81 in 2030; $1.95 in 2035; and up to $2.11 in 2040, the end of the 50-year deal with TxDOT.

Tolls on SH 121 would be collected through toll tags exclusively – another point of contention for Maso.

“This creates a problem for those that do not have a credit card or out-of-state visitors,” he said. “Another major problem that I had with tolling is the length of time. The tolls will not be reduced or removed after the bonds are paid off. In fact, there are escalation costs built into the agreement. This is not a 20- or 30-year agreement, but 50-plus years! Along with that, some right-of-way has been donated by landowners who were told it was going for a freeway. They were never asked to donate for a tollway and some do not support it. Along with that, major industrial users will not want to locate near a tollway for obvious reasons.”

Maso’s colleagues on the dais had more favorable opinions, mostly arrived at through attrition and weariness over wrangling with different scenarios and mostly summed up by City Manager George Purefoy – the author of the resolution agreed upon by the four cities and the county months ago: make a good deal.

“I’ve expended all the energy I can on this,” Purefoy said. “All in all this is the best solution. It is a classic compromise. Nobody gets everything they want but everybody gets a little bit of what they want. It comes down to making the best deal you

“We have been working on this since 2004,” Mayor Mike Simpson said. “The right thing to do is get the road done and get it done by 2010. If TxDOT is willing to look at a CDA and get a foreign entity to do this, they certainly should look at the NTTA. We all need to be able to go to the state with a united front and present this to them as a viable alternative.”

“We appreciate the confidence you have shown in us,” NTTA Executive Director Alan Rutter told the council before their vote. “Plano, Allen, and McKinney have all voted unanimously in favor of (our proposal). The Collin County Commissioners Court voted four-to-one for it. We look forward to working with the City of Frisco as well.”

Maso did not let his chosen role as a naysayer overshadow the acknowledgement of a hard journey leading up to Tuesday night’s council vote.

“I am awed by how hard the local elected officials tried to come up with a solution that attempts to protect our local citizens,” Maso said. “There is no blame that can be placed on them, especially not Mayor Mike Simpson or City Manager George Purefoy who pulled out all the stops to protect our residents.”

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Maso Awarded Frisco Citizen of the Year

Frisco mayor Pro Tem Maher Maso has received many accolades for his work on the City Council and as a board member of the Arts of Collin County, from colleagues, citizens, and the business community.

Saturday night the city’s largest business organization rewarded Maso with their biggest prize at the Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd annual awards banquet at the Embassy Suites Hotel: 2005 Frisco Citizen of the Year.

Frisco Mayor Mike Simpson – the 2004 recipient – introduced his colleague in glowing terms: “Someone who has devoted more than 10 years to our community, who has worked countless hours to make Frisco a better place, a person who has proven that we make our own success in both business and life. Someone I owe a lot to for convincing me to get involved in Frisco. From racing motorcycles a few years ago to now overseeing the premiere Arts of Collin County project, ladies and gentlemen, your Citizen of the Year, Maher Maso.”

Also recognized for tireless service to the community was Centennial Award winner Ruth Borchardt – a former Frisco schoolteacher and the namesake of a Frisco street next to Clark Middle School. Her son, Frisco Fire Chief Mack Borchardt, introduced her.

“I came along in 1948 – don’t do the math on that – and mom retired from Draughons Business College. She stayed home until my first-grade year when she had a job offer from both Frisco and Little Elm schools. She picked Frisco. I am eternally indebted to my mom for that decision,” Chief Borchardt said.

“She taught until 1976, and she substitute-taught until 1986. One thing she’s very, very proud of is long about 1980, they asked her to make some predictions about what Frisco schools would be like in the future. She predicted that Justin Wakeland would retire, and that a young upstart football coach/schoolteacher they had named Rick Reedy would go on to be superintendent. And she loves him ’til this day. Between Hackberry, Draughons, and Frisco, she taught up to three generations of many of the families who were the original shapers of this community who made it what it is today. Today, I asked my mom, ‘Did you ever teach Sam Roach?’ She said, ‘No, the Lord blessed me, the Lord smiled on me, I never did have to teach Sam.’ She’s proud to have a Frisco ISD school, a City of Frisco street, a Scotty P’s hamburger, and a granddaughter all named after her,” Chief Borchardt said.

Other businesses and citizens receiving awards were:

  • Community Waste Disposal – Corporate Business of the Year
  • FSpN (Frisco Sports and News) – Small Business of the Year
  • Sandy Simpson – Spirit of Frisco Award
  • Brig. Gen. Mike Cates – Patriot Award
  • Allison Miller – Golden Eagle Award
  • Janice Berg – Silver Citizen of the Year
  • Frisco Connect – Chamber Ambassador team of the Year
  • Stephanie Henes – Chamber Ambassador of the Year
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Jodi Shuman Thanks Maher Maso for communication

BY JODI SHUMWAY / Neighbors Editor

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Isbell Elementary during their kindergarten Thanksgiving feast.

I have to say, it was so refreshing seeing the innocence of these children as they filed into the cafeteria with their paper costumes and hats, some on backwards, some on sideways.

Even though they have been taught from infancy to say thank you, they are just getting to the age of understanding what it really means.

I catch myself saying thank you for things that I’m not really thankful for, just to be polite. Being polite is quite acceptable, but how often do we really stop to think about what we’re really thankful for in our lives?

The Thanksgiving holiday comes around only one day a year and is filled with food, family and football. But, I saw a billboard the other day that made me stop and think about Thanksgiving in a whole new way. And being a writer/editor, it really hit home “Thanksgiving is a verb, not just a noun.”

It’s been more than a week since I saw this billboard, and it has run through my mind daily. I keep asking myself, ‘what have I done to show that I am thankful for all that I have?’ Another question that keeps coming to my mind is, ‘is there someone I am thankful for, but I haven’t told him or her thank you for being an influence in my life?’

I think the answer to those questions is ‘not enough’ and ‘many’. I’ve said thank you thousands of times in the last year, but I know I haven’t done near enough to show my thankfulness. And the people in my life that I am thankful for are too numerous mention.

There are some Frisco people; however, that I would like to tell thank you for supporting Frisco Neighbors and me even before it hit the racks (or sidewalks).

Thank you Dana Baird and Maher Maso for keeping me well informed about events taking place at the city level.

Jane Whitledge, thank you for all your work, writing and wonderful photos of school events and for showing around Frisco and introducing me to the marvelous parks system.

Gigi Garcia from the Frisco Dance Force has kept me informed about the group’s performance schedule; thank you for your dedication to the kids.

And I can’t forget Diana Moya and her willingness to send photos and art show updates for the Visual Arts Guild of Frisco. And last but in no means least, the citizens of Frisco who read the first issue in October and started sending in event and story ideas. THANK YOU!

These people were instrumental in helping launch the first issue of Frisco Neighbors, and they continue to be a great source of information and encouragement to me, and I thank each of you for your dedication to the city of Frisco.

On that note, is there someone you would like to thank? During this time of turkey and pumpkin pie, football and leftovers, call someone that has been a source of light in your life and tell them thank you.

Remember the billboard “Thanksgiving is a verb, not just a noun.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jodi Shumway is the Frisco Neighbors editor. She can be reached by e-mailing

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Maso continues his battle against tolling State Highway 121

“TxDOT is guaranteeing these foreign companies a 22-percent return on their investment, which could be disastrous for us.”

By Mike Raye, Frisco Enterprise, Star Community Newspapers

A joint resolution from five local governments to ensure local control of the fate of State Highway 121 and its future as a toll road is a punch-drunk fighter stumbling around the ring, with a knockout blow bearing down on it.

Months in the making, it all could be wiped out Nov. 14 when the Regional Transportation Council meets with local Texas Department of Transportation officials to hear the resolution’s fate.

According to State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, the advance word in Austin is TxDOT will reject the proposal, City Manager George Purefoy told the city council Tuesday night.

“The state is selling its birthright for a short-term fix,” he said. “This is the saddest day of my life for the state of Texas.”

TxDOT rates 121 as the number-one-rated road in the state for potential revenue, Purefoy explained. It is not a fact lost on state highway officials grappling with the disparity of transportation needs and the money to pay for projects. It is an agency in panic mode, looking for any solution, including selling the road’s building rights to foreign companies, Purefoy said.

“TxDOT sees this as a cash cow and a way to pay for other projects around the state,” he said. “They are guaranteeing these foreign companies a 22-percent return on their investment, which could be disastrous for us. There is a distinct possibility that tolls could be set as high as 30 cents per mile if they go that way,”

“They came to us and said they couldn’t find a solution and they asked us to find a solution,” Council member Tony Felker grumbled. “Then they go and reject what we brought forth.”

Council colleague Maher Maso, the city’s mayor pro tem, was equally indignant.

“For them to arbitrarily do this to the cities that say they don’t want (tolls on 121) is just wrong,” Maso said.

The cities of Frisco, Allen, McKinney, and Plano, along with Collin County, presented a resolution to TxDOT Sept. 30 for constructing, financing, and tolling 121 from the Dallas North Tollway east to U.S. Highway 75 (Central Expressway), including highway interchanges at Central and the Tollway. The resolution would authorize the five governments to ensure tolls – admittedly necessary to build the road – would be set no higher than necessary to pay off debt service on bonds issued to pay the costs of the 121 Tollway Project, to operate and maintain it, and to maintain its service roads. Any money brought in over that amount would be guaranteed to stay in the area to be used for the four cities’ and the county’s needs.

The state doesn’t want to let go of its potential money-making machine, Purefoy said, meaning the conclusion is all but foregone. The only thing left for the five governments to do is go into a salvage mode.

“If this thing is going to get rammed down our throats, there are only two ways to go,” Purefoy, the author of the original incarnation of the resolution said. “One is to be defiant to the end. The other is to try and strike the best business deal you can.”

The next city council meeting – Nov. 15 – comes on the heels of the RTC and TxDOT meeting. The council will then decide whether to pass a resolution formally opposing tolling 121 altogether.

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