Population growth in North Texas isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Last month Dan Kessler, deputy director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), updated the Regional Transportation Council on the Mobility 2045 update, which includes population projections in the region of 12 counties for the next 25 years.
Although projections are still in draft form, they indicate that the NCTCOG region could increase its population from 7.8 million in 2020 to 11.4 million by 2045. Kessler said that the region is expected to add 150,000 people per year.
Officials said those projections would likely be higher once the final draft is completed this spring.
“Anytime you have growth rates at that rate over a period of time that we’re talking about, it’s remarkable,” Kessler said.
Each county is expected to see significant increases, with Ellis County growing from about 192,000 people to 318,000 during that time, a compound annual growth rate of 2.5%.
Waxahachie is expected to receive much of this influx.
According to NCTCOG data, Waxahachie could see its population grow from 39,888 in 2020 to 60,266 in 2045.
But city leaders say the windfall could be even more dramatic. Shon Brooks, executive director of development services, said he projects the city’s population could reach 63,000 by 2030. He bases this on several factors, including data from the NCTCOG, the number of finishes of houses and past and current growth percentages. The growth rate in 2020 was 5% followed by 4.4% in 2021.
And while cautioning against looking too far into the future, he said preliminary projections suggest the city could reach 150,000 people by 2050.
“Would that happen? Who knows, ”Brooks said. “But it could.”
And why not? Brooks said Waxahachie appears to be a prime location for new residents in part because of its unique community.
“There’s so much development in the north that the developers are looking south,” Brooks said. “As people leave Dallas, Waxahachie is definitely an opportunity to always be close, to get downtown and still have a good quality of life.”
Brooks said it was also possible to build more houses, saying Waxahachie had not yet reached the 50% construction level.
Drivers of population growth
While city leaders can’t predict that every project will come up over the next two decades, they already know who some of the big players will be.
One of the largest projects expected to drive this growth in Waxahachie is Emory Lakes, a 3,000-acre mixed-use development that will be located west of Interstate 35E, south of US Business 287 and FM 875, east of Lone Elm Road and north of FM 1446.
The project is expected to include 9,000 new homes, which Brooks says could accommodate up to 30,000 residents.
“Emory Lakes will be an important source of the city’s future growth,” Brooks said.
Most residential units are expected to be single-family, with a few multi-family, commercial units and approximately 400 acres of open space.
Zoning for Emory Lakes was approved in April. Various other steps are on the way, including plating and a deal with the developers.
Brooks said Emory Lakes will likely be built in phases and it could be 20 years before the project is built.
Another major project is Saddlebrook Estates, which is under construction at US 287 and Parks Schoolhouse Road. The 2,000-acre project will include more than 2,900 homes – mostly single-family homes with a few duplexes and multi-family homes. About 1,000 acres are currently under development.
North Grove, located east of Highway 77 on N. Grove Boulevard, is one of the city’s largest communities and still has room to grow, Brooks said. The city recently approved a final platform for The Oaks of North Grove, but Brooks said there was still about 1,000 acres to be developed between N. Grove Boulevard and Grove Creek Road. Brooks said this area will primarily consist of single-family homes, although its mixed-use zoning will allow some multi-family and commercial housing.
Among the projects that have been proposed but not yet approved is Montclair Heights, a 188.5-acre residential subdivision proposed to be located north of US 287 at the US 287 / Business 286 division. The plan calls for 384 lots. Zoning approval is still required, as is annexing part of the land, Brooks said.
“There’s going to be a lot of growth on this side of 287 if that happens,” Brooks said.
A land use study is underway for the county lands at the southwest intersection of Old Maypearl Road and Cunningham Meadows Road in the southern outskirts of town. The proposal is to have 224 lots with houses on at least one acre.
In December, developers Green Brick Partners proposed Haven Ranch, a 2,800-unit residential development in the South Waxahachie Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ), but city officials were concerned about the project. City manager Michael Scott said he had not heard if the project was still on the table, and Green Brick Partners could not be reached for comment.
As growth looms, residents of Waxahachie often share their concerns about the benefit ahead and whether the city has enough infrastructure to cope with it.
“Enough construction already,” one resident said on social media. “How will our city manage this growth? The streets, the stores, the schools… it’s so too fast.
But the municipal authorities say they are ready. On the one hand, said Brooks, developers play a role in adding to the infrastructure.
“A lot of times we see people on social media saying the city won’t be able to handle the growth,” Brooks said. “But what is not taken into account is that in most cases the road network, water and sewerage are paid for by the developers. So we don’t have to worry about it. If they want development, they will have to have water and sewage and build the roads to do so.
Officials also point to the city’s long-term planning efforts, such as the comprehensive master plan. The city is in the process of updating its plan, which Scott says will also go a long way in meeting future residential growth.
Part of the update is looking at the future land use map and deciding what types of residential products are desired in the undeveloped parts of the city.
“Where do we see pockets of growth and what does it look like? Scott said. “The land use map will give us an overview of the areas we want to serve in the future.
“We are expanding roads, sewers and water where we think the pockets of growth will be,” Scott said.
James Gaertner, director of public works and engineering, said the city’s traffic plan provides a guide as to when roads should be built or expanded to handle future growth.
“The more development happens, the more it justifies building these roads,” Gaertner said.
Among the roads on the city’s arterial plan for the future include a connection between I-35E and Parks School House Road, an extension of E. North Grove Road to connect US 77 and I-35E, a road to connect E. Butcher Road to Washington Avenue and extending Conquest Boulevard further south to connect with US 287 and Business 287 and further east beyond I-35E.
Some projects are planned in partnership with TxDOT, such as Interstate 35E, which will reduce the freeway from four to six. Waxahachie is also in talks with TxDOT to improve FM 664. The road north of the US 287 bypass is expected to be extended in the future, and Gaertner said the city has inquired about improving the road south of Bypass. But a timetable and sources of funding are not clear.
Future TxDOT projects may include improvements to US border routes 287 and US corridor 287 and I-35E as well as overflights in US 287 and I-35E.
Gaertner said the city may collect impact fees from developers to help pay for the city’s road projects. One example, he said, is the expansion of Farley Street from a two-lane to a four-lane highway of US 287 at Brown Singleton Park.
Scott said staged development, like at Emory Lakes, also helps the city contain growth.
“The current (sewer) expansion won’t be able to handle all of this, but luckily Emory Lakes is a 25 to 30 year old build,” Scott said. “Although there are limits, we are not concerned. But we will reach the point where further improvements are needed to manage the growth.
In fact, Brooks said county roads and roads under the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction will also need to be improved.
But for now, city leaders say the city is able to handle the growth as long as it stays on top.
“It’s not something that has just been imposed on us,” Brooks said. “This has happened in recent years. We saw what was going on at DFW, so we knew it was going to happen. “