Raw deal

If John Ware, Ray Hunt, and Bill Clements have their way, Dallas taxpayers may foot the bill for turning 2,200 acres of Kaufman County lakefront property into a golf course

(Looking at a map, if one pictured Dallas as a dead turtle on its back with its feet splayed, Renner would be the stretched neck and head sticking up into Collin County. There was no controversy over the annexation back then because that was before controversy was allowed in Dallas.)

For most of the last quarter-century, the city had to squeeze other neighborhoods in order to provide services to Renner. No one at City Hall has ever put a sharp pencil to the deal to see whether Dallas ultimately profited or lost money by annexing it.

Some people who deal with Peterman and her department think her role in going after the preservation incentives was her way of waving the flag for the good ol' boys, showing that she wasn't tied to the new urban-hip developers and would do whatever she had to do to keep John Ware's patrons happy.

The idea of gutting the preservation incentives was so raw--it was even condemned by The Dallas Morning News--that it failed, for the most part.

But Peterman by then had created a lasting image of herself. As one developer put it, "She's an inside bureaucrat who is interested only in holding on to her job until she retires. She's scared to death of John Ware. She doesn't have the slightest interest in anyone or anything but whatever it takes to keep Ware off her case."

Peterman refused to take any calls or answer any questions at all or appoint anyone else to answer questions from the Observer on the Clements-Hunt development. Jim Oberwetter, spokesman for Ray Hunt, also did not respond to questions. Former Governor Clements did not respond to telephone messages requesting comment.

John Ware also did not return phone calls asking for comment.
But Clements' son, B. Gill Clements, who runs the farm and is playing a lead role in developing it, goes the rest of them a step better. The younger Clements has a business phone that simply is not answered. At all.

But even if the people asking for the money won't talk about why they want it, they nevertheless have left certain footprints in the soil around Lake Ray Hubbard, which offer some clues.

Danny Greenhaw, who lives on one of the raunchy ranchettes near the Clements farm, has been keeping a sharp eye out for developers. "They surveyed the farm last winter," he says. "And when the surveyor came up to my property, I asked him what it was for. He said they were going to develop it.

"Then they [photographed] it from the air. The talk after that was that they would develop two to three hundred acres with a golf course."

That size of development just about matches Buddy Miller's estimate of the amount of land Clements owns that is not subject to flooding.

The property, which is about a mile off the freeway and even more distant from the nearest subdivisions, doesn't strike anyone as a likely location for a shopping mall. Buddy Miller says, "The only good place for shopping would be my property at the crossroads, and I have had a lot of friends try to convince me I could get rich by opening a liquor store, since everything nearby is dry. But I can't see a mall."

Stephen Davis, whose family originally owned all the land in the area, is a member of a rural water board and picks up bits and pieces of area gossip.

"There was some talk of them doing condos at one point," he says. "And there was some talk of 1,000 to 1,500 homes in the range of 1,200 to 1,300 square feet."

What emerges from the local rumor mill is a fuzzy but persistent picture of an exclusive, high-end housing development of some sort clustered around a golf course.

That picture looks pretty much exactly like the sort of thing Houston wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole. It would be the kind of area that would make high demands for services, but might not come close to generating the tax revenue needed to pay for them. And forget about putting the city in a profit position.

Ah, but what a deal it would be for the developers and their well-heeled customers. Far away from the bad people. Certainly very fancy, if Bill Clements and Ray Hunt are developing it. Almost certainly gated and guarded.

All of the typical downside of living in a rural enclave--spotty water quality, shaky healthcare, crummy roads, redneck neighbors--would be eliminated. Residents could call 911 and expect the City of Dallas to get that helicopter or fire truck or ambulance or police car out there pronto.

At some point, Peterman and Ware will have to go to the city council and spell out what they have in mind. It will be intriguing to see how the council responds.

California cities dealing with annexation issues in recent years have been hiring annexation consultants, sort of like urban accountants, to come in and do objective studies of the income and out-go involved in any annexation proposal. If the Dallas City Council wants to get the real numbers on this one, they will go outside to an objective expert and as far away from Cheryl Peterman as possible.

The only other hope is that, before he leaves office in a few weeks, Ware will be able to sell the council itself to someone. At least that would afford a fresh start.

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