By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Go about eight miles outside of the town center, and the landscape looks the way it probably did to the pioneers. There are hills and trees and flowers and animals, a sharp contrast from neighboring Lewisville, which is characterized more by fast-food restaurants than by nature.
Some 53,000 people live in Flower Mound today, representing a fourfold increase since 1990. Driving along FM 1171 into town, the first striking visual is the horde of SUVs. Flower Mound is one of those municipalities responsible for blasting softball-sized holes in the ozone with these gas guzzlers, jet-black Lexus LX 470s and Mercedes ML320s. Like any Texas town, there are also a lot of pickup trucks. These, however, do not carry payloads of scrap lumber, old mattresses, and dirty hound dogs. In Flower Mound, urban cowboys roll high off the road in their jacked-up $32,000 Ford F-150 SuperCrews, complete with leather interiors and state-of-the-art sound systems. Neil Diamond never sounded so good.
At the intersection of Morriss and Cross Timber roads one particular Tuesday afternoon, two huge cops, both sporting blond crew cuts and Francis Poncherello sunglasses, have a black woman handcuffed at the side of the road in full view of God and everyone else. She probably isn't from here; the town is 95 percent white, according to city statistics. If one seeks a little diversity--by north suburban standards, anyway--he has to go up the road to Lewisville, where only 89 percent are white.
Head a bit further down Morriss Street, and you hit the kind of suburban neighborhoods where Edward Scissorhands might have lived. The houses have slight variations, but the styles seem to be cut from the same batch of cookie dough. The roofs are all the same color, and ADT Security signs line the walkways to the front doors. The mailboxes are encased in brick, matching the houses' brick façades. Many here obviously take the "good fences" approach to neighborhood relations. Huge fences demarcate people's yards; no one's seeing in these windows.
Flower Mound residents swear by their town and its way of life. Glenda Duke lived in Dallas until she moved here in 1992. "It's absolutely beautiful out here," she says. "We happen to live on a property with a nice woods, and it creates a natural canopy to sit under, and I like to have my coffee out there."
Bobbye Meek, a resident since 1985, says she wouldn't live anywhere else in North Texas. "I was on park boards at one point, trying to get any nickel I could just to get playgrounds in around here," she says. "It's good people that have a lot of passion about keeping this community somewhat in check. Some people go overboard, though. There's always been your average folks and there's also been your zealots."
And if there's one thing both average folks and zealots are united against, it's development. Excessive development. Flower Mound is growing at an explosive rate: In 1990, there were only 15,500 people. Nowadays, construction trucks hog the recently widened road into the Mound. If the town were to continue growth at a rate consistent with the last 10 years, Flower Mound would be home to some 181,000 people by the year 2010. There's no way it would be able to maintain its prestige. With a population the size of Irving, there's bound to be some drive-through liquor stores and a few more than the 19 residential burglaries Flower Mound police recorded in 1999.
Given Flower Mound's runaway growth, a movement like "SMART Growth" was destined to spring up. Hailed by some as the savior of Flower Mound and by some as Public Enemy No. 1, SMART Growth is the brainchild of Lori DeLuca. A former housewife, 40-year-old Mayor DeLuca is now a key player in shaping town policy.
DeLuca's metamorphosis from housewife to small-town politician happened in 1996, when she became aware of a development proposal near her home that didn't comply with the town's master plan. After talking with neighbors, DeLuca discovered that virtually everyone opposed this project. So they banded together and fought it for six months, eventually stopping the development. When all was said and done, the neighbors patted one another on the back and prepared to go back to their usual quiet lives. But within a couple of weeks, DeLuca got a call from another neighborhood going through the same thing. A week after that, it was another neighborhood.
The Flower Mound she knew was in danger from the schemes of developers who didn't live there and would never have to suffer from the results. "It started out as a concern for what was going on in people's back yards and grew into concern for the town," DeLuca says. Her group of neighbors went from a loosely organized band of concerned citizens sitting around DeLuca's kitchen table to a registered PAC, Voters United to Preserve Flower Mound, in 1997. Voters United saw themselves as crusaders for the town's master plan, which cost about $500,000 to draft and reflects Flower Mound's vision for controlled, responsible growth.