Good fences

Don't always make good neighbors, especially in exclusive Flower Mound, where a nasty feud between the mayor and a newspaper publisher has blossomed into all-out war

But some local developers and real estate agents don't agree with that assessment. In fact, they're scared as hell of Voters United.

One such developer, who asked that his name not be printed, fears for his livelihood if he comments at all on the organization. His comments, he said, may be construed as controversial or negative and come back to haunt him. "I'd be shooting myself in the foot," he said. "Flower Mound is very particular as to who comes into the community and what comes into the community. And they set some pretty high standards. What they want is something that's going to reflect the quality of life that they think they have here. And they're pretty tough about it."

He says that Voters United controls the town, because the mayor, town council, and Planning and Zoning Commission consist mostly of Voters United members.

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Attorney Donna Morris, publisher of Flower Mound's bimonthly newspaper The Messenger, uses her editorial space to take frequent potshots at the mayor and her allies in Voters United, a political group that wants to control growth in Flower Mound.
Attorney Donna Morris, publisher of Flower Mound's bimonthly newspaper The Messenger, uses her editorial space to take frequent potshots at the mayor and her allies in Voters United, a political group that wants to control growth in Flower Mound.

"They have shown to be intolerant of anyone who disagrees with their viewpoints or opinions," he says. "Whether I like it or don't like it isn't a question for me. It's how do I work within the framework that they have set?"

That question was answered by one of the few sources willing to speak out publicly on behalf of the developers. Bob Morris (no relation to Donna Morris), CEO of the Dallas office of the Home Builders Association, says unapologetically that the entire town of Flower Mound is under the thumb of Voters United. Morris says that VU's hidden agenda is to chase new home construction out of the town of Flower Mound and that they will accomplish that feat in two years.

"What's going to happen is that the process Voters United backs in town council and with the Planning and Zoning Commission is an unpredictable and burdensome process," he says. "There are some 23 steps that a landowner who has a desire to develop his property must go through. It's extremely time-consuming and it's very, very costly. The city is basically saying they don't want to create any more infrastructure to accommodate future development."

He cites Plano--ironically, some VU members' definition of a suburban nightmare--as a model of a community that dealt with growth head-on and came out relatively clean. Plano looked at growth in advance, he says, recognized it was bound to expand, and attempted to reconcile everyone's best interests. Rather then taking the obstructionist point of view, it ensured that city infrastructure kept pace with growth.

"I think Plano is a good example of a growth pattern that's very aggressive and that works," Bob Morris says. "The mayor wants Flower Mound to be the next Highland Park of the region."

At the same time, though, there is an obvious and striking aesthetic difference between the multiple homes crowded onto a single acre in Plano and the 40,000-square-foot lots for a single home in Flower Mound. In fact, after all of the approved lots are built out in Flower Mound--which Morris estimates will happen in about two years--two-acre lots will be the only approved residential growth in Cross Timbers Forest, the primest of Flower Mound's prime real estate.

That's a good thing, DeLuca says; many trees will be preserved.

That's a terrible thing, Donna Morris says; it will kill any growth.

What's clear is that Flower Mound intends to become more exclusive, not less. Most lots currently on the market are between 10,000 square feet and one acre. A two-acre lot is not only tough to acquire but tough to maintain. Today, the average 10,000-square-foot lot and home in Flower Mound costs around $250,000. Two acres, or 87,120 square feet, is more than eight times the average-size lot. So a new house two years from now would cost the landowner much more than the current price.

Despite Morris and The Messenger's plaints about diversity, Flower Mound's town council is resolute in wanting to maintain country club-style living. It's hard to blame them. Flower Mound is, in comparison to other Dallas suburbs, a beautiful place. The Cross Timbers Forest, with its oak-jacketed hills and wildflowers, comes right out of a Robert Frost poem. But there's something here that doesn't love a Mending Wall.

Voters United and Morris are unyielding in their beliefs, though the attorney is winning at least one battle: Her legal fight is draining the pockets of Voters United. Each time she files a motion for an injunction or takes a deposition, VU has to dig in and pump its members for donations.

Her fight is also flushing out other dissidents. The town of Flower Mound maintains a Web site, which brags about the region's appeal. The site posts town statistics as well as glamour shots of the mayor and town council at www.flower-mound.com. But equally interesting is a spin-off of the Web site, www.flower-mound-online.com. Sam Maddox, a local resident and critic of Voters United, created the parody site the day after the May 6 election, when Voters United-backed candidates swept the two council seats and mayoral position up for grabs. All three were incumbents who won by no less than 60 percent of the vote. Maddox, it seems, has tapped into growing unease about VU's dynasty, having received nearly 3,000 hits in a month on his Web site.

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