KATY (Covering Katy News)—The area’s population growth, and how to manage it, were among the key topics discussed at a State of the Region event sponsored Tuesday by the Fulshear-Katy Area Chamber of Commerce.
The event, which drew about 400 people, was held at the Merrell Center. KPRC-TV reporter Keith Garvin served as moderator.
Rosenberg Mayor William Benson, Simonton Mayor Laurie Boudreaux, Fulshear Mayor Aaron Groff, Katy Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harris, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, and Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith served as the panelists.
In managing population growth, Benson said Rosenberg’s population is 40,000 now, but the city has about 100,000 people living in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction that will one day be city residents. He said Rosenberg uses an extensive budget process to set priorities and manage growth.
Nehls said Fort Bend County has been one of the fastest-growing counties in Texas, growing by 25-30,000 new residents per year during his years in office. He said he’s focused on looking at the staff needed to deal with the growth. But he added that over the past seven years, “we haven’t really seen a really significant increase in calls for service.”
The U.S. Census said the Fort Bend County population was 585,475 in 2010 and increased to approximately 787,858 in July 2018, a 34.6% increase.
Harris said the City of Katy’s population, 18,000, is expected to grow to around 30,000 by 2030. The city has managed its growth while pursuing projects such as the Katy Mills Mall to generate sales tax revenue to offset the dependence on property taxes. He said zoning is also an important part of managing growth in historic Katy.
“We’ve tried to keep our residential areas residential,” Harris said.
Population growth in Simonton isn’t the issue as it is for other communities represented at the forum. Boudreaux said Simonton’s population was 881.
“We have different challenges than everybody else, being right on the Brazos River,” Boudreaux said, adding that 60% of Simonton’s budget was focused on emergency management. When the river swelled because of the flooding, Boudreaux said that between 80-92% of Simonton residents were forced from their homes.
But the statistics Boudreaux cited did not ignore the fact that Simonton is also growing as people continue to look towards the Greater Fulshear-Katy area. She said the city is working on a long-term development plan.
“(Property) values continue to rise at a record pace,” Boudreaux said. “Many new families have moved here during the last year.”
Flood control remains an issue the mayors and their communities must address. In Rosenberg, Benson said a 45-acre detention pond was being constructed. He said the pond was being dug “at my favorite price, for free,” which drew a chuckle from the crowd, noting that a contractor had agreed to cover the cost of the project.
Harris said Katy voters passed a series of flood control bond issues last year. Going forward, Harris said he hoped that area communities could develop a regional flood control plan.
Technology, and the equipment needed to ensure that people have online access and communications in the growing cities, also came up for discussion. Benson said his Rosenberg City Council was expected to review options tonight at its council meeting.
Meanwhile, Boudreaux and Groff said long-term planning for Simonton and Fulshear include efforts to install broadband and other technology to help residents and to support and drive commercial development.
“We’re open for business,” Boudreaux said.