Traffic, growth and the city’s future were on Southlake residents’ minds at a candidate forum April 22.
Candidates for City Council places 1 and 6 told voters why they were the right choice and fielded questions at the session before early voting opened on Monday for the May 10 election. The forum was put on by Southlake Program for the Involvement of Neighborhoods, or SPIN.
Incumbent Martin Schelling and challenger Shahid Shafi are running for Place 1. The Place 6 contest features two veteran mayors pro tem in Gary Fawks, who served on the council from 1996-2001, and Virginia Muzyka, who had a council seat from 2004-2010.
Several resident questions were about traffic.
Schelling said the city’s 2030 master plan prioritizes road projects, and added that much of the traffic is made up of pass-through drivers from other cities.
“We have to live within our means and we have to live with what we can afford,” he said. “Every year we put money into the capitol improvements plan and we build what we can build, but we do have a master plan for the roads and how we’re going to fund them.”
Shafi said the traffic problems stem from growth and said he strongly opposes the multifamily residential homes being built in Southlake Town Square.
“I believe the underlying issue is high density development,” he said. “It all comes down to unchecked growth, unchecked development, which does not put the interests of the citizens first, it puts the interests of the developers first and that is something I want to change.”
Fawks said the problem is deviation from the city’s land use plan. He wants to reduce variances for future developments.
“Part of our traffic problem is we allowed more intense land use than the land use plan intended,” he said. “That just dumps more traffic into the roadways. We need to consider the impact of every development, every new development on traffic and the existing residents.”
Muzyka referred to the city’s mobility plan and projects that aim to relieve traffic.
“The mobility plan does show we will be putting in some east-west roads to keep us mobile in our own town,” she said.
One resident asked candidates whether they would approve multifamily housing. The question has been a hot issue since condominiums were approved at Southlake Town Square last year, over the protests of residents who came to meetings to voice their concerns.
Schelling, who voted to approve the condos, said he was advised by the city attorney not to comment.
Shafi reminded the audience of his opposition. Fawks said he created a petition against the condominiums.
“I won’t support multifamily,” he said. “I won’t vote for it anywhere.”
Muzyka said the downtown zoning in 1991 allowed for uses such as condominiums but hinted that she would not support it around the city.
“Outside of the downtown district I don’t see that ever happening,” she said.
A boy at the forum asked the candidates what one issue or problem they would eliminate to improve Southlake.
“If there’s one thing I would want to eliminate it’s the uncertainty of water, and our dependence on the city of Fort Worth because they are our wholesale provider.” Schelling said. “As much as we would be able to pay for it they may not be able to supply us with all that.”
Shafi listed three concerns: city and school district debt, property taxes and “I would eliminate elected representatives who are no longer representing the interests of the residents of Southlake.”
Fawks’ issue was traffic. “Traffic impacts our quality of life, it changes the way our city feels,” he said.
Muzyka said she would not eliminate anything.
“I’m kind of appreciative to some of our traffic because it’s our tax base, people are coming in here and enjoying Southlake,” she said. “I enjoy every bit of this city.”
The forum is available to watch online at the city’s website: cityofsouthlake.com