City leaders look toward growth, projects

Published on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 22:52 - Written by BY KELLY GOOCH kgooch@tylerpaper.com

 

WHITEHOUSE – As city officials look toward the future of Whitehouse, they said they are hopeful that the community will become more of an attraction for out-of-towners and anticipate more growth.

The city has included in its 2013-14 budget, which was adopted Tuesday, about $80,000 for operating expenses related to the Whitehouse Baseball/Softball Complex reconstruction project. 

The project includes landscaping, drainage work and new lighting, and is expected to be complete by fall 2014.

Assistant City Manager Kevin Huckabee said he expects that Whitehouse will see some economic growth to accommodate patrons of the ball field.

City Manager Mike Peterson said he sees it as being “the premiere place to play Little League.”

The complex is only part of what’s happening in Whitehouse. 

Huckabee said there is not a big boom in residential development, but it seems there’s a steady flow of home building.

And as far as commercial development, he said the city’s been talking to companies about coming into Whitehouse.

It is “still a growing community - how much and to what point we don’t know - but at this time is still a growing community,” Huckabee said.

For instance, last year, Whitehouse City Council members approved a zone change for property in the 800 block of W. Main St., allowing  Cavender's to pursue adding onto an existing warehouse or building a new warehouse at that location. However, no specific timeline has been established.

Additionally, Huckabee said he expects the city to receive detailed plans for a proposed development, so it can issue a permits and construction can begin.

The first phase of the development, set for the 300 block of East Main Street, would have a gas station, convenience store and multiple restaurants.

Huckabee said he doesn’t believe the splash park, which opened last year behind the city park on East Main Street, is going to bring a big economic boom. He said the city also isn’t looking for alcohol sales to be a reason for growth, but believes it will keep the city from falling behind other entities that have approved beer and wine sales. In the 2013-14 budget, he has said the city projected an additional $50,000 for sales tax from alcohol sales.

As far as other plans, Huckabee said, the city’s goal is to get rid of long-term debt without accumulating a lot more debt.

And Peterson, who is set to retire next month after more than 25 years serving Whitehouse, said he has prepared a 36-page document on proposed goals for issues such as economic development, land use and parks and recreation.

He said he wants to see Whitehouse have another surge in residential building, and would also like to see commercial economic development.

Peterson said one of the recognized benefits of living in Whitehouse is the school system, so overall his recommendations are aimed at making the city more family-friendly.

“We’re trying to make Whitehouse a destination city instead of a place you drive through going somewhere else,” he said.

Overall, he said he believes the city, which he estimated was pushing 8,500 in population, is on the right track.

“I see the city continuing to grow economically. I see that it’s turning around. I see more residential construction. I see more people moving their business here. We’re trying to make it an attractive place to come and open a business…I see we’re going to get back to the growth levels we had several years ago,” Peterson said.

“We’ve worked really hard the last four years to get ourselves going, and it looks like it’s come to fruition here. We’re going to continue to grow, and people are going to continue to move here,” he added.