Iowa Colony, Texas
a Thriving Texas Community
With economic growth on the radar, Iowa Colony sets the stage for future business development and residential base expansion
Celebrating 50 years since its incorporation in 1972, the city of Iowa Colony was founded in the early 20th century. Since this time, the community experienced slow but steady growth until 2019 when the population started to climb. At that time, the city reported 3,233 residents, a number which grew to 5,000 by 2020. Today, Iowa Colony is home to over 12,000 people and is continuing to grow at an unprecedented rate.
City Manager Robert Hemminger recounts, “about 10 years ago, the development kind of started. We now have two master-planned communities on each side of highway 288. South 288 is the last major corridor of expansion for the Houston Metropolitan Area, and it really is the last opportunity for growth and development.”
He shares that these first master-planned communities have brought other projects to the city, adding, “We have at least four development agreements that have been negotiated. If they all continue, close on their property, and do develop, that alone is another almost 5000 single-family residential homes, which would double the population again. We are primed for continued rapid growth.” Along with the residential development, the city is beginning to see increased interest on the commercial side, something Hemminger predicts will continue.
He does want to make it clear that there is an effort to protect the character of the community, even as it embraces this growth. “There is still an emphasis by some of those long-time families that want to safeguard that rural, small-town feel. As we’re looking at developments that are coming, we try to look for ways to give the people that are interested the suburban feel and amenities, while also keeping the rural openness and the larger lot communities that we still do have around town.”
Elaborating on the master plan communities that have been the stepping-stone for Iowa Colony’s expansion, City Engineer, Dinh Ho describes, “The one that really set the stage for the city was Sterling Lakes, a community that was developed with gated lots and guard-manned security access very private.” Developed by Land Tejas, a company with a long history of creating vibrant communities in the Houston area, Sterling Lakes put the city on the map as a place of opportunity.
Next came the Meridiana Development, as Ho continues, “Rise Communities created this beautiful master plan community that stretches over two cities. The first part of the development is in Iowa Colony, and it has established a significant amount of open space, recreational areas, hike, and bike trails that stand out beyond most of the communities in this area. In addition, they donated a 100-acre public park to the city.” In 2021, Real Estate Consulting Magazine ranked both of these communities in the top 40 in the nation, further highlighting the potential of Iowa Colony.
Iowa Colony is divided by State Highway 288, and maintaining connectivity within the city has remained a priority. For this reason, major thoroughfare plans and collector roads have been outlined in the city’s master plan for development. “These roads provide connectivity throughout the city,” explains Ho. “This integrates all of the points of interest to recreational facilities, and to all educational facilities. There is a significant amount of connectivity between all the master-planned communities within the city.”
In the future development, the city has announced developer DR Horton will be extending the nearby Caldwell Ranch master-planned community in adjacent Fort Bend County into Iowa Colony, which will bring approximately 1,500 new homes.Hines Development has also acquired about 1,000 acres, adding another 2,500 homes.
The Meridiana community is in a Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ), and a Municipal Utilities District (MUD). This allows the developer to invest in high-quality infrastructure, such as roads, water, and wastewater systems, and later be reimbursed through those funding mechanisms. Sterling Lakes is also a MUD, and Hemminger relays that when they were annexed into the city, a rebate agreement was created to keep the tax rate consistent throughout Iowa Colony.
“The city gives some of the property taxes back to the MUD to basically buy down the MUD tax rate,” he says.” It keeps us on an even playing field throughout the community.” That also enabled the building of infrastructure in both of these communities to be done by the developer.
“The city was such a small community, it was even referred to back then as a village, and it just didn’t have the funding or the capacity to go in and invest in that infrastructure to support this growth, “acknowledges Hemminger.
“Once they sell lots and have homes on the ground, they can issue bonds to reimburse them for the infrastructure. So, there are very high-quality water, wastewater, and street systems there.” The development agreements with both of these developers ensure that those systems will later be handed over to the city, which will take over ownership and operation, while also expanding them into other areas of the community.
“The city will be in a position then to expand the operation of water and wastewater systems and provide public water and wastewater in what have historically been rural areas that were serviced by private wells and septic systems. So again, it’s triggering that evolution of being able to continue the growth and development without having to rely on developers coming in and investing large sums of capital upfront to do it. We will be able to extend that out as a city and grow that operation.”
Following a design criteria manual that was developed by the city years ago helps to guide future development and maintain the standards that have been set. This criterion continues to evolve along with Iowa Colony’s growth, but it ensures what Ho depicts as “high quality, technologically advanced facilities, and infrastructure.” He remarks, “One of the features Rise Communities in Meridiana has incorporated is using stormwater instead of using groundwater or well water for an irrigation system. They are actually using water in their detention lakes, utilizing that to irrigate the green space along the corridor and the right of ways and such.”
With a comprehensive plan outlining the vision of the city completed in 2020, and a master water and sewer plan adopted in 2021, Iowa Colony is currently working through a master drainage plan with the Texas Water Development Board. “There is a lot of significant planning involved that’s going to benefit the city in the long term. The leadership from the mayor to city council, to the city administration, has really guided this city and provided some real forward thinking.” In partnership with Burditt Consultants, a Parks, and Open Space Master Plan is also in the works. This process will include public meetings with residents to understand their vision for parks and community spaces.
On the commercial side, Hemminger says businesses are starting to see the opportunity in Iowa Colony and coming to the city. He says, “Our approach has been freely meeting with anyone who’s interested in bringing commercial growth to our community. On our city website, there is an opportunity to schedule what we refer to as a Development Review Committee (DRC) meeting.”
These meetings offer a casual opportunity for potential businesses to bring their ideas, and work with city staff on a path to success.
“If there’s a developer that has something that they’re considering proposing, we may give them 10 or 15 minutes in front of the council to talk through it in a work session environment, where there’s not a decision that has to be made. There’s nothing that’s time sensitive or in a crunch. There’s not any pressure on it, it can just be an open discussion where they relay to the council what they’re thinking about, and the council can give them their open feedback as to how they feel like that would be perceived, and then we work through the process,” he conveys.
One thing the city is working to attract is a grocery store, filling a need for residents who currently have to travel 10 miles to the nearest option.
As for what else is on the horizon for the city of Iowa Colony, Hemminger says there will be a continued effort to make sure decisions made today are a benefit to the community long term.
In summary, he portrays, “The future of Iowa Colony is extremely bright, and there is just so much exciting opportunity here. The city council takes such an interest in working for the long-term benefit of the community, making sure that something they approved today won’t become a blighted area tomorrow. It’s really neat to see the opportunities come to fruition.”
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AT A GLANCE
Iowa Colony, Texas
What: A thriving community experiencing unprecedented growth
Where: Brazoria County, Texas
Meridiana Texas – www.meridianatexas.com
Meridiana is a master-planned community minutes south of Pearland is ranked #38 among the nation’s top communities in 2022. With an abundance of move-in ready homes, construction of a new onsite elementary underway and a waterpark-like amenity village opening this summer, it’s easy to see why families continue to flock to the award-winning community. Residents enjoy unlimited use of the community’s waterfront, resort-style Oasis Village featuring Cafe Sol, family pool with cabanas, lap pool, splash pad, fitness center, fishing pier, outdoor play area, all-weather ping pong and foosball tables, shaded sitting areas and lush central lawn. Plus, the community offers 100+ acres of parks and more than 50 miles of paved trails, Meanwhile, workers are nearing completion on Adventure Cove, Meridiana’s second amenity village. Opening this summer, this unrivaled community setting will feature a spacious wave pool, winding tidal river, recreation pool, fitness center, central lawn, outdoor fitness space, large pavilion, and food truck park. Meridiana’s new model home park features 19 showcase models, all fully furnished and expertly decorated, featuring top-selling plans by Houston’s leading builders. The collection presents the finest in new home architecture and design for homesites from 40-100′ in width, including those in exclusive gated sections.
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