Plans now murky for Rowlett's Crystal Lagoon project

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Plans are up in the air for a proposed $1 billion luxury resort in Rowlett.

The news has upset and bewildered a lot of people who've been eagerly awaiting the lagoon. The city council ultimately has to approve what's developed on that parcel of land. They are left to figure out how to come to an agreement with the developer whose plan has changed dramatically.

A major development billed with a massive 8-acre Crystal Lagoon as its centerpiece will no longer have that lagoon. The developer now plans something scaled down.

The city council met Tuesday night to decide their next move. Before the meeting even started, Mayor Tammy Dana-Bashian said the council would have no comment until sometime after the closed-door executive session.

Ron Miller is a 43-year Rowlett resident, former city councilman, and real estate developer following closely the changing landscape near the Bayside Boat Club and taking feedback from residents for his blog covering city affairs.

“My computer and my phone lit up like a pinball machine. Everyone knew I was involved and watching,” he said. “Normally, I come down on the side of the developer unless there is an exception. This is an exception. The citizens felt like they'd been bamboozled — pure and simple.”

The 8-acre Crystal Lagoon, show fountain and trolley the city thought it was getting was scaled down significantly by the developer, Bayside Design Partners. Now, plans are for a park, a kayaking and watersport basin, a beach, a waterfront performance stage and a family friendly interactive water feature.

Bayside says the new design will "increase the quality of development, appeal to a broader audience beyond tourists and increase the amenities."

A letter to council says the change is a result of Bayside's "research." They said a Crystal Lagoon "bears unnecessary risk” and that the lagoon “is not financially sustainable.”

The property was purchased in 2015 from the city of Dallas. Bayside District Partners paid $31.5 million for 262 acres. Rowlett then created a special property tax zone agreeing to reimburse the developer for any upgrades made to infrastructure.

The latest from the city comes from its website in an update for residents posted on July 31. It posed the question if the Crystal Lagoon had been scrapped. The city said no because any changes to the approved vision will require city approval.

But Miller questions the research and developer’s motives. He points out freeing up most of the eight acres of what would have been the Crystal Lagoon leaves it open for other development.

“I would say do not despair yet because sometimes you gotta put your foot down and take somebody to school,” Miller said. “And that may be what's forming up now.”

The city is expected to provide an update to talk about their decision on Wednesday.