The Frisco City Council approved a special-use permit for a Universal Theme Park on Tuesday, paving the way for construction to begin.
The vote was 4-2, with council members Brian Livingston and Laura Rummel casting the dissenting votes.
“The public really influenced the project, probably more than any case I’ve been involved with for 15 years,” said Mayor Jeff Cheney. “I do think this is a better project than [when] it started.”
Some of those who opposed the theme park said they would be holding the council members responsible for the results.
“And you should,” Cheney responded, while asserting that the City of Frisco would be holding Universal responsible as well.
“This conversation with the public will not end tonight. … I do feel comfortable all your questions here have been answered,” he said. “It will be part of the DNA of what it means to grow up in the city of Frisco.”
Livingston, one of the two dissenting voices on the council, said that he had concerns about the park’s prospective location.
“Like everybody else, I’m concerned with traffic, crime, and especially Cobb Hill,” said Livingston.
Residents from Cobb Hill were well represented because of its proximity to the proposed construction site, near the Dallas North Tollway.
“I think it’s a great project, but I just don’t think it’s going to be the right location,” Livingston said about the park, which would include 97 acres of restaurants, rides, hotels, and other attractions.
The other dissenting voice, Rummel, suggested tabling the vote until the city could do more research into the impact of the park. However, in an apparent procedural hiccup, she never made a motion to this effect.
The discussion of the park was split up into two separate meetings, with the first from the Planning and Zoning Commission, which unanimously recommended the project after a lengthy public comment period before the City Council meeting started.
Afterward, the City Council heard from Universal representatives. Chief of Police David Shilson also answered questions in regard to crime, which was a concern of many who spoke during the public comment period.
“This particular development does not cause me concern for the safety of the community,” Shilson said, explaining that his department had reached out to Tulsa police about the PGA tournament to research how to police the Universal theme park.
Besides the potential increase in crime, residents were concerned about increased traffic and lowered housing values.
“It’s insulting to our intelligence,” said John Pavic, who identified himself as a local businessman, during the public comment period. “The people of Frisco are being exploited.”
Pavic expressed frustration about the council’s perceived determination to approve the special-use permit.
“I already know that your minds are made up because this is a big dog and pony show,” he said, before addressing Universal directly. “Please go to Arlington. It’ll mix in fantastically anywhere else.”
All of the council members made a point to go on the record, saying they were not benefiting financially from the park.
Council Member Bill Woodard acknowledged the dissenting voices opposed to the park, particularly about increased traffic.
“It’s hard not to have these concerns right now,” he said, while noting that the problems with traffic have continually changed over the years in Frisco. “In three years, nobody is going to recognize what we see today.”
“Have faith,” Woodard asked his constituents.