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What’s Happening in Copper Canyon – April 2015

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Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml
Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml

Updating of Town Web Site – Your Suggestions

One of Copper Canyon’s 2015 goals is to update the Town’s web site.  The Staff and Mayor have been working for several months with Town residentBill Castleman to do just that.  (NOTE: Castleman has just been elected unopposed to Council!) With one click, or no more than two clicks, you should be able to reach the information you need. And, you should be able to directly email any Council Member or Staff Member.  If there are municipal web sites that you admire due to clarity or ease of use, or simply visual beauty of the home page, please share that information.  All constructive suggestions are welcome!  Emailtownadministrator@coppercanyon-tx.org with a cc tosuecoppercanyon@aol.com.

The Dallas Morning News recognizes Copper Canyon as one of 2015 Ten Most Desirable Neighborhoods in Dallas/North Texas Metroplex!

Our Town recently received notice by The Dallas Morning News that it was recognized as one of the 2015 “Ten Most Desirable Neighborhoods” in the Dallas-North Texas Metroplex!  Did our homeowners already know that?  Absolutely!  Were we surprised that others also recognized our unique small town “rural atmosphere” – Yes, we were!  But, happily surprised at the recognition! Look for the May 17th Dallas Morning News special 47 page edition of the Ten Most Desirable Neighborhood-Towns  in the Dallas-North Texas Metroplex chosen for 2015!

In 2014 The Dallas Morning News recognized the following ten communities:
(1) Central Plano, (2) East Plano, (3) Frisco (east of Preston), (4) North Richardson, (5) McKinney West, (6) Frisco (north of Eldorado), (7) Frisco (southwest of the Tollway), (8) Keller, (9) Southlake, and (10) our neighbor Highland Village.

The 2014 criteria for selection:

SAFETY FROM CRIME (55.9%) – Based on the per capita rates of burglaries and aggravated assaults, the serious crimes most likely to affect residents.

Copper Canyon excels in the safety factor.  By design, we have no east to west cross streets through the center of our town, so no easy access for criminals to our interior residential streets.  Most of our interior streets are minimally traveled by mostly residents with their destination being homes on dead end cul de sacs.  Not a thief or criminal’s preferred geographic street layout, because there is no easy, quick exit after a crime

Our homeowners have also usually lived in Town for years and personally know their neighbors.  They recognize immediately if something is “not normal” for their long time neighbors and alert the Town’s law enforcement.  Our dedicated Block Captains for Neighborhood Watch reinforce this safety net.

AFFORDABILITY (12.3%) – Based on the median value of a single-family, owner-occupied residence. (Though our homes maintain, and reasonably increase, their property value – they have not skyrocketed to a price that is beyond most families.)

GOOD SCHOOLS (7.1%)  Based on the quality of the nearby public schools in a study of individual student improvement over time.  (We have both Lewisville ISD and Denton ISD to thank for the quality of the nearby schools for our students.)

WELL-MAINTAINED and QUIET (6.3%) – Based on the amount of money spent on maintenance of residential property and the percentage of residents making such expenditures.  (An overgrown yard or unkempt home in Copper Canyon is a rarity.  And, our longtime residents seem to actually enjoy the natural beauty of the green space around their individual homes.)

RISING HOME VALUES (3.7%) – Based on the rate of predicted property value increases.  (Copper Canyon maintains its home values, even during the recent economic recession, and is usually rated Number Two among area towns for the per square foot price of its recently sold homes.)

PET-FRIENDLINESS (3.5%) – Based on pet ownership rates.  (Copper Canyon had to excel in this category with our numerous beloved dogs, cats, AND horses!)

PLACES TO SHOP AND THINGS TO DO (2.9%) – Based on the number of shopping, entertainment, and dining spots within a short drive.  (Thank You to our neighboring towns Highland Village and Flower Mound for their fine retail and dining amenities, which Copper Canyon residents so thoroughly enjoy!)

COMMUTE (2.4%) – Based on the median commute time of residents working outside the home across all modes of transportation.  (Unfortunately, our Town residents also contend with the usual frustration of never-ending road construction and traffic gridlock in the DFW metroplex.)

WALKABILITY (2.4%) – Based on the number of shopping, entertainment, and dining spots in the immediate area and the numbers who walk to work or recreation.

ATTRACTIVE TREES AND LANDSCAPING (2.1%) – Based on the percentage of residents spending money on landscaping, trees, and gardens and the amount they spent.

PARKS AND GREEN SPACE (1.4%) Based on the acreage of public parks and nature areas within a half-mile.  (Our Town-maintained equestrian-pedestrian trails on adjacent Corps of Engineers land was probably a substantial factor in this category.)

NOTE:  How interesting that our Town achieved this metroplex honor with our “rural atmosphere,” attributable to our traditional minimum one acre home sites, and no retail-commercial areas within our boundaries.

Thanks to retiring Council Members Charlie Nicholas and Darrin Peterson!

Appreciation to both men for their contributions on Council will be in the May edition of “What’s Happening”.  Both have increasing business responsibilities that conflict with the time that they can dedicate to being on Council.

Welcome to new Council Members Bill Castleman and Dave Svatik!

Longtime Resident Bill Castleman Unopposed for Council Position #5

Bill Castleman and his wife Lynne Castleman moved to Copper Canyon in 1983, 33 years ago. Lynne trained and breeds horses.  Bill grew up in Dallas and attended the University of Oklahoma.

Bill has spent over 35 years in TV Broadcasting as a producer, program director, general manager, and COO of a major television group.  He has also been the General Manager of an advertising agency in Washington, D.C.; owned and initiated Alpha Graphics print shop in Denton; and been a professional photographer and videographer for 4 years in Jacksonville, Florida and the past 12 years in Texas.

Some things people do not know about Bill:
(1) He is a private pilot
(2) He is a “dowser.”
(3) He was a soccer referee in North Texas for over 15 years
(4) He was on Copper Canyon’s P&Z for 4 years and P&Z’s liaison to the Town Master Plan Committee in 2004.
(5) He has for years voluntarily taken professional photos for the Town’s July 4th Parade, Santa Party for Kids, Volunteer Appreciation Event, College Scholarship Recipients, Denton Mayors Crime Prevention Luncheon, and newly elected Council Members.
(6) He has been recently updating the Town’s web site.

When Council Member Darrin Peterson decided his business and personal commitments did not allow him enough time to continue being active on Council, Castleman was persuaded to file for the position.  He is unopposed in the May 9th Election and will serve out Darrin’s one year term.  Many thanks to longtime Copper Canyon volunteer Bill Castleman for being willing to serve on Council!

NOTE:  Bill Castleman is already dedicating his time to our Town.  Realizing that “one picture is often worth a thousand words”, he took time to go take photos of the Over-55 Age Restricted Development being built in Keller by the same developer proposing a similar development in Copper Canyon.  His photos graphically illustrated the minimal distance between homes (7’ in Keller, 8’ proposed in our Town), and the street appearance of the side-by-side row homes.

For the April 13th Council Meeting, Castleman will have photos illustrating the various widths of high density residential lots with homes already built and the various appearance of different side-set back requirements between homes.  Some of these photographic illustrations will come from some of the adjacent neighborhoods of Lantana, which have high-density residential developments similar to those proposed by one developer for Copper Canyon.  Castleman will also take photos of recently built homes on one acre lots similar to the lot sizes of those of homeowners in our Town.

Current Council Member Charlie Nicholas decides to withdraw his filing for Re-Election

Current 4 year Council Member Charlie Nicholas filed for election to a third two-year term.  Then, his company NEConstruction (Nicholas Enterprises) was awarded additional major construction projects.  NEConstruction will be building three high rises in Denver, Colorado (the tallest is 30 stories!)  And, at the same time, NEConstruction will be building two towers in Fort Worth!  Nicholas’s personally owned Construction Company already builds in 17 states, with multiple locations in his home state of Texas.  A heartfelt thanks to Charlie Nicholas for the personal time he has been willing to donate to Copper Canyon for Town business.  His multi-year experience with construction and development has been invaluable to our Town!  Thank you, Charlie!

NOTE: Nicholas decided to withdraw after Denton County had approved the printing of the ballots.  So, though his name will appear on the ballot for Council Position #4, he requests that no one vote for him.

Welcome back to former Council Member Dave Svatik!

With Council Member Charlie Nicholas’s withdrawal from the election, former Council Member Dave Svatik will be unopposed for Position #4.  Following is the verbatim personal and family Vita that I asked Svatik to provide for the information of Town residents.

“Dave, his wife Dale, and son Christopher, lived in Highland Village for 8 years before moving to Copper Canyon 17 years ago.  Dave has a Bachelor’s Degree from Loyola University of Chicago and is currently the Senior Vice President of Solution Engineering for SunGard Availability Services based outside of Philadelphia.

“Dave’s voluntary service to our town started years ago when he became a member of the Long Range Planning Task Force for Roads.  He then spent two years on the Planning and Zoning Commission and another four years on the Town Council, and today continues as a member of the Copper Canyon Board of Adjustments.  Dave also spent several weekends taking courses to become certified as a member of the FEMA Community Emergency Response Team (“CERT”).  Dave passed the Federal Communications Commission exams in Morse code, regulations, electronic & radio theory to obtain his General Class Amateur Radio License, and is active on the shortwave and VHF local repeaters.  (In fact, he recommends that people tune into 146.920 MHz, which is available on any scanner, during severe weather, for up to the minute reports for our specific area.)  On his “off” time, you can find him in front of his amateur radios communicating with people all over the world.

“Dave and Dale’s son, Christopher, is a 2013 graduate of Liberty Christian School in nearby Argyle.  Upon graduation, Christopher received a nomination from U.S. Congressman Michael Burgess and a subsequent appointment to attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.  (coincidentally where another Town Council member, Steve Hill, also graduated.)  Chris just returned from his first “sea tour” after spending four months sailing on a container ship to Alaska, Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong, India and Malaysia, as part of his four year curriculum.  He is now back at school in NY continuing his sophomore year, before embarking on his second sea tour this fall.  Both Dave and Dale are active members of the USMMA North Texas Parents Club Association.  In fact, Dale just baked and shipped 42 dozen cookies to the USMMA’s “Cookie Café,” which provides home baked cookies for the midshipmen each week!  Dale currently serves as Copper Canyon Neighborhood Watch Block Co-Captain and has assisted the town with our annual fall Clean Up Day in the past.

“If re-elected, Dave would continue to demonstrate that he listens and acts on behalf of the citizens of Copper Canyon.  He wants to see the Town’s vision of a Town Center on FM 407 completed while incorporating the town’s core values.  He wants to keep our tax rates and staffing low and ensure that we consider the community’s love of a rural environment in decisions that may impact the town.  Dave also commits to pursuing the completion of the upgrade to North Chinn Chapel road, and to our key feeder roads such as Woodlands Drive.”

Council considers update of 2004 Master Plan for FM 407 Town Center

Background: In 2004 a Master Plan was adopted that designated 180 acres adjacent to FM 407 as a Town Center.  At that time, the Town Council pro-actively envisioned attracting retail-commercial developments to that area.  The resulting sales tax revenue would broaden Copper Canyon’s tax basis and hopefully help fund the Town’s two most pressing needs at that time:  (1) quality fire and emergency medical response; and (2) rebuilding 20-30 year old deteriorating Town roads.

The first issue was solved with a homeowner vote across 65 square miles to establish Emergency Services District #1.  The second issue was resolved by the Town’s Task Force for Roads, which included one member from almost every street in Copper Canyon.  The Task Force recommended a town-wide election to authorize $2.5 million in bonds solely to fund the rebuilding of Copper Canyon’s then 25-35 year old residential roads.

The bond issue passed by approximately 60% of the votes cast.  And, almost 90% of Copper Canyon’s residential roads were then rebuilt. Our rebuilt residential roads have an extended multi-year life, because they are lightly traveled by residents and because cul de sacs and interior residential roads are not useful to cross-through commuters.

For the last 4 years the Town has underspent its budget and accumulated that money in our Road Fund to rebuild Woodland Drive.  (And, as an additional safety net, a half million dollars of the voter-authorized road bonds have never even been issued.  But, they could be issued in the event of an unforeseen but necessary road project.  (Provision for customary road maintenance is always part of our annual Town budget.)

For the Town’s perimeter commuter roads, TxDot has since rebuilt FM 407 and Denton County has since rebuilt Copper Canyon Road, Orchid Hill Lane, and the southern quarter of Chinn Chapel Road.  Already passed County bond issues designate funding for rebuilding the remainder of Chinn Chapel Road in concrete.  In the near future Woodland Drive and Chinn Chapel Road will be bid as one construction project, which should save money for both Copper Canyon and Denton County.  (Larger construction projects attract more bidders, usually with a savings in total construction costs.  The contractor has only one set of mobilization costs to spread over both the Town’s and the County’s proposed adjacent road projects.)

In the last decade, no offers for retail-commercial development on FM 407

In the decade since 2004, there have been no offers to purchase land from the five FM 407 landowners for retail-commercial development.  In the last three years the Vickery family has received 9 Letters of Intent from residential developers to build only homes on various parts of their 101 acres.  But, none of those LOIs resulted in an earnest money contract.  However, last year two developers signed earnest money contracts with three FM 407 landowners to build three high density residential areas.

South Lake Planner’s advice to update FM 407 Town Center Master Plan

Last summer the Council retained Greg Last, Southlake’s planner for 22 years, for his advice on updating the Master Plan for only the FM 407 Town Center area.  Last concluded that the Town Center would be primarily residential, with only a small portion possibly accommodating a few garden offices.  This was totally contrary to what the 2004 FM 407 Master Plan had envisioned!  Instead of overwhelmingly retail-commercial, the FM 407 Town Center would be overwhelmingly residential!  And, if that was the realistic forecast, how much residential density of lots per acre should be allowed?

High Density Residential Areas proposed by two Developers for Town Center.
Both developers are sponsored by two landowners wanting to sell their relevant acreage in the Town Center.

At the January 26th joint meeting of Council and P&Z, two developers proposed high density residential developments for the Town Center.  Both developers have contracts to buy from the three landowners actively wanting to sell their relevant acreage in the Town Center.  However, as customary, the earnest money contracts are contingent on Copper Canyon’s approval of the projects.  Both possible developers would be subject to any standards P&Z and Council may approve in the near future for required “green space” or larger minimum lot sizes or lesser density of proposed homes. The two developers proposed width of home lots were 80’ wide, 70’ wide, 60’ wide, and even just 50’ wide for a proposed Over-55 Age Restricted Development.

North Side of FM 407

On the north side of FM 407, one developer proposed 85 home sites on 28 acres immediately to the west of our Estates of Copper Canyon residential subdivision.  The subdivision was tentatively named Pine Vista, in honor of the row of majestic pine trees that the developer intended to preserve.  The residential lot density would be 3 per GROSS acre.

The Estates of Copper Canyon, an almost 20 year old subdivision, currently has 35 Copper Canyon home owners on one acre residential lots.  Twenty plus residents of the Estates of Copper Canyon came in person and by petition to Town Hall to ask for no more than half acre, preferably one acre, home sites backing up to their existing one acre home sites.  Actually, planner Greg Last had suggested just this sort of medium size lot buffering to our current residents in the Estates of Copper Canyon.  Both the Council and P&Z Commissioners also appeared to be receptive to this buffering proposal between current and future home sites in our Town.

South Side of FM 407

The same developer proposed 190 home sites on 55 acres south of FM 407, and backing up to existing one acre homes in Double Oak.  Residential density on that tract would be approximately 4 per GROSS acre.

The second developer has proposed an Over Age-55 Restricted Development with 4.6 homes per acre on 34 acres or 161 homes total.  (Visualize each one acre home site in the Woodlands and along Rolling Acres Drive with 4.6 homes replacing the one home on those one acre lots now.)

Over Age-55 Restricted Developments

The major issues here are threefold:

(1) Density of homes per acre and minimum space between the homes
(2) Percentage of “green space” required in the development as a whole
(3) Amenities provided

Because of the density of homes customary in an age-restricted development, it is often difficult for a developer to not “clear cut” most of the development site.  For mature trees to survive, they need no soil coverage and no disturbance of their roots out to a certain perimeter distance from their trunk. This proposed development is zero-lot line on one side of the home and only 8 feet between the homes on the other side.  Back yards are minimal in space and usually used to accommodate air-conditioning units.

But an increase of the percentage of “green space” could definitely ameliorate this issue of tree loss.  However, increased “green space” inevitably means a lesser number of lots for development and a lower profit margin for the developer.

At present, Copper Canyon has approximately 500 homes in Town.  The two Developers propose an additional 436 home sites on FM 407 – or almost double the current number of homes in our Town.

At present, Copper Canyon has approximately 500 homes in Town on 44.1 square miles.  To put the proposed residential density in perspective:  North of FM 407 – 85 home sites proposed on 28 acres; south of FM 407 –  161 age-restricted home sites proposed on 34 acres and 190 home sites proposed on the adjacent 55 acres.  Total proposal by the two developers is 436 home sites along FM 407 – in comparison to 500 homes on minimum one acre plus lots in our Town now.

Town Residents overwhelmingly in favor of Maintaining Traditional Minimum 1 Acre Home Sites in 180 acre “Town Center” adjacent to FM 407!

Three homes per gross acre is the same density originally proposed by the developer for Pine Vista on the north side of FM 407 and just west of the Estates of Copper Canyon.  85 homes proposed on 28 acres total.  Lot widths were predominantly 70’ wide, with a few 80’ wide lots.  Side setbacks originally requested were 5’ on either side, but the developer did finally agree to 10’ side yard setbacks or 20’ total between homes.  Resulting building pads would be only 50-60’ wide, so difficult to accommodate 3 car garages. Side setbacks increased to 10’ did not reduce the number of lots per acre, but did decrease the width of buildable home pad sites to only 50-60 feet.

24 Town Residents made time to attend a very lengthy multi-hour P&Z meeting March 23rd.  A dozen Residents sent emails.  There was unanimous Resident support for maintaining the Town’s traditional minimum one acre home site in the 180 acres adjoining FM 407, previously designated in the 2004 Master Plan as a “Town Center”.

My sincere thanks to P&Z Commissioners Tom Reed and former Council Member John Brothers.  They “listened” to the many Copper Canyon Residents who came in person to the Council Meeting or took the time to send thoughtful emails.  And, both Reed and Brothers respected the opinions of their fellow neighbors.

P&Z delays decision on any possible “Mixed Use” in the FM 407 Town Center

Chairman Janet Aune insisted on “reserving” the issue of possible office-retail areas in the Town Center mixed with the residential areas.  Commissioner Andre Nicholas, an experienced builder, said that it was “highly unlikely” that type of “mixed use” development would occur in the Town Center.  Town Attorney Terry Welch commented that “mixed use” would require “extremely detailed planning.”

P&Z Commissioner John Brothers suggested eliminating the Planner’s recommendation on the North side of FM 407 for a 1-2 acre grassed open space (plaza?) surrounded by a possible 20 acre “Town Center” of “mixed use” retail-commercial and town homes.  (The Council had previously rejected the Planner’s suggestion of “brownstone” multi-story zero-lot-line homes that had been very popular in Southlake.) Brothers reasoned that the entire “Town Center” concept, as envisioned in the 2004 Master Plan, no longer appeared to be realistically feasible.

Mayor Tejml cautioned that the Town did not have a Parks Department to maintain a public plaza.  And a developer would probably not want to build and maintain public restrooms to accommodate guests at any “open air” event at a private park.

Council may vote on Some Issues at possible Joint P&Z Meeting April 13th

Council and P&Z have twice met jointly to discuss the future of our Town Center on FM 407.  No action was proposed at the prior meetings, so that neither governmental body would feel pressured to make a hasty decision.  But Council and P&Z may take some action at the April 13th, Monday 7 p.m. meeting at Town Hall.  Or, Council and P&Z may postpone action to a later date. The required public notices have been posted for some action at the past February 23rd Meeting or postponement of action to a later date.  Issues for consideration, for the Town Center only, are:

(1) Residential Lots:

a) Minimum lot size, maximum lot density per acre, or combination of both.
b) Required setbacks for homes on lots – front, back, and side setbacks.

(2) “Green Space”:

a) Minimum percentage of “green space” (i.e. “open space”) per development area.
b) Clear definition of what qualifies as “green space”.  At present, the definition includes retention-detention ponds (probably banded by some lawn or landscaped areas), designated wooded areas, private subdivision parks, and landscaped subdivision entrances. These areas would be maintained by the relevant Homeowners Association. Green Space does not include any part of a residential lot or road right-of-way.

(3) Minimum width of paved surface for vehicles between curbs:
This is an important safety feature to ensure that emergency vehicles (fire engines and ambulances) can easily pass between vehicles parked on opposite sides of the street.  Council and P&Z remain adamant on requiring a safe street width to accommodate emergency vehicles!

(4) Over-55 Age Restricted Single Family Residential Developments:

a) Whether to allow “age-restricted” developments generally in the Town Center; or whether to restrict them to the western side of the  North Town Center, so that the high density smaller homes do not back up to existing one acre residential home sites in the Estates of Copper Canyon and in Double Oak.
b) And if Age Restricted developments allowed, the required green space, residential lot density per acre, and/or minimum lot size.
c) And any pertinent legal requirements or restrictions.  The HOA would need to enforce the “age restriction” limit.  Copper Canyon would NOT do so because of possible legal liability for governmental entities under federal anti-discriminatory rules for protected classes.

Input from Town Residents is Important!

Council and P&Z would appreciate your taking the time to give your input.  We are at a crossroads as to our Town’s future via the Town Center on FM 407.  You are always welcome to come to meetings at Town Hall and express your recommendations in person.  But, if your time is pressed for whatever reasons, please take a few moments to send your comments and evaluations via email to TownAdminstrator@coppercanyon-tx.org with a cc to suecoppercanyon@aol.com.  Please give your name and home address in town.

Though we respect the input from neighbors outside Copper Canyon and relevant landowners and possible developers, persons living in Copper Canyon are the ones most impacted by any future development.  All emails will be available to Council, P&Z, and the public.

The timely input of suggestions from homeowners in Copper Canyon will be much appreciated by me, our Council Members, and our P&Z Commissioners!

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About The Author

Sue Tejml is mayor of Copper Canyon, TX.

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