Wednesday, December 8, 2021

What’s Happening in Copper Canyon – June 2015

Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml
Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Steve Hill analyzes Financial Long Range Impact on Town Taxpayers of Various Residential Lot Sizes in our Town Center

Copper Canyon has benefited from Steve Hill’s financial expertise for over a decade.  He has served on our Town Council for 12 years. Steve is a Senior Partner in charge of international investments for KPMG, one of the four major accounting firms in the United States.  He offices in Manhattan; but his home is in Copper Canyon.  His business requires him to travel worldwide to provide financial advice to his firm’s international clients.  But, his calendar always highlights the dates of our monthly Town Council Meetings.  Steve genuinely “loves Copper Canyon and our rural environment.  He wants to maintain that environment, but at the same time the Town needs to look at the facts.”

Long Range Planning:

Steve’s financial background emphasizes “long range planning”.  So, he volunteered to spend hours analyzing the impact of various residential lot sizes in the Town Center on Copper Canyon’s tax payers.  He believes the sentiments of the Town should be based on facts; “rationality makes a difference.”  According to his model, in all cases, Copper Canyon will have a “bubble to finance” in seven years.  Primarily in road maintenance and construction expenses for rebuilding current roads.


(1) 75% of the possible 180 acre Town Center (north and south of FM 407) will develop within 5 years.

Steve assumed that 75% (or 135 acres) of the possible 180 acre Town Center would develop within 5 years. (He cautioned that this was a conservative estimate for Town Center development.)  Of those 135 gross acres in the Town Center, 25% of the acreage would not provide direct property tax revenue to the Town.  10% of the developed acreage is estimated to be dedicated to interior roads in any development.  15% of the developed acreage is estimated to be dedicated to “green space.”  Green space usually includes required retention/detention ponds for drainage, landscaped entrance features, and possibly walking trails and other amenities.  Any Town Center subdivisions would be gated with sewer provided and Town-required interior concrete roads maintained by an HOA.

(2) Annual 2% Increase in Copper Canyon’s Property Valuation by Denton
Central Appraisal District.

(3) Organic Growth Continues in the rest of Copper Canyon. Homes will
continue to be built on individual vacant lots.  Small subdivisions will be
developed on small acre tracts of land.

(4) Debt service. Included was current debt service for paying off the balance of
our original $2 million dollar road bond.

(5) Law Enforcement. Also included was eventually adding a third dedicated Deputy from the Sheriff’s Office.  This would provide for an additional 40 hours of law enforcement patrol each week, both in Copper Canyon proper and in any future development in the FM 407 Town Center area.

(6) CRITICAL – 20 year Schedule for Road Maintenance and Rebuilding. Five years ago the Town rebuilt 90% of its 25-35 year old asphalt interior residential roads.  Despite light use, these roads will again need rebuilding in another 20-25 years.  And as these residential roads age, routine maintenance costs will increase.  Special future projects include rebuilding Estates, Pilot and Knoll and replacing the bridge on Estates Drive.  (The bridge is a very expensive but necessary project.)  An additional expensive project is rebuilding and widening Jernigan Road, which is not only a lengthy road but not originally built to our current road standards.  (The Town has already put aside funds to rebuild Woodland Drive with a concrete surface.  Woodland is our most heavily traveled interior residential road.)

In recent years Denton County has funded the rebuilding of our perimeter commuter roads in concrete (Copper Canyon Road, Orchid Hill Lane, Chinn Chapel Road.)  But those roads are heavily traveled and even concrete roads need systematic maintenance. The Town also has in reserve the ability to issue an additional voter-approved $500,000 road bond, if we encounter the need for any major emergency road repair


(1) No new roads. Only maintenance and rebuilding of existing roads.  Any new roads in the Town Center will be constructed of Town required concrete surfaces and maintained by the relevant HOA.

(2) No additional bonds for any purpose.

(3) No actual Town Center. No traditional Central Plaza or public park in the FM 407 area that the Town is obligated to maintain.

(4) No Commercial Developments in the Town Center. These were not included in the model, though they would be welcomed.  Commercial developments would only adjust the figures nominally, since they would not include a “big box” like WalMart, etc.

(5) No additional cost to the Town to Maintain the Sewer Line to the Town Center. The model assumed that maintaining the sewer line in the Town Center was not a financial disadvantage to Copper Canyon.  Sewer fees per home would cover both the individual residents’ actual sewer usage AND the maintenance of the general sewer facility.

(6) Not included was any major replacement of our current Town Hall. It is a 37 year old 4,589 sq. ft. frame building, originally constructed by Town residents in 1978.  Our current Council Chambers were originally the garage for a fire engine and an ambulance. (A detailed analysis of Town Hall’s current physical structure follows.)

The Model’s Critical Analysis:  The long term financial impact on Town Taxpayers of various residential lot sizes in the Town Center.

Steve analyzed the long term financial impact of various residential lot sizes in the Town Center of 1 acre, ¾ acre, ½ acre, and 1/3 acre.  He was especially trying to determine if any specific lot size would require an increase in property taxes for homeowners.

Fair Market Value of Various Residential Lot Sizes and Possible Homes.
Council Member Valerie Cannaday provided “good faith estimates” for the fair market value of different lot sizes and the “average” reasonable size of homes to be built on each lot size.  She estimated residential per square foot building costs of $135 for a “middle of the road” average finish – “not super custom, but not super cheap.”  (NOTE: Valerie has been recognized by “D” magazine for the last three years as one of the Metroplexes “top producing” realtors.)  Her estimates were:

(1) One Acre: $200,000 lot plus 4,500 sq. ft. [email protected]$607,500 = $807,500 total
(But, she said you could build just about any size house on an acre lot.)
(2) 3/4 Acre: $150,000 lot plus 4,000 sq. ft. [email protected]$540,000 = $690,000 total
(3) Half Acre: $125,000 lot plus 3,500 sq. ft. [email protected]$472,500 = $597,500 total
(4) 1/3 Acre: $100,000 lot plus 3,500 sq. ft. [email protected]$472,500 = $572,500 total

Copper Canyon’s Challenge: What is immediately obvious is that three homes on a third acre lot are worth about double the “appraised value” of one home on a one acre lot.  (Town property taxes are assessed on the Denton Central Appraisal District’s valuation of the residential lot plus home.)  Increasing home density is a financial benefit to a Town from a property tax revenue perspective.  But, in Copper Canyon, is the financial benefit worth losing our unique uncrowded homes surrounded by the green spaciousness that we so value in our Town?

Steve Hill’s financial 20-year long range predictions for Copper Canyon, based on the density of residential lots in Town Center, were as follows.

(1)     One Acre Home Sites: Are not financially sustainable long term.  The Town’s property tax rate would need to be immediately raised 28% and the Town would still run a negative cash flow for many years

(2)    Three-quarter Acre Home Sites: Cannot be sustained at the current property tax rate. The rate would be immediately increased in 2016 by 14%.

(3)    Half Acre Home sites: Would not require a property tax increase and would provide a $1.4 million reserve fund to the Town in 20 years.

(4)    One-third Acre Home Sites: Would not require a property tax increase and would provide a $6.1 million reserve fund at the end of 20 years.

Conclusion:  Steve concluded that with a quality developer, between a half acre and under three-quarter acre lot sizes would financially sustain the Town over the next 20 years without a property tax increase!

You could have “heard a pin drop” in the Council Chambers.  All of us, who have championed maintaining our traditional one acre home sites in the Town Center, probably did not realize that there was a financial cost to do so.  Steve’s exhaustive financial modeling provided the facts upon which to make a decision.

P&Z Majority still Favors Smaller Residential Lots in Town Center

A majority of three P&Z Commissioners have consistently favored smaller residential lots in our Town Center.  Commissioner Janet Aune’s reasoning is that allowing higher residential density increases flexibility for the developer, possibly allowing the “clustering” of small home sites to allow the preservation of natural groves of mature trees and more “green space”.  Commissioners Andre Nicholas and Michael Cannaday have agreed with that rational.  In addition, Commissioner Nicholas said that “diversity creates success”.  Commissioner Cannaday was concerned that “it might not be practical for developers to move the sewer for lots as large as a half acre.” However, to its credit and possibly in response to Hill’s financial model, P&Z has reduced residential density in the Town Center south of FM 407 from 4 lots per acre, to 3 lots per acre, to eventually minimum one-third net acre home sites in the entire Town Center. (Except for “Estate Transition” lots.)

One Exception: Minimum ¾ Acre “Estate-Transition” Lots will Buffer the west side of Estates of Copper Canyon’s minimum one acre home sites and south side of Shackelford residential acreage.  Both Council and P&Z suggest deeper back yards of Town Center homes that are adjacent to backyards of Double Oak homes on the south side of the Town Center.

Lots per Acre: This is a measure of density that benefits the Developer.  No matter how much land in the development must be dedicated to roads or “green space”, the Developer is guaranteed a certain number of “lots per gross acre in the development.”  Last April P&Z and Council approved “3 lots per acre” in the North Town Center and “4 lots per acre” in the South Town Center

In the category of “3 lots per acre”, a Developer proposed lots to the west of the Estates of Copper Canyon that were only 70’ to 80” wide.  With 10’ setbacks on either side of the lot, the 50-60’ wide actual slab site could not accommodate 3
car garage spaces.  And, 3 car garage spaces have become a standard minimum for upscale homes in our area.

Minimum Lot Size: This is a measure of density that benefits the Town.  No residential lot will be less in size than the minimum allowed.  Many lots may be larger.

43,560 sq. ft. = one acre
32,670 sq. ft. = ¾ acre
21,780 sq. ft. = half acre
14,520 sq. ft. = 1/3 acre
10,890 sq. ft. = ¼ acre

NOTE:  A Half acre lot is 50% larger than a Third Acre Lot! An additional 7,260 sq. ft. to allow creativity and flexibility!

My Personal Evaluation of Where We Are:

I personally know of only 7 Town residents who want High Density Homes in the Town Center.  (Not counting 2 residents who own land in the Town Center.)  In contrast – every Copper Canyon Resident, who has taken the time to send an email or personally attend Town Council and P&Z meetings in 2015, has unanimously endorsed continuing our minimum one acre residential home lots!  I have personally read each of these emails sent to Town Hall (and sometimes even read them more than once).  I have listened intently to those Town Residents brave enough to stand up in Town Meetings and directly express their preferences to the Council and P&Z.  And, I have appreciated Town residents who have approached me privately to tell me of their personal concerns for our Town.

What has impressed me, over and over, is how much individuals who live in Copper Canyon respect and value our small community – and want to preserve its uniqueness.  And this applies to not only long term Town residents, but also to those who have just recently chosen to make their home here.

Perhaps Compromise is a Responsible Alternative.

Steve Hill’s 20 year analysis of the financial sustainability of our Town was a “wake up” call for me. And a very sobering one. Would I prefer only one acre lots in our Town Center?  Absolutely.  Is this a fiscally responsible path for the Town as a whole, considering long range financial responsibilities?  No, I no longer believe it is.  My personal preference would be to consider minimum half acre lots in our Town Center as a responsible compromise.  Half acre-sized lots allow for a variety of home designs and flexible siting of the homes so that mature trees can be preserved.  Half acre-sized lots do not require a town-wide property tax increase, but do provide for long range funding of the Town’s major financial obligations for roads and law enforcement safety.  And, at the end of 20 years, the Town may also have accumulated a “safety net” of $1.4 million in a reserve fund.

The three longest serving Council Members recommend Half Acre Home Lots in the Town Center.  Half Acre Lots fund the Town’s Financial Obligations but do not require any Property Tax Increase.

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Steve Hill, Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Mangum, and Mayor Sue Tejml all stated that Half Acre home lots were the most responsible solution.  Half acre home lots would fund the Town’s 20 year financial obligations, not require a property tax increase, and still provide a “safety net” of $1.4 million dollar surplus at the end of the 20 year period.  And most importantly, Half Acre lots were the closest resemblance to Resident’s repeated preference for Copper Canyon’s traditional one acre home sites.

The two outgoing Council Members Darrin Peterson and Charlie Nicholas and Council Member Valerie Cannaday supported Minimum one-third acre residential lots in the Town Center.

Council Member Peterson did not believe there were enough buyers for million dollar homes on one acre lots in the Town Center.  He and Council Member Cannaday stressed, as did her husband Michael Cannaday a P&Z Commissioner, the need to give developers flexibility by allowing smaller lots of higher residential density.


Half Acre Minimum Lots allow 132 homes in South Town Center’s 88 acres
Assuming 66 usable acres  (Deduct 25% or 22 acres for roads & green space)
NOTE:  A Half acre lot is 50% larger than a Third Acre Lot!
A generous additional 7,260 sq. ft. to benefit creativity and flexibility!

But higher density Third Acre Minimum Lots allow up to 198 homes in South Town Center’s 88 acres

How many more homes will be built on the North Town Center’s 92 acres?
Another 200 homes?  That’s almost 400 additional homes in Copper Canyon!

Question: The Two Former Developers proposing 437 homes on 116 acres in the Town Center appear to have withdrawn.  Have they?

Volunteer Forms available on Town Web Site and at Town Hall

Copper Canyon literally runs on volunteers!  If you would like to serve our community, please fill out a Volunteer Form.  Our current committees are:  Planning and Zoning, Board of Adjustment, Hostess, Trails, Adopt-a-Spot, Neighborhood Watch Block Captain, and Santa Party for Copper Canyon Kids. You can also volunteer to do clerical tasks at Town Hall, such as filing and microfiche copying of documents.  (No, there is no financial remuneration.)

Valerie Cannaday and husband Michael welcome baby “Kate”

Beautiful baby “Kate” was born in May, weighing a healthy 7 lbs. plus and with a generous topknot of brunette hair just like her Dad’s! She is the daughter of Council Member Valerie Cannaday and P&Z Commissioner Michael Cannaday.  Valerie will attend the June 8th Council Meeting, but baby Kate will stay in the car with her dad.  Once Kate has received her immunizations, Valerie promises to bring her to Town Hall for all to appreciate!

June 8th Council Meeting welcomes back Former Member Dave Svatik! Council will address “residential home setbacks” in all Copper Canyon.

Dave Svatik previously served 4 years on Council and is resuming his position this month. His first Agenda request was for Council to address required “home setbacks” in all of Copper Canyon for all categories of residential lot sizes.  Variance requests for “residential home setbacks” have repeatedly come before our Board of Adjustment in the past few years.  The question is whether our current strict setback requirements are reasonable.  Do they maintain residential standards in Town?  And, if so they need to be enforced.  Or, are our home setback requirements out-of-date?  Residential lots in Town used to be all uniformly rectangular, fronting on straight streets, with uniform front setbacks required

But current popular preference in subdivisions is for gently curved streets, resulting in a variety of lot shapes, and often with short cul de sacs adjacent.  Residential cul de sacs are popular because minimal vehicles traverse them and only at slow speeds.  A much safer neighborhood scenario for traffic, especially for small children.  But cul de sac lots can often be of different widths and depths – and certainly not a predictable rectangle in size.

New Council Member Bill Castleman suggests discussion on Council Emails

Council Member Bill Castleman was alerted to possible government official email issues by a recent article in the Dallas Morning News.  Copper Canyon’s Council has always been advised to keep a separate email account strictly for business related to their position as an “elected official.”  And, to archive all substantive emails.  Our Staff also follows this procedure.

However, in our about to be “live” new Town website, each Council and Staff member will have a separate Town email address.  These email addresses can be used by Town residents and public to contact individual Council and Staff members.  We want to insure that our new IT Agent can reliably archive all such emails and also block irrelevant spam.

June 8th Council Meeting will not cover Town Center “residential lot density”

My sense is that Council, P&Z, Staff, Town Residents, and Town Center landowners are “weary” of the subject of “residential lot density” in the Town Center.  The latter two groups of people feel compelled to come to Town Hall Meetings if the subject is to be discussed, much less acted upon.  Perhaps, we all need a summer “break” on the issue.

Notify Town Administrator of Any Drainage Issues in Town

Town Administrator Donna Welsh, the Council, and I routinely drive our streets to locate any drainage issues.  There are definitely some non-draining ditches on the south side of the Orchid Hill roundabout.  These ditches are on our routine maintenance list to clear out once the ground has a chance to dry out a little.

I received a surprise, but most welcome call, from longtime resident June Tyler.  She said in the last downpour that Mobile Drive was draining like a charm!  Water rushed east in the drainage ditches, across the cul de sac at the end of the street, and then east to its final destination in Lake Lewisville.  She was most elated that water was draining swiftly off her two acre home site and pasture, instead of ponding stagnant there for days as before.

Orchid Hill Roundabout is abloom with Roses and Crimson Yucca Spires

Many thanks to Susan Musgrave for using her expertise as a Master Gardener to design our sustainable plantings in the Chinn Chapel Round-about.  For those who have asked, the roses are red Knockouts and pink Belinda’s Dream.  Susan also designed the landscaped entrance to the Estates of Copper Canyon, her home neighborhood.

New Council Meeting Agenda Item

Currently, any Council Member can request that an item be placed on the Council Agenda.  However, a new standard Council Agenda Item will be added as the final item for every Council Meeting.  This will allow all Council Members to discuss if they want an item to be placed on the Agenda; and if so, what is the most convenient date for the Council as a whole to address the item.

Town Attorney conducted Workshop on Open Meetings and Open Records.

Almost every Copper Canyon Council Member, P&Z Commissioner, and Board of Adjustment Member has completed the State mandated Open Meetings training via CD or online.  However, over years we have found it far more beneficial to have our very experienced Town Attorney Terry Welch to conduct a live, in-house workshop on Open Meetings and Open Records.  The advantage is for Town representatives and Staff attending to be able to ask direct questions and get specific answers from our Town Attorney.  The Workshop will be available to other Town residents on a “space available” in Town Hall basis.  There is no financial charge.

The Current Physical Condition of our 37 year old Town Hall.

The 1,152 sq. ft. of our office area was built in 1978 by Town residents.  However, this 37 year old frame building has been renovated with a new roof, new insulation in the attic, new double paned windows, new air conditioning, new bathroom fixtures, new flooring, and repainted inside and out. (The renovation was funded by a grant pro-actively obtained by Town Administrator Donna Welsh.)

In 2005 the 2,814 sq. ft. of our current Council Chambers was converted from the old fire engine garage attached to the original 37 year old Town Hall.  An additional 623 sq. ft. of the original fire engine garage was left as non-air conditioned storage space.  Also in 2005 a masonry floor was added to Town Hall’s Entry, plus two ADA certified public bathrooms were added adjoining the Entry area.

In 2011 the 623 sq. ft. storage area was converted into the current kitchen/conference room plus additional meeting space in the Council Chambers.  The Chambers were repainted then and new carpet added.  The prior mentioned grant also funded replacing the roof over this area, adding insulation in the attic, and upgrading the air-conditioning system.

The decades old septic system servicing Town Hall has also been replaced.  (After twice flooding the Council Chambers during heavily attended Town Meetings.  Not exactly the “rural atmosphere” I had hoped to preserve.)

However, the parking lot will need resurfaced in the near future, probably in conjunction with the Town rebuilding Woodland Drive.  (Occasionally we need additional parking at Town Hall, but we hate to pave over the beautiful grass areas on either side of the building.)

Current Routine Maintenance of Town Hall:  Currently, poor drainage behind Town Hall is being corrected and the uneven, broken asphalt drive in front of Town Hall replaced with grass.  (The roots of our beautiful pine trees have risen above the ground’s surface and caused the asphalt driveway to buckle and break and become a “trip and fall” hazard for people accessing Town Hall.)

We are so fortunate that longtime resident Roy Bradford is dedicated to keeping Town Hall’s grass mowed.  And Municipal Court Clerk Carol McLeod enthusiastically cares for the plants in the flower beds and the house plants inside Town Hall.  Scott Geer of Tree Shepherds annually checks the pine trees and prunes dead branches that might fall on guests or their vehicles.  Town Administrator Donna Welsh and Town Secretary Sheila Morales are ever alert to protect our venerable Town Hall from the inevitable ravages of time.

After the last Denton County Mayor’s Crime Prevention Luncheon, hosted for the 4th year at Town Hall, I discovered our Precinct Four County Commissioner Andy Eads sitting on a bench on the long front porch of Town Hall.  He was visiting with another Denton County Mayor on local County issues. Both men had their long legs stretched out in front of them and were just enjoying the pleasant natural beauty of their surroundings.  The sun was shining and a slight breeze was ruffling the pine boughs overhead.  Commissioner Eads commented that this was his “favorite conference room” in all of Denton County.  A relaxed place where fellow “elected officials” could informally consider solutions to mutual problems.  I agree.  Our Town Hall has that welcoming, non-threatening atmosphere, that says surely together we can solve this problem.

Our beloved Town Hall, in its beautiful setting of lawn and magnificent mature pine trees, should last us another 20 years.  (That’s assuming our sometimes violent North Texas weather doesn’t have a destructive surprise for us in the future.)   Meanwhile, we’ll lovingly “tend” our 37 year old building, which has gallantly served as the focal point for our community for so many decades.

Sheriff’s Deputy Jess Moran videos “on camera” two Non-Resident Teens rutting Copper Canyon Right-of-ways!

For months the Town has been trying to identify the person or persons purposefully rutting our road right-of-ways.  The deep ruts make it very difficult for Copper Canyon resident John Brothers to use his heavy commercial mower.  And, after recent serious rains, the deep ruts hold stagnant water that breeds all types of mosquitoes including the deadly West Nile variety. (Five locations in Dallas County have recently tested positive for West Nile Mosquitoes and one in Frisco.)

Deputy Moran cited two teenagers for purposefully rutting Copper Canyon right-of-ways.  One from an adjacent town and one from an adjacent Fresh Water Supply District.  If convicted in Municipal Court, the teen will have a misdemeanor charge on his record and municipal fines to pay.  In addition, the Town will get an estimated cost for repairing the rutted road right-of-way, and so notify the responsible parent or adult for the teen.  If the responsible party does not pay for the repair, the Town will seek compensation from the vehicle insurer for the teen. (You can imagine the escalation of insurance premiums to cover such an irresponsible teen.)

If you have any clues as to persons intentionally rutting our road right-of-ways, please contact Town Hall 940-241-2677 #3.

Sue Tejml
Sue Tejml is mayor of Copper Canyon, TX.

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