Tuesday, June 6, 2023

What’s Happening in Copper Canyon — December 2018

Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml

Copper Canyon’s Trail Clean-Up Day was Saturday November 17th 9-1

Copper Canyon’s longtime Trail Committee Chairman Deb Valencia-Schmitz has re-scheduled our annual Fall Trail Clean Up Day FOUR times due to the incredible number of rain days this fall! The Town of Copper Canyon has had a 30-year formal Agreement with the Corps of Engineers to maintain trails on the Corps land in this immediate area. Usually volunteers contribute 150 to 175 hours each year. However, this year the rain has reduced the volunteer hours to an estimate of 80 to 100 hours.  Deb wanted to particularly thank Copper Canyon resident Kyle Crecelius and his teen son Jeremiah Crecelius for their help on Trail Clean-Up Day and for three young adult volunteers from Double Oak:  Zach Elders, Zachary Miller, and Samantha Sedar. You do not have to live in Copper Canyon to volunteer your personal labor, though Town residents are always reliable helpers.

Trail Chairman Deb Valencia said both the Loop Trail accessed from Chinn Chapel Road and the Lake Trail beside Lake Lewisville in Highland Village both remain partially under water.  And there is a tremendous amount of litter that has washed onto the shoreline from boat traffic. She also asked that landscapers quit using the Trail Parking Lot in Highland Village on the east side of FM 2499 as a dumping ground.  There were dead shrubs obviously pulled from a landscape site and many dead tree limbs.  Unfortunately, the dead wood can harbor copperheads, and the Clean-Up volunteers did see one poisonous copperhead snake. The large dumpster that Jeri Harwell, Municipal Services Manager for Republic Services, provided gratis for litter and limbs cut from the trails was three-fourths filled with leftover landscapers’ debris.  The culprit may be just one landscaper, but that person is giving other conscientious landscapers operating in our area a bad reputation.

The trails are provided for hikers and horseback riders, so for their safety no bicycles or motorbikes are allowed on the trails.  Either type of vehicle can cause a horse to rear, which is dangerous and increases the chance of a horseback rider being thrown.  The horse’s powerful kick can also possibly hurt the bike rider and/or his vehicle.  So, for the safety of all concerned, the Corps strictly enforces its restriction of no bikes on the trail, whether pedaled or motorized. Unfortunately, one of the low pipe cross over bars has been demolished at the FM 2499 Trail Parking Pad in Highland village, so four-wheelers can now easily access the trails.  The Corps of Engineers may have to get involved in mitigating this problem.

The Original 2004 Copper Canyon Master Plan

The original 2004 Copper Canyon Master Plan was the brain child of former Mayor Larry Johnson, who is now the CEO oft he “Fogo de Chao” restaurant chain of Brazilian beef specialties.  (During his two years as Mayor of Copper Canyon, Larry would spend one week a month in Brazil, as a principal of his international legal firm. Larry and several of his older sons learned to speak fluent Portuguese during those years.)  Serving on the Master Plan Committee were our current Council Members Steve Hill and Bill Castleman and Copper Canyon landowner Paul Vickery (now deceased.)

No East-West Roads Crossing the Center of Town:  One of the Master Plan’s guiding principles was to not have any east-west roads crossing the center of Copper Canyon.  This helped to keep the heart of our Town rural without any outside vehicular traffic cutting through.  The only east-west routes were Orchid Hill Lane in the north and FM 407 in the south.

Minimum one acre Residential Lots:  Residential areas other than in the Town Center along FM 407 were zoned a minimum of one acre, two acre and five-acre home sites.  The one exception was several half acre lots that had existed on Chinn Chapel Road prior to Copper Canyon being incorporated as a Town in 1973.  Those few lots were legally required to be “grandfathered”at a half acre in size.

Broaden the Town’s Tax Base:  Another goal of the Master Plan was to broaden the tax base of Copper Canyon from solely single family residential property taxes to additional sales tax revenue from retail and commercial entities.  But the retail-commercial entities were to be located only along FM 407 in the Town Center, leaving the heart of Copper Canyon remaining strictly residential.

Town Center South: Town Center South was designated as the 85 acres owned by the Vickery Family south of FM 407, plus the 5 acres of the Living Word Church which were not then included within Copper Canyon’s Town limits.  However, the Vickery Family had sold the 5 acres to the church and limited its use to religious purposes.  The Church agreed to petition to be annexed by Copper Canyon, so that it could participate in the wastewater agreement Copper Canyon negotiated with the Town of Flower Mound.

NOTE: Copper Canyon is a General Law municipality under Texas State Statutes.  Our Town cannot unilaterally annex any land, even though it is within our Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).  Canyon Oaks subdivision is within Copper Canyon’s ETJ.  But their residents have never sought to be annexed by our Town.  Much of Lantana is within our Town’s ETJ. But Copper Canyon would not seek to annex that portion of Lantana because of its high property tax debt.

Copper Canyon would need a minimum of 5,000 residents to pass a Home Rule Charter. At a current population of an estimated 1,500 residents, our Town is probably never going to qualify for the 5,000 minimum population required to pass a Home Rule Charter.

Wastewater Contract with Flower Mound for the FM 407 Town Center.

In 2005 Mayor Sue Tejml and Town Administrator Paulette Hartman and Town Attorney Terry Welch negotiated a 400,000 MGD wastewater contract between Copper Canyon and the Town of Flower Mound.  By contract the wastewater could only be used in Copper Canyon’s Town Centers north and south of FM 407 and nowhere else in Copper Canyon. (i.e. not in the residential subdivision of the Estates of Copper Canyon which bordered the North Town Center.)

However, Copper Canyon’s Town Council did not agree to pay for the construction of the pipeline to bring the wastewater connection from Flower Mound to Copper Canyon, as the Council reasoned that it could be the “connection to nowhere.” The Vickery Family agreed to pay for the cost of connecting the sewer line from Flower Mound’s current wastewater line on Valley Parkway to the southeast corner of the Vickery Family’s southern 85 acres.  The original cost of the connecting sewer line was approximately $600,000, but the cost has increased to over a million dollars with the Vickery Family’s financing expenses over the years.  Copper Canyon agreed to allow the Vickery Family over ten years to recoup the proportional cost of the wastewater line from any other land owners in the north and south Town Centers who eventually utilized the wastewater line. Having access to wastewater, instead of using septic systems, greatly increases the value of the acreage in the North and South Town Centers.

Living Word Church (now called BridgeWay Church) had 5 acres in the South Town Center, but has since sold 3 acres to Toll Brothers for its proposed Vickery Park residential subdivision. The church’s other two acres are occupied by its church development.

North Town Center: The Vickery Family has 16 acres in the North Town Center fronting on the north side of FM 2499.  There are three other landowners, besides the Vickery Family, who have acreage in the North Town Center and can access the wastewater line from Flower Mound.

No Developers offer to build Retail/Commercial properties in the Town Center

In the next few years, only a pair of residential developers offered to purchase the 85 acres of Vickery land in the South Town Center – but only if they could build at a density of approximately 400 homes.  So, Copper Canyon retained the original planner of the Southlake Town Center to evaluate why Copper Canyon’s Town Center along FM 407 was not attracting retail and commercial developers.  The planner was very honest and helped Copper Canyon’s Council, Staff, and Residents understand our dilemma.

First, our Town Center did not include a major intersection – and never would. Second, our Town Center was situated “mid-block” between two highly developed retail-commercial areas: just two blocks to the east the FM 407 and FM 2499 intersection in Flower Mound/Highland Village, and to the west the Lantana Town Center/Kroger complex.  The negatives of our “location” for a retail/commercial development could not be overcome

Cross Timbers Waters’ Moratorium on Fire Hydrants

Besides “location”, a second major deterrent arose to any kind of development of acreage in Copper Canyon along FM407.  Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation became involved in a lawsuit that did not allow it to erect a second elevated water tower in the Town of Bartonville.  The lawsuit with theTown of Bartonville was resolved, but lawsuits continue with homeowners in Saddlebrook.  Though CTWSC states that it has plenty of water for drinking and landscaping in Copper Canyon’s Town Center acreage on FM 407, it does not believe it has enough water pressure for fire suppression for new developments in the Town Center acreage without a second elevated water tank in Bartonville.

The Vickery Family and Toll Brothers decided to share the costs of a solution for “fire suppression” in the proposed Vickery Park Subdivision.  Every home would have fire sprinklers regardless of its size.  The sprinklers would add several thousand dollars of fixed costs to each home.  Copper Canyon’s ordinance only requires fire sprinklers of homes and structures of 5,000 square feet or more.

In addition, two constant level ponds would be built in Vickery Park supplied by a dedicated onsite water well.  Engineers would need to certify that the well’s pumping capacity and the volume of water held in the ponds would suffice for fire suppression in the proposed subdivision.  Toll Brothers would also share the proportionate cost of a mobile fire suppression system that another developer in Bartonville had already bought and delivered to our Argyle Fire District.  The mobile system consists of a special truck to pull a trailer with fire hoses totaling a length of 1.5 miles, with two high velocity dedicated pumps.  In case of a fire, the pumps could draft from the dedicated ponds and the hoses could deliver the fire suppression water to any structure in Vickery Park.  Water lines for future fire hydrants would be installed, but the hydrants would not be installed because the developer did not want the warranties on the hydrants to begin running before their active use. And, CTWSC currently had a moratorium on any water hydrants being installed – period.

Toll Brothers Spends several thousand dollars Designing Vickery Park

Vickery Park was designed as a gated community, because those types of subdivisions are safer with limited access to the public.  Those types of homeowner enclaves usually are fairly crime free, which certainly appeals to CopperCanyon’s current residents.  The only access to Vickery Park would be from FM 407, with a central gated entrance and exit and two separate exit-only gates at the east and west ends of the subdivision.  There would be no entrance or exit through the town of Double Oak.

The interior streets would be concrete and maintained by a Homeowner’s Association and not by the Town of Copper Canyon.  The perimeter fence around the subdivision would also be uniform in appearance and maintained by the HOA.  Sixteen percent of the land (18 acres) would be Green Space and maintained by the HOA.  The central heavily wooded grove of thick trees would be preserved with natural walkways through its length.  There would also be Green Spaces separating the traffic along FM 407 from the subdivision of homes.

Toll Brothers had even considered moving its cedar fence on the west side of Vickery Park five feet inside its boundary line.  This would help preserve the roots of the tree canopy in the eastern right-of-way of Double Oak’s Tanglewood Drive.

Toll Brothers realized that drainage from their proposed development could impact Double Oak homes to the south.  Therefore, they surveyed the perimeter of the lake at the center of the Double Oak subdivision to the south and measured the depth of the existing silt in the lake.  Toll Brothers invited Double Oak residents to an information session and told them that when the Vickery Park project was built-out, they would restore the Double Oak lake to its current size, capacity for water retention, and current silt depth.  They also showed Double Oak residents two retention ponds on the south border of the Vickery Park project that could hold any run-off drainage water from impacting Double Oak.  All of this was done BEFORE Toll Brothers even approached Copper Canyon’s Town Council.

Toll Brothers proposed Copper Canyon Master Plan Amendments for the Vickery Park Project

June 11 – 291 Homes:  This past June Toll Brothers proposed a density of 291 homes for Vickery Park and asked that the retail/commercial requirement be removed.  The separate Public Meetings before Planning and Zoning and the Town Council were both packed with Copper Canyon residents.  And, the residents almost unanimously spoke against that density of homes.  Both the P&Z and the Town Council unanimously rejected the 291-home density.  The Council maintained the Master Plan requirement of a one-third net acre per home site.  (This is the same lot size that Toll Brothers used in its Terracina residential subdivision across Chinn Chapel from The Shops of Highland Village.) After deducting green space and streets, the remaining home density was approximately 198 lots.  The Council did remove the requirement of a retail/commercial component for the South Town Center.

September 10 – 240 Homes:  Toll Brothers designed Vickery Park in two distinct sections with two different sized homes.  Their rationale was that it is easier to market to two distinct types of homebuyers.  In September Toll Brothers proposed a Master Plan Amendment for 240 homes or 51 less homes than their original proposal for 291 homes in June.

West Side: The 88 lots in the western half of the subdivision were increased by Toll Brothers from 72’ wide to 86’ wide by 145’ deep. By further eliminating every sixth lot, five lots could have their width increased from 86’ to 100’ wide.  100’ width times 145’ depth is 14,500 sq. ft. or a NET one third acre lot size as then required in Copper Canyon’s Master Plan for the South Town Center (which is the proposed Vickery Park area.)  Only minor adjustments would have to be made to the roads, retention pond, and green space on the WestSide.  This adjustment would reduce the total proposed lots by 14 or 15 to a total of 226 or 225 lots

East Side: Toll Brothers increased the width of the 152 lots on the East Side from 60’ wide to 72’ wide by 120’ deep or 8,640 sq. ft. per lot.  An acre is 42,520 sq. ft.  Each home in Copper Canyon’s Woodlands subdivision and on the streets off Rolling Acres Drive sit on a one-acre lot.  The proposed density of the homes on the East Side of Vickery Park is FIVE homes on the equivalent of a one-acre home site currently in Copper Canyon. (Similar density of homes can be viewed in Lantana, via the entrance off Copper Canyon Road just south of the Fire Station.)  Redesigning the East Side of Vickery Park to meet the one third net acre density in Copper Canyon’s Master Plan would be a major revision.  The 152 lots would need reduced by 27 lots to meet the 198 Council suggested maximum total density of homes.  However, possibly one of the east-west cross streets on the East Side could be eliminated and this would be a cost savings to the developer.

October 8 – 225 Homes: Toll Brothers asked for a Workshop with the Council and no Public Hearing and no Joint Meeting with Planning and Zoning.  RobPaul, Toll Brothers Vice President, had called our Town Administrator and asked if a 225-lot number was a hard number.  Donna said “No,” it was just the Mayor’s suggestion for an“easy start” in the reduction of lot numbers starting with the West Side of the proposed subdivision.  Council Member Steve Hill suggested that Council approve a 2.25 density times the 88.05 gross acres of the proposed Vickery Park, as this would give Toll Brothers some flexibility in the design of lot sizes.  But, ultimately the number of lots was still an estimated 198 maximum.

November 12 – Joint Meeting of Town Council and Planning and Zoning:

Last December the Council passed an ordinance that allowed one Council Member to propose an Agenda item by 1 p.m. of the Tuesday before a Council Meeting and that item must be included on the Agenda.  A Council Member proposed a November 12th Joint Meeting of the Council and P&Z to vote on a Toll Brothers proposed Master Plan Amendment of 225 homes for the proposed Vickery Park.

However, several key persons had already indicated they would be absent for that Council Meeting.  Our Town Attorney would be in Alaska teaching his annually scheduled legal seminar.  The Chairman of our P&Z Andre Nicholas would be out of town.  And Council Member Steve Hill would be traveling on business. Our Town Administrator asked if the Council Member would consider postponing the Agenda Item and vote to the December 10th Meeting, when the above persons could be present. The Council Member did not want the item postponed.

Several P&Z members asked why the“notice” for the November 12th meeting was so short for both them and Town residents.  Friday afternoon notice for a major Monday Council Meeting is very short notice.  But, notice was passed on to interested Town residents by email and phone. And Town residents again came in person to object to the density of homes proposed for Vickery Park.

My sincere thanks to our Planning and Zoning members who gave a lot of thought to their November 12th deliberations.  Present were Paul Bosco, Kaki Lybbert, Mark Pape, Tom Reid, and alternate Deb Valencia.  They elected Tom Reid to be their Acting Chairman.  And they voted 4 to 1 to postpone their decision on allowing a maximum of 225 homes in Vickery Park until the December 10th Joint Meeting of P&Z and Council.  They also asked that our Financial Advisor Steve Hill please update his Pro Forma for the coming 20 years in Copper Canyon.

December 10th Joint Meeting of Planning and Zoning and Council:

A majority of Council (3 votes) can override a recommendation from Planning and Zoning.  The issue of allowed residential density in the proposed Vickery Park subdivision should be finally decided at the December 10th Council Meeting.  If you wish to express an opinion in an email, please address it to our Town Administrator at [email protected] or to any of the Council Members on our website. Your email will be included in the December 10th Council packet which is available to the public.

Just my thoughts on the Pros and Cons of the Toll Brothers Project:

Pros: (1)  Toll Brothers is a quality Developer and stand behind their homes.

          (2)  They probably have the financial backbone to ride through an economic downturn in residential home building – which may be coming.

          (3)  Dealing with one developer and one homebuilder is preferable to the Town dealing with 5-6 homebuilders of varying financial backgrounds.

Residents in Copper Canyon love living here because:

  •  An old-fashioned sense of “neighborhood.” People move here to live “forever.”  They both know and treasure their neighbors.
  •  The above fosters a “crime free” neighborhood.
  •  Property Taxes are low and stable. Copper Canyon has not raised its property tax rate in 5 years.
  •  The Town Council is stable and the Town Staff is small and stable. Our Town Administrator has been with us 11 years and our Town Secretary with us for 7 years. Our Town Secretary lives in Copper Canyon and was named by the North Texas Town Secretaries Association as their Outstanding Secretary for 2018.
  • The Town only has two more part time employees.

All of the above reasons are why Copper Canyon was named by the Dallas Morning News two springs ago as one of the Top 10 Residential Communities in NorthTexas.

So, friends and neighbors – where do we go from here.  I have mixed feelings.

I LOVE the Copper Canyon I know.  But, I want to protect us financially in the future.  Please do send in your thoughts.  I do so value your insights.  Mayor Sue

CTG Staff
CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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