It has almost been two years since the last election in Argyle, when I was elected Mayor, along with two other Council members. I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what brought us here, what has been achieved since then, and what is next on the horizon for our town.
What got us elected, and by a large margin, was the demand for change, change from a path that was altering the face of our charming town, and the crown jewel of North Texas, forever. Consequently, the path we had to take was not the traditional route that most organizations would, by creating a Mission/Vision statement first, followed by a Strategic Plan to operationalize that. We had to deal with some pressing issues.
We had to change the trajectory that we were on, or risk any hope of ever doing so. We immediately began revising our Comprehensive Plan, which gives guidance to all regarding future zoning change requests, sending a clear message of what we wanted for our Town. This had the immediate effect of communicating to everyone what our future vision was regarding land use. Absent already zoned properties, we immediately set the minimum lot size for future residential zoning requests to 1 acre, which should preserve our rural feel that most of us moved here and/or are staying for. A lot went into redrafting the Comprehensive Plan, many meetings and public hearings. I do believe, and I am sure the other Council members do also, that it represents the vision our citizens have for Argyle. Once we had completed that, we began work on articulating our vision with a Vision Statement and Guiding Principles, which reads as follows: “The Town of Argyle is committed to preserving our small town character and natural beauty through thoughtful growth, stewardship of resources, and citizen-focused government.”
We collaborated with Argyle citizens to create this Vision Statement, which ultimately was the result of a partnership effort among citizens, town staff, and elected and appointed officials. We hope it will act as a foundation for decisions into the decades to follow, and always keep us grounded on what is important to us.
The natural next step after a Vision statement is to construct a Strategic Plan, which will provide us with the information necessary to guide us well into the next decade. There are a lot of misconceptions that exist surrounding the management and decisions for municipalities, for example, that you “need rooftops for commercial.” First off, each municipality is unique, and in our case we are surrounded by rooftops. Second, and something that most overlook, residential rooftops have a negative revenue impact on municipalities because of the higher cost of community services they require. As we all know, too much of anything is not a good thing, and so we need to stay in balance with any development that comes to Argyle. We are currently saddled with over 40% more platted home sites relative to what currently exist in Argyle, sitting in developments approved prior to 2017. That is a huge number for our little town to digest, both economically and also structurally. Our focus for the last year has been to identify how to balance that with something that is desired by the citizens, retains our small town charm, and has the greatest benefit economically. One means to achieve that, is to work closely with our EDC or Economic Development Corporation that has the means to reach out to potential development opportunities directly, as well as provide tools and incentives for companies to find us. One of the EDC members profoundly once stated that “we have but one chance to get this right,” and so we must act with the utmost diligence to consider all aspects, including non-economic characteristics like zoning, design, as well as traffic and noise affecting surrounding neighborhoods. But, I believe with all the other work done, we are starting to see the fruits of our labor with some businesses in the pipeline for consideration.
The aforementioned are the strategic things that put the ship in the right direction, but many more things have been achieved over the last two years, some of which are more operational. For instance, I believe for an organization to be fiscally responsible, it not only needs to consider its expenditures, but also have control over its revenues. Something that I believe most citizens overlooked was an event that started toward the end of last year, in which an internal audit by our staff identified that over $383,000 in wastewater fees had not been collected from neighboring communities that we have an agreement with. This shortfall dates back to 2008 and was overlooked in several instances by prior administrations. Since that discovery, we have created much better protocols to prevent anything like this from happening again. I’m very proud of our staff and Council, to not only identify this but also the means to collect it.
With respect to fiscal responsibility, we have also done several other things. For one, we restructured our Police department in such a way to put more “boots on the ground”, therefore providing greater safety for our citizens. We have found better ways to recruit officers and added several over the last two years. I believe that today we have one of the best Police forces in Argyle history, with greater coverage and better trained officers.
We have also restructured our fees as they affect future developments so as to not burden existing residents with their impact. In addition, we are about to begin an Impact Study which will allow us to analyze impact fees as they relate to new developments, another way to assure that development costs are paid by those that create them.
Another little unknown fact is, that prior to 2018, our Public Works department did not have a permanent home. Essentially we were using a facility owned by the Argyle Water District, which they had requested to be returned at the end of this year. The new home for our Public Works department is on Stonecrest, just south of Winchester Pass. The best part is that it belongs to Argyle, with plenty of room to service its citizens well into the future.
Another item that had not been addressed very well prior to 2017 were our roads. Since then, we have conducted an extensive road survey, which identified which roads were in the greatest need for improvement. By realigning expenditures and creatively identifying savings, like lower bond rates, we were able to authorize one of the largest road improvement projects in Argyle history, without affecting current tax rates. The project will begin in April and run well into the next year.
There have been many, many more accomplishments along the way which we feel will benefit our citizens and our community. One of the very early ones was the redefining of roads through existing neighborhoods, or as they were referred to as “cut-throughs.” We recognized that while there are inherent benefits to connectivity, our existing neighborhoods enjoyed the benefits of reduced through traffic. Communication and transparency was also on our campaign platform, and so we increased the notification radius of upcoming zoning and development requests to 1,000 feet from 200 feet, which is probably the largest anywhere. We wanted our citizens to know what was going on in their community. This also includes the online live streaming we are doing for all our scheduled meetings, recognizing that citizens should not have to give up their evenings coming to town hall just to stay informed on what is going on in the community. All streamed sessions are also recorded for later viewing on demand.
Going forward, we are finalizing our latest Tree Preservation Ordinance, which we hope will preserve our natural resources for us and those to follow. A small commonly-not-known fact is that Argyle has probably one the densest tree canopies of all North Texas municipalities. That is something to be proud of, and something that needs to be preserved. We are also working on a Code of Ethics/Conduct, which should give guidance on what we expect as a community from our elected and appointed officials and town staff. The mere appearance of a conflict of interest can cause major damage to the credibility of our town’s leadership. Never should a citizen wonder if their and the town’s best interest were the only reason for decisions made.
Finally, and certainly not lastly, is the Strategic Plan that we are working on, which should become a living document going forward, guiding us and all future Town leaders. A lot of decisions were made pre-2017 which were probably done so with the best intention. I believe that we may find out that there should have been more to have been considered. We can’t go back in time, but we can take those lessons and make sure we learn from them and apply this knowledge going forward.
One of my analogies to citizens has been that it has been like being on the Titanic, except that we have a tiny rudder with which to turn the ship, and that takes time. Many more things have been achieved over the last two years like restructuring and training our town’s staff, identifying and employing better resources like our town attorney and economic development consultants. I’m extremely proud of everyone’s participation and accomplishments so far, but I would like to remind all citizens as we enter the election period, that in life, the “stars only line-up” every so often, and that if we don’t seize the moment, a great opportunity will be lost. I believe that all the stars are lined up for Argyle at the moment and that we are getting good traction in building the future that its citizens hope for our town. We have the right mix of Council members, each with their respective expertise and knowledge of what needs to be done to achieve results. I sincerely hope that everyone will consider this as we near Election Day, May 4th.
The Argyle Seniors’ St. Patrick’s Day Luncheon, with corned beef and cabbage furnished by The Argyle Police Department and side dishes furnished by others, was a big success.
Our grateful thanks to Jody Bellinghausen for all the hard work in preparing the food and cleaning up after the luncheon. We were so happy to have our dear friend John Bellinghausen back with us after a battle with chemo.
The seniors enjoyed listening to the Denton Center Seniors Chorus group. We were also honored to have our Mayor Don Moser and several of the City Council members and Planning and Zoning people with us. We welcome you anytime!
The seniors meet every week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. to exercise and 10:30 to play hand and foot.
We welcome all seniors to join us at our Easter luncheon and Easter hat contest on Friday, April 19. The Easter bunny plans to stop by and have lunch with us.
For more information to discuss pay and duties you may contact Stella McDaniel at 940-464-7438 or Karen Kiel at 940-404-0506.
Happy Easter and remember what Easter stands for. (Christ arose from the grave and paid the price for our sins!)
-Submitted by Stella McDaniel