Around Argyle – February 2021
The theme of this column is transparency in the context of the development challenges that we face in our corner of Denton County. The citizens of Argyle have learned some hard lessons about being passive in our dealings with developers. Owners who want to develop their property act in their best interest, as they should. Citizens and their government should act in their own best interest, which most would agree means negotiating development outcomes that do not impair safety or quality of life, unreasonably raise taxes, or otherwise create a situation where the public interest is unduly burdened to benefit a private interest.
Positive development outcomes require a proactive stance on the part of elected and professional officials and citizen involvement as early as possible in the process of considering development proposals, long before zoning change applications are filed. I will have more to say about this point later in the column.
FM 407 Moratorium Update
Much of the development activity that requires the Town’s immediate attention is on the west side. The tempo of residential and commercial development between HWY 377 and I-35W north and south of FM 407 will peak over the next six years. As I noted in an earlier column, concerns about drainage and traffic led the Town to impose a 120-day moratorium on approving new development in this zone last November to allow for a detailed look at both impacts.
Argyle does not have control over the planned improvements to FM 407 and I-35W, but we do have the ability to influence the design of the streets and developments that connect with these TxDOT roads, including density, the number of entrances/egresses, intersection design, traffic signal placement and other traffic management features.
During the moratorium, the Town has been looking in detail at specific projects in concert with developers with the goal of managing the traffic feeding onto FM 407. We also invited the public to participate by calling a Program for Argyle Community Engagement (PACE) meeting to review the largest of the projects under consideration, a residential project that would replace the proposed Avalon Business Park.
The most important goal of the moratorium, however, is to investigate the drainage impact of development on the Graham Branch basin, the watershed that covers an area extending north to Robson Road and south to the Argyle-Flower Mound border. The Town has relied upon drainage studies provided on a project basis by developers up to now. Downstream problems on recent projects have highlighted the need for the Town to perform improved diligence throughout the process of designing and building drainage features. An engineering firm that is not connected to the North Texas developer community has been hired by Argyle to perform a detailed drainage study for the basin. The Town-funded study will give staff and the council the ability to make informed judgments in considering a long list of current and future projects in the Graham Branch basin.
Strategic Plan Review Meeting Coming Up
The Town’s quarterly strategic plan update is coming up in March. Look for the announcement of the date for this public meeting. The strategic plan adopted last year is reviewed every quarter to allow citizens to participate and comment on progress toward implementing the Town’s strategy. I hope you will consider attending. As noted in an earlier column, the Town is asking HOAs and neighborhoods not served by an HOA to consider naming a representative to participate in the quarterly strategic review meetings.
Members Confirmed for Financial Oversight Committee and Planning & Zoning Commission
In January, the council voted to establish the new Financial Oversight Committee, which consists of two citizen volunteers and two members of the council. Rick Merrill and Sheryl Haynes were named by the council to serve on the new body, alongside Councilmembers Rick Bradford and Ron Schmidt. The oversight group will participate in the Town’s annual audit and the annual audits of the two public improvement districts.
Two Planning and Zoning Commission vacancies were also filled by the council in January. Matt Nelson will serve the unexpired term of former Chairman Rick Bradford, Place 4, and Toby Haynes will serve in Place 3, vacated by Todd Wallace, who no longer resides in the Town.
Municipal Development District Launch
The council will review an initial draft of the MDD bylaws at the first regular meeting in February. If you have an interest in the MDD, please refer to the February 1st council packet. I encourage citizens who have comments on the bylaws to get in touch with Town Administrator Rich Olson. A public hearing on the MDD bylaws is set for the February 16th regular meeting.
The MDD as now envisioned will consist of five members serving two-year staggered terms. Two seats will be held by members of the town council with the remaining seats filled by two volunteers who reside in the Town and one who resides in the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ).
Argyle aims to make the MDD available as a platform for bringing neighboring towns/cities, Denton County, and the Argyle Independent School District together to consider and take action that promotes and channels growth to the benefit of the families who call the Cross Timbers home.
In Texas, we teach our kids to deal with others with politeness and respect. I have found, thankfully, that most of the people migrating to our state from elsewhere in the country have the same point of view. We take the golden rule seriously here.
Being respectful in our interactions with others should apply to how we deal with neighboring communities in our corner of Denton County. The MDD, for example, represents a serious commitment on the part of Argyle to make jointly funded projects like Crawford Road more common going forward.
Unfortunately, the Town of Argyle is not being included in a discussion of the most important project anticipated for southwest Denton County – Furst Ranch – a discussion that has been underway with Denton County, the Town of Flower Mound and the Argyle Independent School District for at least two years.
To be clear, ‘not included’ means there has been no communication by the developers directed to the Town. The Argyle government knows only what has been published in press accounts or made available through public hearing appearances by the developers and their consultants before other elected bodies in the county.
The developers of Furst Ranch have stated in the press, in electronic media and before other bodies that their intention is to ask Argyle to surrender a portion of the town’s ETJ to Flower Mound so that the entire project will be under one local jurisdiction. It seems odd to me that the developers are communicating this intention to third parties but not directly to the Town.
That said, the important reason for the developers of Furst Ranch and Flower Mound to reach out to Argyle and every neighboring community is common courtesy. Furst Ranch is not a typical development – it is a city. If the advertised residence count of approximately 8,100 front doors becomes a reality, and assuming 2.5 residents per home, Furst Ranch at completion is likely to have a population exceeding 20,000 inhabitants and a population density of slightly more than 6,000 people per square mile, almost three times that of Flower Mound today. The impact of a development of this size and density on Argyle and the other neighboring communities will be costly in many ways – costs that will not be offset by the tax revenue that will be collected exclusively by Flower Mound and AISD.
I believe sincerely that property owners are entitled to develop their property. As I said above, however, development planning and development decisions should not happen out of public view and without a fair disclosure of the impacts of development on the public. Flower Mound, AISD and the developers should immediately begin a public engagement process with all of the citizens and governments neighboring Furst Ranch, allowing the families who will bear the cost of the project, professional staff, and elected leaders to clearly articulate their concerns in the public square.