The Town of Argyle completed its work on the 2021-2022 budget on Sept. 20. Ad valorem property tax rates were reduced for the second year in a row, but the Council elected to allow the budget to increase slightly with rising property assessments to permit the hiring of an additional police patrol officer and important pay increases for police and public works employees. Argyle also passed a property tax freeze for over-65 and disabled residents. The town is in good shape financially. I will discuss the budget in more detail in an upcoming column.
Recent events compel me to comment on development matters this month. The project promoted by Furst-Hines has been returned to the Flower Mound government for consideration as a pure zoning case, titled “Flower Mound Ranch” (FMR). Although the proposed zoning action on its face may appear to be compliant with the Flower Mound Master Plan, the filed zoning application still seeks permission from Flower Mound to build a new city with a population of 20,000-30,000 residents at US Highway 377 and FM 1171.
The challenges posed by the renamed Furst-Hines project remain just as serious for Flower Mound and its neighbors as before. In my view, three problems stand out:
Mobility: The density of the project is by far the highest proposed for any project in rural Denton County, and unlike projects of similar density, it is in an area that does not have controlled access/interstate highway service. The two highways that will serve FMR have impaired capacity due to the difficulty of expanding Hwy 377 as it crosses the Denton Creek wetlands and an at-grade railway crossing on FM 1171 for which TXDOT has no planned or budgeted remedy. The congestion created by FMR threatens to make today’s problems look tame. Neighboring towns will be forced to spend on roadway improvements to keep up with the capacity and maintenance demands of tens of thousands of additional pass-through trips generated by FMR alone.
Argyle Independent School District: Precise forecasting of the number of students that FMR will drive to AISD is difficult to call without the final mix of uses for the site. A safe assumption, however, with approximately 13,000 total residential units on the ground and 0.22 students per apartment, 0.31 per townhome and 0.39 per single family home (National Association of Homebuilders May 2020 figures – AISD historical numbers are higher) is a contribution to AISD enrollment exceeding 3,000 students. AISD will be perilously close to maximum bonding capacity after the bond elections anticipated for 2022. Where will the money come from to house and educate a flood of students from FMR alone? The FMR developers have never addressed this issue and AISD trustees should be engaging with the town of Flower Mound to highlight the financial stress that FMR will certainly create for the already overleveraged school district. As things stand now and neglecting FMR, the AISD I&S (borrowing cost) tax rate will stay close to the maximum of $0.50 per $100 for decades while other school districts forecast significant declines in tax rates related to borrowing.
Wastewater Capacity: FMR’s promoters have frequently stated that there will be no problem with disposing of wastewater generated at the site. The Trinity River Authority (TRA) wastewater treatment plant at Denton Creek is, however, close to capacity with commitments that have been made to other developers in recent years. Expanding the plant eventually is inevitable, but FMR with its huge scale will add significantly to a capital cost that every citizen in the TRA service region will be required to bear. The surge in development in the region also calls into question the ultimate capacity for Lake Grapevine to handle treated effluent, which is not infinite. We should anticipate the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to look more critically at this issue.
As I have said in other settings since Furst Ranch was proposed last year, the present zoning change will come at a high dollar cost to taxpayers living in Flower Mound and neighboring towns. These costs will be high even before considering the long-term budget impacts of government financing that the promoters are seeking in the form of at least one Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) and a Public Improvement District (PID). The impacts on our quality of life and the quality of education provided to AISD families are no less serious.
I once again make the request that I made when I met with Denton County Judge Andy Eads and Commissioner Dianne Edmondson on this issue several months ago. Bring every jurisdiction affected by the FMR project, including AISD, together to publicly deliberate its impact. Citizens of the entire affected region deserve a formal opportunity and a welcoming environment to make their voices heard.
Argyle Seniors Update
Submitted by Stella McDaniel
We will not be having our October luncheon due to the virus still going strong, but we will have our Annual Wiener Roast, Costume Dress and Hayride on Saturday, October 30 outside at the home of Stella McDaniel. We will have several games to play with prizes for the winners and the costume contest.
Be sure to bring a wrapped gift (it could be something you are tired of and would like someone else to enjoy) for our Right and Left game that Karen Kiel is so good with a story to tell so we will know when to pass the gift either right or left. Jody Bellinghausen is our popcorn girl! She pops delicious popcorn.
If you have a question or plan to come, please either call or text Stella at 940-391-6686 so we will know how many to plan for. We want to thank the Town of Argyle and the Argyle Police Department for making this and our monthly luncheons possible! Thanks and stay healthy and safe.