Friday, May 27, 2022

Around Argyle — April 2022

Commercial development of the I-35W corridor is a top priority for the Town of Argyle and is crucial for the future financial stability of the town and the Argyle Independent School District (AISD). Citizens have a right to expect that the town’s leaders will work together to realize commercial uses on I-35W. Unfortunately, some have chosen to distract the town from this important goal.

For several months, an effort has been underway to convince Argyle citizens that Town Administrator Richard Olson and I are working behind the scenes to promote the interests of developers who want to build apartments and other high density housing projects on the I-35W corridor. This campaign has now taken the form of unfounded accusations made in a Town Council public meeting. I must respond.

Some background is necessary. Since 2017, when citizens reacted to the approval of several large subdivision projects, the town has been controlled by a group of councilmembers that promised to preserve the town’s small-town character, a view which I share. A key commitment by this group was to control density, maintaining a rural feel.

The One-Acre Minimum Promise

The elected officials who took over in 2017 frequently insist that they are committed to lots of one acre in size or greater. In 2018, however, the town approved an update to the Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Plan that mentions the one-acre standard, but also added a six-dwellings-per-acre land use zone in the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) west of I-35W. The update left the same six-dwellings-per-acre land use zone (C-3 Corridor) in place on US 377 south of Old Town. The 2018 Comprehensive Plan also reaffirmed Form Based Code as the policy of the town, which is aimed at creating urbanized, mixed-use zones in selected locations. Form Based Code is incompatible with a one-acre minimum standard.

The embedded inconsistencies in this controlling development policy and land use document are important, considering the way the 2017 council has operated since.

Here are a few examples:

In 2018, the same developer who created 5T Ranch, a subdivision that many town leaders praise as a success story for Argyle, proposed Liberty Pointe (later renamed Argyle Crossing), in the Argyle ETJ south of Frenchtown Road. Argyle Crossing was to include approximately 60 homes and five commercial lots. The developer requested that the town annex the development in exchange for the use of Argyle’s S-1 sewer line that follows US 377. Despite the town’s need for commercial tax revenue, our leaders chose not to bring the developer’s proposal to the public and threatened to withhold sewer service unless the developer increased the residential lot size. The tactic of withholding access to sewer failed and the opportunity to annex the property was lost, along with commercial property tax and sales tax revenue. The town was forced to allow the developer to use the S-1 sewer line by Denton County. A hard stance on one residence per acre density did not work for the town in this case.

In 2019, Hillwood approached the town to renegotiate the 2006 development agreement for the Belmont Freshwater District #2 (Harvest) in Argyle’s ETJ. The developer wanted to achieve several objectives with the renegotiation, including adding approximately 55 acres to Harvest and increasing the effective density of the Argyle ETJ portion of the development by reducing the amount of wastewater capacity allocated to each residence. In this case, the council was briefed on several aspects of Hillwood’s request in two public meetings, including a projection of 220 homes to be built on the added land, or a quarter acre per residence. The packet provided for the January 22, 2019, meeting on the amendment of the Harvest development agreement also noted the multi-family project on Harvest Way, in the district now described as Harvest Town Center. Despite the addition of land to be built out at a density of at least four homes per acre, the council did not push back on the higher density requested by Hillwood and signed off on the amended and restated agreement.

In 2021, the Town Council approved Argyle Landing, which includes lots adjacent to The Settlement of approximately 1.5 acres, but over 75% of the lots will be a quarter acre or less in size.

The town’s elected leaders routinely agree to projects of a density much higher than the one-acre minimum. Until we can agree on what “high density” means and learn from past mistakes, we should refrain from attacking colleagues.

Revisiting the Comprehensive Plan seems necessary to gain clarity on this subject. Unfounded accusations about promoting apartments should be replaced by a renewed commitment to respectfully work together.

The Sewer Line to Nowhere

Those who watch or attend Town Council meetings may be aware of an ongoing dispute regarding the Crawford Road wastewater line. In 2020, the Town Council, following Texas statute and the town’s policy, revised its wastewater and road infrastructure impact fees. An impact fee study is required before setting new impact fee rates for the granting of commercial and residential permits. Impact fees collected are based on the projected capital project expenditures of the town and are intended to be used toward the impact study projects. The first project on the wastewater project list in the 2020 study is a sewer line that follows Crawford Road and whose stated purpose is to support development on I-35W. The 2020 study, including the capital improvements to be funded by the new impact fee rates, was adopted by an ordinance of the Town Council on April 20, 2020.

The design of the Crawford Road reconstruction project included sufficient right of way on the south side of the road to comfortably accommodate the planned sewer line. The sewer line south of Crawford Road is not new information for the members of the Town Council who have criticized the project. It may be possible to provide wastewater service to the land west of I-35W without building the Crawford Road line, via a City of Denton line north of Robson Ranch Road, but that will be known only after the town’s engineer completes a wastewater study. The construction cost of the selected solution, and the town’s allocation of the cost, will be negotiated as part of a development agreement that factors in the important economic benefits that will be delivered by development of the site.

The town has a legal obligation to plan for wastewater service at this site, much of which is within our city limits. Public statements by council members that cast doubt on the town’s obligations in this respect or denials that the Town Council voted to approve this project as part of our 2020 impact fee study exposes the town to risk. The land south of Robson Ranch Road and west of I-35W is the best retail location that we have, due to its high elevation adjacent to the interstate and other factors. Retail operators have expressed strong interest in the site. The fact that the present zoning and use of the property is agricultural is irrelevant. Wastewater service for the site is not a “sewer to nowhere” and it is not a special favor to a developer.

The town hired an experienced and capable manager in Rich Olson. He has worked tirelessly to advance the town’s interests since he joined the staff in the summer of 2020. Mr. Olson’s effectiveness in running Argyle’s roadway reconstruction program, his oversight of the upgrade of many of the systems that provide timely information and customer service to citizens and companies that do business with the town, and his negotiation of outcomes favorable to the town with developers, to mention just a few of his accomplishments, have proved the wisdom of hiring him.

I hope that we can set aside the conflict that has harmed our town and taken attention away from pressing business. Let’s move forward as a community.

Support the Argyle Police Department

Police Appreciation Week begins on May 16, 2022 and ends with the APD Appreciation Banquet on May 20th. Please join me in showing your support for our award-winning agency. If you are interested in making a donation to support the banquet please contact Crime Control and Prevention District (CCPD) Board President Bill Reaves at [email protected] or Chief Jackson at [email protected].

The general election ballot on May 7, 2022 includes the Crime Control and Prevention District reauthorization referendum and the 0.25% sales and use tax continuation. I urge you to support APD by voting for the two measures.

Street Repairs Sales and Use Tax

The May 7 ballot also includes the continuation of the 0.5% sales and use tax that funds town road repairs. The tax is an important part of the town’s roadway maintenance budget.

Easter Celebration

The Town of Argyle joins forces with the Argyle Lions Club on Saturday April 9th for Breakfast with the Bunny beginning at 8:30 a.m. (all the pancakes you can eat for $5) and the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Unity Park beginning at 11am. We hope to see many Argyle families!

Argyle Seniors Update
Submitted by Stella McDaniel

We had a blast at our 50’s theme luncheon at Town Hall. Our thanks to everyone who brought delicious salads and other food to go with the pizza. Also the donut shop here in Argyle for furnishing the donuts. Our thanks always to the Town of Argyle and Police Department for you financial support.

If we had of had a 50’s costume dress contest our Vice President Karen Kiel would have won with her poodle skirt and all the accessories. Thanks Karen for making our 50’s luncheon so special.

We were honored to have several of the Town Council members with us. Also grateful for our new members. Our next luncheon will be Friday May 6. We will be honoring our mothers. If you have a picture of your mom please bring it to share with the group. Our meat will be chicken so everyone is asked to bring a dish that will feed several people or pay $5 at the door.

We’ll be playing bingo after lunch. We are still in need of someone to help set out food, make coffee and clean up after the luncheon. The pay is $50. If you have any questions please text or call Stella at (940) 391-6686. Hope to see everyone at our May Luncheon!

CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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