Friday, May 27, 2022

Copper Canyon’s 3 Mayors: State of the Town

By Copper Canyon’s mayors of the last 19 years: Larry Johnson (2003-05), Sue Tejml (2005-19) and Ron Robertson (2019-current)

(All facts and summaries based on Public Records)

(1) Copper Canyon REMAINS Overwhelmingly RURAL!

Mayors, Council Members, Town Staff and Town Residents have worked harmoniously together for 19 years to keep our beloved Town “RURAL”!  And, it is!  And will continue to be in future years!

2003-2004 MASTER PLAN:  This was the brain child of Mayor Larry Johnson and Council Member Steve Hill to keep Copper Canyon RURAL in the future.

MINIMUM ONE ACRE RESIDENTIAL LOTS:  An estimated 20% of our residential acreage was zoned Minimum 1 acre Residential under the Master Plan.  But these are existing subdivisions that are almost “built-out” now.  (The Woodlands, Rolling Acres and adjoining streets, Estates of Copper Canyon, Waite Drive, Mobile Drive, Boots Ranch.)

”GATED” SUBDIVISIONS:  There are 5 “Gated” subdivisions in Town – Estates of Copper Canyon, Copper Creek, Vickery Park, Boots Ranch, and Williams Ranch.  Gated communities usually have less crime, because few vehicles other than homeowners can just drive through.  Thus they require less “Law enforcement presence.” Their residents also pay for all maintenance of their interior roads and the fences surrounding the subdivision.  So “Gated” communities are a far less future maintenance cost for our Town.

2 ACRE, 5 ACRE, and LARGER RESIDENTIAL LOTS:  71% of our acreage (outside the Town Center on FM 407) remains zoned Minimum 2 acre, 5 acre, or larger Residential Lots – as designated by the original Master Plan.

TOWN CENTER: The Master Plan designated the Town Center north and south of FM 407 as a combination of “soft retail and light commercial” (no filling stations, car dealerships, etc.) and some 1/3 acre lot residential.  It was an attempt to broaden the Town’s tax basis with sales tax, which would lighten the load  of residential property taxes on homeowners in the rest of Copper Canyon.

COMMERCIAL: No acreage in Town is zoned Commercial except within the Town Center north of FM 407.

SMALLER LOTS NOT POSSIBLE OUTSIDE THE TOWN CENTER ON FM 407:  Smaller lots must have wastewater (better known as “sewer”). Not septic.  The only wastewater available in Copper Canyon is from Flower Mound in the Town Center.  However, Flower Mound (1) limited the area to be served to ONLY the Town Center as designated then under the Master Plan, and (2) limited wastewater delivery to a maximum 400,000 gallons per day.  If either of the two limitations were exceeded, Flower Mound would automatically void the wastewater contract with Copper Canyon.

All Councils for the previous 19 years, including the present Council, have continued this original Master Plan minimum 1, 2, and 5 acre residential lot size zones!

(See Footnote for three legal exceptions to the Minimum 1 acre residential lots in Town.)

(2) Early Challenges: A Town Hall

TOWN HALL – Our Beloved 44 year old frame building:  Copper Canyon was incorporated in 1973 with the Council Meeting in homes for 5 years.  In 1978 men in Town volunteered to build our one story frame Town Hall with its long welcoming front porch.  Rumor has it that some of the volunteers may have lacked carpentry skills – or -may have had a tad too much “liquid cheer” during building sessions.  Possibly the reason that not all of Town Hall walls are exactly “plumb.”

The then Council Chamber in the old Town Hall was very cramped.  A low 8’ ceiling in a narrow room that barely seated 20 individuals.  Mayor Larry Johnson recruited professional architect and Town resident Gary Beavers to remodel Town Hall.  Beavers converted the high ceilinged garage for our Fire Engine into our current Council Chambers!  Town resident Martin Sisk hand crafted the curved Council Table that is still in use today.  Later Mayor Sue Tejml converted the adjoining fire engine storage area into an enclosed kitchen area and open area adjoining the new Council Chambers.  Out Town Hall is paid for and insulation and windows upgraded with grants obtained by Town Administrator Donna Welsh.  The beautiful tall mature pine trees still shading Town Hall are alive and well.

(3) Providing Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Ambulances

Mayor Larry Johnson cautioned his successor Mayor Sue Tejml that the Town could not financially provide quality Fire Protection or Emergency Medical Ambulance with qualified EMTs for its Town residents.  Mayor Pro Tem Steve Hill, the Town’s financial advisor, ran the numbers and agreed with Mayor Johnson’s conclusion.  Our then Precinct 4 County Commissioner Jim Carter had come to the same conclusion for 4 other small towns in his precinct – Argyle, Bartonville, Corral City, and Northlake – plus unincorporated areas like Canyon Oaks subdivision and Lantana’s Fresh Water Supply Districts.

Thus was formed the Emergency Services District Committee led by Copper Canyon’s own AVFD Fire Chief Mac Hohenberger, Copper Canyon Mayor Sue Tejml, and County Commissioner Jim Carter.  The ESD election area covered 65 square miles of Denton County.  62% of the voters approved a 10 cent maximum property tax increase on themselves solely to fund the ESD for Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services.  Jim Carter has served as the County Commissioners appointed President of the ESD for 10 years.  Fire Stations have been built on Copper Canyon Road, off FM 407 in Argyle, and in Northlake. The ESD has reduced the ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating from 8 to 3 for our residents in Copper Canyon.  This potentially reduces home owners insurance for Copper Canyon residents!

(4) Copper Canyon is blessed to be almost “CRIME FREE!”

In 2015 Copper Canyon was recognized by the Dallas Morning News as one of the 10 best communities for families in North Texas.  The Town was rated #6 for Public Safety.

Neighborhood Watch:  Almost every block in Town has a volunteer Block Captain. They are responsible for knowing the individuals who live on their block.  And, immediately communicating to them any emergency situation.

Sheriff’s Deputies:  The Town pays the Denton County Sheriff’s Office for two contract Deputies with two patrol vehicles for 40 hours of service each per week.  (Deputies report to the Sheriff’s Office in Denton at the start and end of their shift. Body cameras and vehicle cameras are down loaded then.  The cameras protect the Town and the Sheriff’s Office from any unwarranted claims of abuse.) The Town can contract for an additional Deputy and vehicle if warranted.

Each Deputy patrols for traffic safety within the Rush Hour in their shift. (Many commuters cut through our town during Rush Hours.)  Each Deputy is also required to drive each road in town at least once during their shift and communicate one-on-one with residents.  Each Deputy also responds to any emergency calls from Copper Canyon residents during their shift.

The contract with the Sheriff’s Office is far superior financially, and from a legal liability standpoint, to a Town Police Department.  Patrol vehicles need maintenance and repair.  A Deputy without a vehicle is almost useless.  But the Sheriff’s Office has a FLEET of patrol vehicles.  If our contract Deputies lose their vehicle for any reason (maintenance, accident), they can get a fully functioning patrol vehicle from the Sheriff’s fleet.

The Sheriff’s Office also provides supervision, training, and medical insurance for our deputies.  And, the Town has no legal liability for maintaining a jail.

(5) Low Property Tax Rate:

For the last decade Copper Canyon has maintained one of the LOWEST Municipal Property Tax rates in North Texas .279505. In 2021 Mayor Robertson and Council lowered the property tax rate by .02 to .277505 and provided a $10,000 property tax home exemption for over 65 age senior citizens.

 In 2022 Mayor Robertson is considering a further Property Tax Rate reduction, to offset the legitimate growing “valuation” of homes by Denton Central Appraisal District.  100s of persons are moving to Denton County every month!  Many individuals are migrating from other states with huge home prices.  They consider Texas home prices a bargain.  But, these out-of-state migrants needing homes are causing home prices in North Texas to increase almost 10 to 20% last year.  If Copper Canyon homes are “valued” higher by DCAD, a lower Town tax rate could still provide the Town Budget with the same amount of funds and our residents would not bear increased Town property taxes.  A win-win for the Town and its homeowners.

(6) Sound Finances and Minimal Government Overhead:

For the last 19 years the Town has annually underspent its Budget.  The unspent funds have been placed in the Road Fund or the Law Enforcement Fund.  Major thanks go to Town Administrator Donna Welsh and Town Secretary Sheila Morales, our decade long Staff members, for their super careful Budget control.  In the last 19 years, Copper Canyon’s full time Staff has only increased from 1 to 4 individuals.

Town Administrator Donna Welsh is completing paper work for a Federal Grant of $384,000.  $189,000 has already been received.  The grant funds will be used for road and drainage improvements in the Town.

(7) Roads:

In 2012 the Town voted by a 62% majority to approve a $500,000 Road Bond to rebuild our interior residential asphalt roads.  Copper Canyon has a Standard & Poors Bond Rating of AA-, a very high rating for a small town.  The Town recently reduced its Road Bond percentage rate from 4.5% to 1.78%.  This coming year the Town will only have basic “pothole” type maintenance for its roads.

Copper Canyon’s perimeter “commuter” roads have been rebuilt in concrete at Denton County’s expense.  (Copper Canyon Road, Orchid Hill Lane, Chinn Chapel Road.)  Concrete pavement not only lasts longer than asphalt, but it requires far less expensive maintenance.  Many thanks to our County Judge Andy Eads and County Commissioners Dianne Edmondson, Bobbie Mitchell, Ron Marchant, and Ryan Williams!

(8) Drainage:

The Town recently completed a $149,000 Drainage Study that identified areas to possibly be addressed.  By State law the Town can NOT spend Property Tax dollars on private property.  Some of the homes with the worst drainage problems were built in flood designated areas BEFORE the Town was even incorporated.  Some of the drainage issues concern clogged culverts under homeowners’ private driveways.  These culverts are the responsibility of the individual homeowners to clear.

The Town’s annual budget is about $1.2 million.  Drainage solutions identified cost multi-million dollars.  So, Mayor Robertson and Town Staff are looking for State, Federal, and even Non-Profit grants to mitigate drainage issues.  Fortunately, only a few homeowners are directly affected by drainage issues that could be the Town’s legal responsibility.

(9) Complete Transparency:

Agendas are posted on the Town Website (www.coppercanyon-tx.org) the Wednesday prior to regular 2nd Monday of the month Council Meetings.  Attached are all the underlying documents that the Council Members receive.  Anyone can view the Agenda and Documents on the Town Website and print or download them.

Council Meetings are in YouTube format and recorded for viewing later.  Council Minutes include a summary of what was said, by whom, and the home address of anyone speaking.  All Council votes on Agenda items are recorded with the Council Member’s name.

Planning and Zoning Meetings and Board of Adjustment Meetings follow this same format.

Mayor Robertson also posts a brief summary in the Cross Timbers Gazette of items addressed at the last Council Meeting and possibly to be addressed in coming Council Meetings.

Finances: Also included online is the Town check register for the month – date, payee, amount, and purpose of the payment.  The Pro Forma Budget includes every line item in the Town’s Budget – and for the current month of our Fiscal Year, the percentage the line item is over or under Budget.

(10) Excellent Ethics:

In 19 years no Copper Canyon Mayor, Council Member, Planning and Zoning Commissioner, Board of Adjustment Member, or Staff Member has ever been accused of an Ethics violation.  The State has a long standing Ethics Statute that applies to all General Law small towns like Copper Canyon.  It would not only be redundant to add a Town Ethics Ordinance, it would be a totally unnecessary intrusion of an additional governmental regulation on Town residents’ legitimate business interests.

(11) Community Spirit:

Copper Canyon has always relied on “volunteers.”  The Mayors and Council Members being the first Volunteers, then P&Z and BOA Commissioners. None of us are paid anything or receive any remuneration. We work together as a “Team”, with mutual respect.  And, we get things done without a lot of drama or fireworks.

Other Town volunteers are Neighborhood Watch Block Captains, Adopt-a-Spot litter pick up on our roadsides, Trail Clean Up crews, Santa Party for Copper Canyon Kids workers, Woodlands Women’s Club organizers for the July 4th Parade and Lunch, etc. If you want to be a part of this Community Spirit, volunteer!  (Volunteer Application Form is on Town website www.coppercanyon-tx.org.)

And educate yourself about issues that challenge our Town.  Read the Agenda and underlying documents.  Come to Council Meetings!  Always feel free to speak at Public Input.

(12) Welcome Newcomers!

People move to Copper Canyon now for the same reasons you did.  They love the “rural” atmosphere!  The open spaces!  The Community Spirit!  The SAFETY for their families!  Low property taxes.  Government transparency and accountability.  Copper Canyon is 4.25 square miles with an estimated 1500 people and 500 plus individual single family homes.

Mayor Robertson will ask the Council to consider forming a Town sponsored Welcoming Committee for newcomers.  We can introduce them to our Corps of Engineers walking trails, maintained by Copper Canyon’s Trail Committee and volunteers.  Maybe our ranchers will invite them to see their cattle or horses, pastures and barns, even some of our traditional Longhorn Steers!  We can have Neighborhood Block Parties!  Possibly a Bar-B-Q at Town Hall!  Another Blue Ribbon Contest for the Best Homemade Dessert contributed!  It’s a great time to welcome new neighbors!  Think about it.  Be a part of it.

Mayors:  Larry, Sue, Ron

Town Council Election – Saturday May 7th 7-7 vote at Copper Canyon Town Hall.  Council Position 3 and 5 each have 2 candidates.  Early vote Monday, April 25 to Tuesday, May 3 (Closest Early Vote polls are Double Oak Town Hall and Highland Village Municipal complex. See votedenton.gov for Early Voting hours.)

Council Position 3Rudy Castillo has served 2 years on Council.  He has lived in Copper Canyon 17 years on Landseer Drive.  Rudy is a graduate of the US Air Force Academy and served 7 years active duty as an F-15 Fighter Pilot.  He has a BS in Aeronautical Engineering and an MBA from Florida Institute of Technology.  Rudy retired after 33 years as a Delta Airlines Airbus A350 International Captain.  Rudy serves the Town as Emergency Services Representative and collaborates with Denton County law enforcement and crime prevention programs.  He recently oversaw installing safety measures at Town Hall for Municipal Court and our Staff.

Dr. Tim Larson, M.D. moved to Highland Village in 2013, and he and family moved to their newly built home on Mobile Drive in Copper Canyon the summer of 2020.  Dr. Larson is an orthopedic hand surgeon with a medical practice based in Denton.    He has a BA in French from the University of Utah, a Medical Degree from Ohio State University with Magna Cum Laude honors, orthopedic residency training at Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C., and a Hand Surgery Fellowship from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. His hobbies are family, triathlons, tennis & pickleball, and traveling.

Council Position 5Chase Lybbert was born and raised on his family’s ranch in Copper Canyon – riding horses, roping cattle, baling hay.  Chase graduated from TCU with a BA in Real Estate Finance and Entrepreneurial Management.  He is Vice President of Exploration for Mai Oil Operations, Inc. which drills in Kansas.  Chase is a member of the American Association of Petroleum Landmen and the North Texas Cattle Raisers Association.  He is also a Private Instrument Rated Pilot.  For the last two years, Chase has attended many Council and P&Z meetings.

Catherine Vexler moved from Canada to Texas in 1990 and to Copper Canyon in 1994.  Catherine and her husband have run a successful Real Estate and Development company for the last 32 years, completing numerous residential and commercial properties in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.  They developed the Estates of Copper Canyon, a gated subdivision on the northwest corner of FM 407 and Jernigan Road.  The Estates has 28 minimum one acre lots with homes mostly valued around a million dollars.  Catherine serves as an Alternate on Copper Canyon’s Board of Adjustment.

Footnote: 3 legal exceptions to minimum one acre residential lots in Copper Canyon

(A) Chinn Chapel Road:  The State legally recognizes the “property rights” of landowners in a Town prior to its incorporation.  (Copper Canyon was incorporated in 1973.) These half acre lots are on Chinn Chapel from the railroad crossing north to the Poindexter Creek Bridge.  Eight homes are on ½ acre lots.

(B)  Toll Brothers Vickery Park:  The Town Master Plan adopted in 2004 recognized 1/3 acre residential lots in the Town Center north and south of FM 407.  Vickery Park adopted the 1/3/ acre lots in its western third of the subdivision, but its eastern 2/3rds of the subdivision has smaller lots.  Three Council Members initially voted for the smaller lots.  None is still serving on the Council.

Williams Ranch:  The Town recently negotiated larger lot sizes with the landowner of Williams Ranch in the Town Center on the north side of FM 407.  13 minimum “estate sized” ¾ acre lots will back up to the western homeowners in The Estates of Copper Canyon to preserve their backyard privacy and that of the Shackelford Family rural acreage to the north.  The remaining 17 lots are various sizes averaging 1/3 acre.

(C) Copper Creek Subdivision:  On Copper Canyon Road is the result of an Agreed Court Order.  The landowner’s price for the Agreed Court Order was minimum ¾ acre lots, instead of minimum 1 acre lots. In return the landowner agreed to 3,000 minimum square foot homes and NO ACCESS from Lantana through the subdivision to Copper Canyon Road. The Council voted to accept the Agreed Court Order. Copper Creek’s 42 lots are almost built out with million dollar plus valued homes.

CTG Staff
The Cross Timbers Gazette News Department

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