Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 39
Upgrades Approved for Duck Pond Park • Board Fenced in by Letter of Law • Coppell ISD Residents Could Rule Irving • ‘Hometown Hero’ Named CFBISD Trustee
I know some of you have already hung your Christmas lights and tuned your radios to the all-Christmas stations, but in my humble opinion, that’s disrespectful to the legacies of Al Roker, John Madden, and all those turkeys not fortunate enough to receive a presidential pardon. Let’s take this one holiday at a time, people.
That said, this is my last opportunity to suggest a gift idea before shopping season officially kicks off on Black Friday. Hey, you know what would make a great gift for that hard-to-shop-for Coppellican on your list?
Upgrades Approved for Duck Pond Park
Before we turn our attention to turkeys, let’s talk about ducks. They have a namesake home here in Coppell, and that home is due for some renovations.
On Monday, the Coppell Recreation Development Corporation approved an $810,500 budget for upgrades at Duck Pond Park. Here’s how that money will be divided up:
$330,000 for the south edge of the pond
$290,000 for the pond’s other edges
$105,000 for the playground area
$85,500 for engineering and design fees
According to John Elias, the city’s Parks Projects Manager, the next step in the process is getting the City Council to approve a design contract. Once that happens, he said, the renovations would take at least a year to complete.
These renovations have been on the Parks and Recreation Department’s priority list for five years. Erosion around the pond has exposed netting that was installed as part of a dredging in the mid-1990s. Elias said the netting does not pose a danger to humans, but it is a hazard for the birds and turtles in the park.
“Plus, it’s very unsightly,” he said. “If you’ve been out to the park, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a mess.”
I’ve listened to Elias break down this project twice — for the Parks and Recreation Board in June and for the Coppell Recreation Development Corporation on Monday. Here are more details on its three components:
South Pond Edge – $330,000
Nearly 60 percent of that amount would go toward a new ledgestone edge for the pond’s southern end, which Elias sometimes referred to as “the dam.” He said gabion baskets (collections of rocks in wire frames) would provide the same stability for a little less money, but the ledgestone would be far more pleasing to the eyes of park patrons.
Parks and Recreation Board member Margaret Bryan, who has “personally pulled several generations of my family out of that pond,” spoke in favor of the ledgestone. She said it would be a better surface for the families who flock to the park to fish and feed the ducks.
North/East/West Pond Edges – $290,000
The rest of the pond would get a graded, softened edge. The Parks and Recreation Department also wants to add a headwall to a stormwater pipe installed years ago by the city’s Public Works Department.
“For a park setting with toddlers running around, that’s kind of industrial looking,” Elias said. “It’s not good for erosion around that pond edge.”
This component of the project would also improve the canals on either side of the park’s playground, with the aim of largely eliminating the standing water in them.
Playground Area – $105,000
“The playground structure’s in good shape,” Elias said. “It’s everything else that needs work around it.”
The rubber surface on the ground would be replaced with wood chips, a la Kid Country and many of the other playgrounds in the city. Elias’ team will also make the steep curb around the playground more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It’s not noncompliant, but it certainly could be better and more user-friendly for our patrons,” he said.
Elias’ June presentation to the Parks and Recreation Board also included a concrete path on the east side of the pond — at an estimated cost of $130,000 — but that was not part of what the Coppell Recreation Development Corporation approved on Monday. Elias classified that path as a low-priority item that would be “nice to have,” as opposed to the approved renovations, which he called necessities for prolonging the life of the park and ensuring that it’s safe.
“We’re not talking aesthetics here,” Elias said. “We’re talking about maintenance repairs to the park. The park has waited its turn, and it’s time.”
One last thing for all you litterbugs out there: If you don’t put your trash in a proper receptacle, it will find its way to the pond.
“If somebody throws out a cup in the street, it ends up going into the gutter,” Elias said. “It ends up going into the storm sewer, and it ends up in our pond.”
Board Fenced in by Letter of Law
The Coppell Board of Adjustment has convened three times since I launched this newsletter. The first of those meetings got my attention — as reported in Coppell Chronicle No. 12 — because the board was considering a fence request from the father of one of my former Cub Scouts. (I led my son’s den for five years.) So when I noticed that the board’s most recent meeting included a fence request from the father of another one of my former Cub Scouts, I thought I was either hallucinating or being pranked.
This time around, the dad in front of the Board of Adjustment was Naveen Govardhan. He lives in a house on a corner lot, and he was seeking the board’s approval to put a fence on the side of his house, closer to the property line than the required 15-foot setback. Govardhan lives just a block from Denton Creek Elementary School, so his neighborhood is filled with cars, parents, and kids every morning and afternoon when classes are in session. The picture window in his kitchen provides a great view of those cars, parents, and kids, and it also provides a great view of his kitchen to anyone driving or walking by.
Govardhan and his wife keep their shades drawn to maintain their privacy, and privacy was one of the reasons they want to put up a fence along their side property line. Another reason was one of the major hot-button issues in Coppell, according to Facebook and Nextdoor: dog poop. Most of us only have to pick up after our inconsiderate neighbors in our front yards. Because Govardhan’s side yard is unfenced, his property provides twice as much opportunity for illegal dumping.
Suzanne Arnold, the city’s Chief Building Official, recommended that the Board of Adjustment deny Govardhan’s request — even though the board approved a similar request from my other Scout’s dad, Dibya Mohapatra, back in May. Arnold said there were key differences between the two cases. The houses behind Mohapatra’s home face either south (as his does) or north, and his request would move his side fence into alignment with those houses’ side fences. But the houses behind Govardhan’s face east, and he wants to put a fence on his property’s eastern boundary. Arnold’s memo to the board said such a fence “could have an adverse visual effect” on Govardhan’s east-facing neighbors.
Here’s another big difference, from my perspective: In their second meeting since I launched this newsletter — the one meeting that didn’t involve any of my former Cub Scouts’ parents — the Board of Adjustment received a tutorial from City Attorney Bob Hager. Hager told the board during their June meeting that applicants for variances must prove that the conditions on a given property constitute a “hardship on them to enjoy the use of their property.” If nothing about the property had changed since the applicant purchased it, Hager said, then the board should deny the request.
During their Nov. 4 hearing on Govardhan’s request, Board Chair Mark LeGros asked whether anything about the house or property had changed since Govardhan bought it in 2018. Govardhan had to admit that nothing had changed — other than he and his family living in it.
“All the things I’m specifying is not something you observe when you’re buying the house,” he said. “This is all things we observe once you move into the house.”
I could tell from the board’s line of questioning that things weren’t going to go Govardhan’s way, but I got my hopes up when Kimberly Grubb made a motion to approve his request. Those hopes were dashed when the entire board — including Grubb — voted against her motion.
Govardhan’s options at this point are extremely limited. The City Council does not hear appeals to Board of Adjustment cases. Arnold told him via email that he can take his case to federal district court, but “such an appeal must be based on an accusation that the hearing itself was conducted unconstitutionally,” she wrote.
Here’s my bright-side view: Two of Scouting’s four aims are character and citizenship. By participating in these Board of Adjustment hearings, Govardhan and Mohapatra demonstrated those aims for their sons.
Govardhan can demonstrate the other two aims — leadership and physical fitness — by continuing to pick up all that dog poop.
Coppell ISD Residents Could Rule Irving
By 2024, it will be possible for Coppell ISD residents to occupy six of the nine seats on the Irving City Council.
Irving’s mayor and two of its council members are elected at large, meaning any U.S. citizen who resides in the city is eligible to run for those positions. The other six members are elected from geographic districts. On Nov. 11, the City Council approved a new map that splits the Coppell ISD portion of Irving among three of those districts; previously, the CISD portion of the city was encompassed by just two districts.
Here’s the map the council approved. The new boundaries are indicated by color coding. The old boundaries are marked by red lines.
Do you see the triangular parcel in the northwest corner of District 5? Most of that parcel is the Parkside East neighborhood, which is south of State Highway 114 and east of Belt Line Road. Parkside East was previously part of District 3, which still includes the Parkside West neighborhood on the other side of Belt Line. Both Parkside neighborhoods are within Coppell ISD.
District 5 is represented by J. Oscar Ward, who resides in the south end of his district. The same is true of District 3 representative Mark Zeske. Both of their terms expire in 2023.
The rest of the Coppell ISD portion of Irving remains in District 6, which is represented by Hackberry Creek resident Al Zapanta. He just began a second term after going unchallenged in last May’s election, so his seat won’t be on the ballot again until 2024.
The City Council’s two at-large representatives are Allan Meagher and Dennis Webb, who both live south of State Highway 183 in homes that are coincidentally within a 15-minute walk of each other. Meagher’s seat will be on the ballot next May, but Webb’s term lasts until 2024.
The only Coppell ISD resident on the Irving City Council at the moment is Mayor Rick Stopfer, who lives in Valley Ranch. His term expires in 2023.
‘Hometown Hero’ Named CFBISD Trustee
On Tuesday, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD’s trustees unanimously appointed R.L. Turner High School alumna Carolyn Benavides to temporarily fill the vacant seat on the school board.
Although she will not officially take her oath of office until Dec. 2, Benavides joined the rest of the board on Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at her alma mater, where the Career and Technical Education wing was recently renovated. That’s her on the right, in the red shirt.
Benavides was one of nine candidates who interviewed for the vacancy during a pair of closed-door meetings. The others were Jim Abadie, Kim Brady, Lynn Chaffin, Richard Cusick, Laurie Fantine, Ileana Garza-Rojas, Christian Martinez, and Scott Stephenson.
“We had some great candidates, and a lot of people that I think would make outstanding board members,” Board President Les Black said before the trustees voted to appoint Benavides. “We’re just very blessed as a community to have that many people willing to serve, that many high-quality individuals willing to serve.”
Black said the candidates ranged from retirees to a “very recent” high school graduate.
“It was really heartening to see that in our community,” he said, “especially in this day and age where board service is difficult.”
Benavides is replacing Juan Renteria, who resigned on Sept. 1 after he was named the judge over Dallas County Court at Law No. 5. Benavides will have to win an election next May to serve the remaining 12 months of Renteria’s unexpired term.
Longtime readers will recall that I’m fascinated by the funky way CFBISD conducts elections. Under normal circumstances, candidates simply have to declare themselves candidates, as opposed to declaring themselves candidates for a particular seat. If three seats are on the ballot, each voter gets three votes. You can give all three of your votes to one candidate, or you can spread the love among the field.
Next May, each CFBISD voter will get four votes. Three of them will help determine who wins three-year terms in the seats currently held by Tara Hrbacek, Guillermo Ramos, and Randy Schackmann. The fourth vote will be for a separate special election, because Benavides and anyone who challenges her will be vying for a one-year term. The winner of the special election will be on the ballot again in 2023, when a full three-year term will be at stake.
Benavides graduated from R.L. Turner in 1983, as did her husband, Richard, who was her high school sweetheart. Their four sons were all students in the district — which includes portions of Coppell and Irving — and Benavides has been a member of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Educational Foundation’s Board of Directors for a dozen years.
In 2005, Carolyn and Richard became the owners of Joe’s Pizza, Pasta & Subs at the corner of Belt Line Road and Josey Lane in Carrollton. (It was called Mama’s Pizza when Carolyn started eating there as a student at DeWitt Perry Middle School.) In 2015, Channel 4 labeled her a “Hometown Hero” for the family’s annual effort to provide thousands of free meals on Thanksgiving.
Benavides is busy preparing for this week’s 15th edition of the Thanksgiving extravaganza, but she spared me a few minutes on Saturday so I could pepper her with questions. She said her family and business provided support to about 15,000 people per year before the pandemic. Since COVID hit, she said, their year-round charitable efforts have helped more than 50,000 people.
Because Thanksgiving is such a gargantuan task for Benavides and her family, she was not shy about asking me to spread the word regarding the need for volunteers and donations. Meals will be served at 1904 E. Belt Line Road starting at 8 a.m. on Thursday. If you would like to volunteer your time and energy, text 214-837-0569.
If you want to donate funds, use PayPal.me/TheJoesPizza or find @Joes-PizzaBeltLine on Venmo. Donations of food and supplies are also welcome during normal business hours. Here’s what they’re looking for:
• Congratulations to all the journalists from Coppell High School who were honored by the National Scholastic Press Association this month. KCBY-TV won first place in the Broadcast News Program for this episode, but I’m partial to this other episode that includes a story about my older son’s service dog. Meanwhile, CoppellStudentMedia.com was the only Texas entry among the 20 honorees in the Website category. It finished in eighth place in the division for schools with an enrollment of at least 1,500 students.
• As I dropped off my younger son at Coppell Middle School East on Friday, I wondered why so many kids had rakes in hand. Then I realized that it was time for Mockingbird Elementary School’s annual Rakesgiving.
• There are already six doughnut shops in Coppell, but that fact is apparently not discouraging Shipley Do-Nuts from expanding into our fair city, according to this Dallas Business Journal article.
Coppell Holiday Home Tour: This Assistance League of Coppell fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 3 and 4. Tickets are $25 in advance or $30 if you procrastinate. Kiddin’ Around Playcare is offering discounted childcare during the tour so you don’t have to drag your children through strangers’ houses.
It’s a Wonderful Life: Theatre Coppell will perform a stage adaptation of the classic Christmas film on three consecutive weekends starting Dec. 3. Friday and Saturday shows start at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees start at 2:30 p.m.
HarpEssence Holiday Concert: This performance, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Dec. 5, is free of charge, but you still have to reserve a seat by clicking the link.
Holiday Hustle 5K and Fun Run: The Coppell Cheer Association will host this event on Dec. 11 at Andrew Brown Park East.
Self-Defense Class for High School Girls: The Coppell Police Department will offer this class exclusively to female seniors at Coppell High School or New Tech High. It will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on six consecutive Wednesdays starting Jan. 12. Contact your School Resource Officer to enroll.