Coppell Chronicle Vol. 1, No. 49
Springer Gets Big Hug from Chamber • Magnolia Park Trail’s Path Finally Set • City to Loosen Signs Ordinance • Venkatraman Won’t Have to Fight After All
Happy New Year to all of the readers who haven’t received a Coppell Chronicle since 2021. If you have not yet purchased a subscription, then you missed articles on these topics in January:
While school districts across the region are losing their superintendents, Coppell ISD and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD extended their leaders’ contracts.
The Coppell Chamber of Commerce plans to spend hotel occupancy taxes on an aggressive marketing plan for the city.
Irving officials are leery of a proposal to loosen their alcohol laws.
The gym at The CORE is getting a new floor.
What’s the deal with all those of donation bins in the Sprouts parking lot?
Become a paid subscriber so you can read those articles and more in the Coppell Chronicle archives.
Springer Gets Big Hug from Chamber
If you’ve ever met Laura Springer, then there’s a good chance you’ve hugged Laura Springer. The Coppell High School principal is not shy about giving out warm embraces.
Last night, the community gave Springer a collective hug during the Coppell Chamber of Commerce’s Members’ Choice Awards & Community Gala. She was the fourth recipient of the Cliff Long Leadership Award, which was presented by the three previous honorees: City Council Member Cliff Long (what a coincidence!), Vari CEO Jason McCann, and former Mayor Karen Hunt.
McCann introduced a video tribute to Springer that was produced by Rohan Jani, a 2021 graduate of Coppell High School. When I spoke to Jani about getting a link to the video, I asked him, “Did I hear Mr. McCann say you’re an intern at Vari?” His immediate reply: “Yes, but I have my own company, Jani Media.” Heck yeah, pal!
Grab some tissues before you watch his video.
“I do the business I do because of kids. I want to love them,” Springer said while accepting her award. “My job as a leader is to bring people into the schools that will love like I love and will find a joy in, every day, being with a kid and making a difference in their life.”
Case in point: I approached Springer at the gala to do some fact-checking. (This is her 37th school year in Coppell ISD and her 41st as an educator.) But before I could ask any questions, she told me and my wife how much she loves our special-needs teenager and described how she makes him greet her by name whenever they cross paths at CHS. As you might expect, hugs ensued.
Springer was not the only honoree during last night’s festivities. I feel like I’ve got my finger on the pulse of Coppell because I wrote about the Large Business of the Year, Vari, in Coppell Chronicle No. 14, and the Small Business of the Year, Trinity River Kayak Co., in Coppell Chronicle No. 44. Meanwhile, the only item I won in the gala’s silent auction was offered by the Emerging Business of the Year, Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa.
The gala’s theme was the Roaring ’20s, and your correspondent thought he was oh-so clever by dressing up as a newsie. Of course, at least a dozen other guys — including one of the emcees, City Council Member Kevin Nevels, and all of my male tablemates — had the same idea. My favorite outfit was one table over, where State Farm’s James Miller was decked out like a member of a barbershop quartet. Since he was apparently the only dude to have that idea, he was more like a barbershop soloist.
You can see pictures of Nevels, Miller, and several other gala goers on the Chamber’s Facebook page.
Magnolia Park Trail’s Path Finally Set
After several discussions and presentations that began years ago, the homeowners of Magnolia Park finally got their wish. The Coppell City Council on Tuesday gave their blessing to extending the trail through the neighborhood’s namesake park on the south side of a pond, which is the side opposite from their houses.
“We think that we have a good solution,” Park Projects Manager John Elias told the council. “It’s a win-win, in our opinion, for the homeowners of Magnolia Park and for the city.”
For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, the City Council did not take a formal vote on the trail’s location. Instead, Mayor Wes Mays asked all those in favor of the south-side option to raise their hands. He did not specify that he was speaking only to council members, so just about everybody in the audience raised their hands as well.
Elias said the Magnolia Park project has been discussed at three Parks and Recreation Board meetings and seven City Council meetings, including Tuesday’s.
“The system has worked,” he said. “This project has been vetted. Everybody’s had a chance to say what they wanted to say.”
The last time anybody said anything about this project in front of the City Council was in August, when Jeff Crannell — an engineer hired by the Magnolia Park Homeowners Association — presented a plan to place the trail on the south side of the pond, smack dab in the middle of the tree canopy. Yet Crannell’s plan called for no trees to be removed. His estimated cost was $435,000, which included a 20 percent contingency. (Read more here.)
Elias brought a different proposal to the council on Tuesday, and one of the words he used when describing the differences made me wonder if Principal Springer will get involved. “Our intent will be to hug what would be the south edge of the lake, as close as we can get, to save as many trees as we possibly can,” he said.
Crannell’s proposal repeatedly used the word “levee” to describe the land between the pond and Denton Creek. However, Elias told the council, “This is not a levee. This is not a dam. This is a creek bank with a lake next to it. There’s nothing engineered about this. The only thing that’s holding that in place is the trees.”
The project he presented to the council on Tuesday is really two projects in one: extending the trail while controlling erosion. The total cost is $1.56 million, which includes nearly $200,000 worth of design fees and a $300,000 contingency. When Council Member John Jun began comparing $1.56 million to the $435,000 quoted by Crannell last summer, Elias reminded him that Crannell’s estimate did not account for design fees, permitting fees, or erosion control.
Jun and Council Member Mark Hill both mentioned that there used to be a trail on the south side of the pond, and it was washed away by a flood in 2015. Elias said that dead-end trail was placed by a developer, with no engineering or erosion protection to his knowledge.
“I think they just literally went out there and formed it on top of the ground and poured it,” he said. “There was nothing to protect that trail.”
Although the homeowners of Magnolia Park and the neighborhoods to their west — East Lake and Westhaven — have waited years for this trail extension, they’re going to have wait a while longer. Elias said getting the project designed and obtaining permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could take six months. He predicted construction will go into 2023.
City to Loosen Signs Ordinance
Coppell’s ordinance governing temporary signs allows businesses to put up five banners per year. Each banner needs an official permit and must come down after 14 days, although a new business can display its initial “grand opening” banner for 45 days.
Here’s an example at Hemingway Brunch, which began serving food on Monday:
On Tuesday, Director of Community Development Mindi Hurley asked the City Council to consider amending the ordinance so that a business could place 12 banners per year instead of just five. “This change would provide businesses with additional opportunities for advertising their business without changing the types of signs that are currently allowed,” she wrote in a memo to the council.
During the council’s work session, Hurley reiterated that this amendment would apply only to banners. Nothing would change about the rules prohibiting inflatable signs, feather signs, or the roadside signs that caught my eye shortly after I moved to Coppell nine years ago.
“The city went through a pretty extensive process several years ago to actually eliminate some of those bandit signs because the community felt they were causing visual clutter,” Hurley said Tuesday. “So that’s why we feel like this is a win. It still gives an opportunity for the businesses to continue advertising, but it doesn’t create that visual clutter that the community wanted to remove before.”
As the council discussed which types of signs the amendment would not allow, Mayor Wes Mays said, “I think Macklin’s had one. It was on a post and flapping around.” Far be it from me to correct the mayor, but I question his use of the past tense there. J. Macklin’s HAS such a sign that IS flapping around, even though the city’s moratorium on the prohibition of temporary signs — which I most recently wrote about in Coppell Chronicle No. 32 — technically ended on New Year’s Eve.
J. Macklin’s isn’t alone in that respect. The moratorium ended a month ago, but a haircut business and a fast-food joint have “Now Hiring” signs posted along Denton Tap. A patisserie has six bandit signs plus one of those waving inflatables. And there’s still a “Now Open” banner above Golden Boy Coffee, which has been closed since July.
“We still have a few, actually, that are out,” Hurley said when Mayor Pro Tem Brianna Hinojosa-Smith asked about such stragglers. “And we are following the typical code process for those to get those removed.”
If you’re a business owner who’s going to take advantage of this new policy, just make sure your banner effectively communicates what you’re trying to say. When I commute home from my day job, I drive down the stretch of the State Highway 121 service road that forms Coppell’s western boundary. When I recently spotted this sign in the middle of an empty field there, I said, “Um, what is?”
Venkatraman Won’t Have to Fight After All
Tuesday’s City Council meeting began with an “Executive Session” behind closed doors, and this was one of the three items on that portion of the agenda: “Consultation with Special Counsel and City Attorney concerning complaint procedure under Article 1-13, Code of Conduct.”
Many of my subscribers could safely assume that discussion was about Venky Venkatraman, a longtime member of the city’s Conduct Review Board. To bring my more intermittent readers up to speed, some people believe Venkatraman is not suited to serve on that board because of the controversial content he posts in his private Facebook group, Coppell Global Public Square. (I wrote about that in Coppell Chronicle No. 45 and Coppell Chronicle No. 46.) Venkatraman’s service on the Conduct Review Board has consisted of simply taking an oath of office every two years, because the board has not had a reason to meet in more than a decade.
The Conduct Review Board’s streak of not meeting will continue for the time being. The last item on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting was “Necessary Action from Executive Session.” That’s when City Attorney Bob Hager read a recommendation by Special Counsel David Crawford into the record. Crawford could not recommend that a complaint against Venkatraman be forwarded to the Conduct Review Board for three reasons, and I quote:
The statements made by Mr. Venkatraman were not made in the course of his service as an officer of the city of Coppell, i.e. a member of the Conduct Review Board.
The statements made by Mr. Venkatraman do not directly reference the city of Coppell, its residents, its employees, its business, or any matter directly concerning the city of Coppell.
The statements as alleged do not in and of themselves indicate a violation of Section J of the standard of conduct.
So Venkatraman’s name can remain on the Conduct Review Board roster, which has 10 other names on it, until at least December of 2023. Should the board have some conduct to review before then, the task would be performed by the mayor, the mayor pro tem, and three people chosen from that roster of 11 volunteers. Regardless of the topic before the board, it seems unlikely Venkatraman would be one of the chosen three.
• In last week’s article about clothing donation bins, I mentioned that I have a bunch of clothes that no longer fit because I’ve significantly changed what types of food I shovel into my food hole. A few readers suggested I donate those clothes to Metrocrest Resale. Good call. Meanwhile, I was at the Dillard’s inside Music City Mall yesterday, when they were selling long-sleeved men’s shirts for just 99 cents apiece. Yes, you read that right.
• The primary elections are scheduled for March 1, and early voting begins on Feb. 14. The Texas Tribune has created a sample ballot app that will show the candidates for your U.S. House, Texas Senate, Texas House, and State Board of Education districts after you enter your address.
• Tomorrow is the voter registration deadline for the March primaries. Dallas County residents can check their voter status here, and Denton County residents can do so here. I am a Dallas County Volunteer Deputy Registrar, so send me an email if you require my services today.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical: Coppell High School’s Cowboy Theatre Company will transport you to Bikini Bottom if you buy a ticket and declare, “I’m ready!” Performances are scheduled for 2:30 this afternoon, 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 6.
Red Cross Blood Drive: The American Red Cross says it is facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Click the link if you’re willing to donate a pint between noon and 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Rejoice Lutheran Church.
Coppell Lions Club Pancake Breakfast: You can also donate blood at this annual fundraiser between 7 and 11 a.m. on Feb. 12 at First United Methodist Church, where gluten-free pancakes will be available upon request. The entry fee is $5 per person, but the maximum charge for an entire family is $20.
Coppell Historical Society meeting: Former Coppell Postmaster Ginger Ware will be the featured speaker at the Coppell Historical Society’s next meeting, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Feb. 12 at 700 S. Coppell Road. Meanwhile, Heritage Park will begin accepting visitors again between 10 a.m. and noon on Saturdays, starting this week.
Earl Rogers memorial service: Family and friends of the longtime volunteer will celebrate his life at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Coppell Senior and Community Center.
PEROT! American Patriot: Theatre Coppell will present the world premiere of a new play by Dallas Morning News columnist Dave Lieber. Nine performances at the Coppell Arts Center are scheduled for the final three weekends in February.