Discover more from Coppell Chronicle
Coppell Chronicle Vol. 2, No. 21
Let’s Dampen Our Lawns’ Dampening • Council Limits Scope of Belt Line Grants • Ethics Review Panel’s Roster Approved • Farmstead OK’d at Blackberry Farm
If you’re ever inclined to tell a friend or neighbor about something you read in this newsletter (hint hint), but you can’t recall which edition that something was in, you should take advantage of a feature that I just stumbled upon. Click the magnifying glass icon at the Coppell Chronicle archive, and you’ll be able to search through all published editions for a particular word or phrase.
Almost everything you’re about to read is from Tuesday’s Coppell City Council meeting. If I’m going to devote nearly five hours to watching a single meeting, then I’m damn sure going to get four articles out of it.
Let’s Dampen Our Lawns’ Dampening
At least once each day, my wife says, “Oh my God, it’s so hot.” Because she’s married to a smart aleck, she typically gets this response: “Thanks for letting me know. I hadn’t noticed.”
With each passing day of triple-digit heat, that statement becomes less and less sarcastic. At 8 o’clock on Thursday evening, I was comfortably cruising around town with my windows down, even though the thermometer on my dashboard said it was 105 degrees outside.
Just as your correspondent is acclimating to this brutal summer, so can your lawn — according to the City of Coppell. A recent Facebook post attributed to the Parks and Recreation Department says, “Grasses in your yard are likely drought resistant, and don’t need as much water. (HINT, HINT: reduce your watering this weekend!)” Another recent post on the city’s main Facebook page says you can train your lawn to be more drought resistant: “This can be done by simply watering only two days per week (even less if it's rained!). This encourages grass to grow deeper roots, and it can go a long way in helping conserve water as we continue the city’s water conservation efforts.”
As was briefly mentioned in last week’s Chronicle Crumbs, the city is in Stage 1 of its Water Conservation Plan. That means residents are asked to not water their lawns between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. If the liquid keeps flowing as freely as it has, the city may have to institute restrictions that limit watering to certain days of the week.
During Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Deputy City Manager Vicki Chiavetta said Coppell’s demand for water has increased by more than 8 million gallons per day since the beginning of June. The highest usage in one day was 17.7 million gallons, she said, and we hit that mark twice in the week before last. Coppell’s maximum daily capacity is 18.5 million gallons.
Chiavetta said the triggers for entering Stage 2 of the Water Conservation Plan are using 90 percent of the daily maximum or being unable to fill the city’s ground storage tanks for two consecutive days. Stage 3 would be triggered by using 95 percent of the daily max or being unable to fill the tanks for three consecutive days.
“We’re getting fairly close to the possibility of those things happening,” Chiavetta said.
Mayor Wes Mays added that if we surpass 18.5 million gallons on five consecutive days, then Dallas Water Utilities will unilaterally raise our rates, and that increase will stay in effect for five years.
“So when she was talking about how important it is to reduce water usage, it’s not just because we’re at a short-term period of crisis,” Mays said. “It’s because it’s going to impact us for the next five years.”
If you notice that a neighbor’s sprinklers are consistently going off in the middle of the afternoon, please forward him or her a copy of this edition.
Council Limits Scope of Belt Line Grants
Most — but not all — of the businesses that have been negatively impacted by the reconstruction of South Belt Line Road will soon be able to apply for a $5,000 grant from the city.
As you may recall from the June 19 edition, this initiative is called the Revenue Recovery Grant Program. During their June 14 meeting, the City Council opted to allocate $300,000 worth of federal American Rescue Plan dollars to the program, thereby making 60 grants possible.
At that June meeting, Director of Community Development Mindi Hurley said businesses within the construction zone can start applying for $5,000 grants on July 25. Businesses on Denton Tap Road between Southwestern Boulevard and Sandy Lake Road are also eligible, but they can’t apply until Aug. 8.
On Tuesday, Deputy City Manager Traci Leach presented the council with a list of 83 eligible businesses. Based on the council’s debate from June, Leach wanted to clarify whether 16 of them classified as “educational” or “fitness” should be struck from the list. Their business models are based on memberships or appointments, and these grants were designed to offset a reduction in spontaneous drop-in customers.
Council Member Kevin Nevels had to recuse himself from the discussion because he owns a business on Denton Tap. The only one of his peers who didn’t want to trim the list was Don Carroll.
“I would rather that businesses self-select,” Carroll said. “I would rather not narrow the field of who is eligible.”
Council Member Mark Hill asked what would happen if all 83 businesses applied for a grant. Carroll said he doubted all of them would; he also pointed out that if all of the 67 businesses on the shorter list applied, seven of them would be denied a grant because only 60 grants can be funded.
Regarding Carroll’s first point: When I visited my chiropractor on Monday at his office on Denton Tap, I broke the news of this opportunity to him after he adjusted my spine and neck. (I also informed him of the Coppell Chronicle’s existence that day.)
My chiropractor was also not aware that all small businesses in Coppell are eligible to receive a separate $10,000 grant from the Business Rent/Mortgage Assistance Grant Program. That program’s second application window opened Wednesday.
Ethics Review Panel’s Roster Approved
Loyal subscribers will recall several articles about Coppell dissolving its Conduct Review Board and subsequently creating an Ethics Review Panel. On Tuesday, the City Council approved the panel’s inaugural roster.
Forty-two individuals applied to serve on the Ethics Review Panel, and 12 of them were interviewed by Council Members Brianna Hinojosa-Smith and Kevin Nevels. They recommended these nine volunteers: Matthew Baade, Larry Best, Daniel Frey, May Hsiao, Meghan Hope, Merrill Matthews, Marie Reed, Lisa Reynolds, and Seth Phillips.
The city also received 10 applications for the associated title of Special Ethics Legal Counsel. Mayor Pro Tem Biju Mathew and Council Member Don Carroll interviewed nine applicants and recommended these three: David Crawford, Geordana Dow, and Jennifer Mendola.
Both sets of recommendations were placed on the council’s consent agenda on Tuesday, which means they were approved without debate.
Farmstead OK’d at Blackberry Farm
About two hours of Tuesday’s five-hour council meeting was devoted to the Blackberry Farm zoning changes that were highlighted in the June 26 edition. If you don’t recall all of those details, here’s the gist: Developer Terry Holmes wants to combine six lots at the end of a cul-de-sac so he can build a home for himself, a secondary home for his parents, two barns, an aviary, a windmill, and a pool cabana.
Holmes, a 28-year Coppell resident who raised four children here, told the council that his daughters convinced him that their hometown could be the site of the farm he’s always wanted to build. He said his daughter who has six children will live on one of the lots next to his.
“I don’t have a ranch. I don’t have a vacation house. I don’t have anything,” Holmes said. “I’ve kept all my money, and this is where it would go.”
Five people besides Holmes showed up to speak during Tuesday’s public hearing, but those five represented only three households. One of them was Raj Akula, who owns the gated house on Sandy Lake Road that abuts Holmes’ land. “I don’t have any neighbors,” he said plainly.
Akula’s issue was with the lack of details in the notice that he and other nearby residents received from the city; he heard the full scope of the proposal from people who’d read about it in the Chronicle. But Akula, who received a tour of the land from Holmes on Tuesday, said he supported the zoning changes.
“It is pretty cool what he’s doing,” Akula said.
I felt bad for Michael and Julie Mercado, who bought their house on the east side of Hollywood Drive in February of 2021. At the time, their property backed up to a small forest. They said the Realtors never told them about the plans for Blackberry Farm, which has been in the works since 1999. Just a few months after the Mercados moved in, Holmes’ firm began clearing the land behind their house.
The other speakers were Christopher and Marla Williams, who live on the west side of Hollywood Drive. Like Akula, they both complained about the lack of details in the city’s notice of the hearings. Marla Williams said she called the city on June 13 — three days before the Coppell Planning and Zoning Commission considered Holmes’ proposal — to get more information. She said she was told about the secondary home and the windmill, but the barns and the potential for livestock were never mentioned.
To be clear, any Coppell homeowner with more than an acre of land is allowed to have livestock by right. Holmes was not seeking the council’s permission to have livestock; he was seeking their permission to create a 1.9-acre lot and to keep his livestock closer to his own home than is normally allowed.
“This is his property,” Mayor Wes Mays said later. “And if he’s willing to give up the 100-foot rule on his own property, under the city code, the animals are allowed.”
Marla Williams said residents of her neighborhood can smell the landfill in Lewisville, and she assumed they’d be able to smell Holmes’ livestock too. She was happy to hear, as Holmes said during Tuesday’s hearing, that no Blackberry Farm lots have been sold yet.
“People need to know exactly what they’re buying into,” she said. “Personally, I wouldn’t spend a million dollars on a custom home to find out I’m going to be living next to a cow or a llama or anything else.”
Holmes told the council there are at least 20 cattle on the property of the Dallas Gun Club, which is directly north of Blackberry Farm. That’s not to mention all the deer, bobcats, and hogs roaming the area.
“There’s a lot of crazy things going on out there,” Holmes said. “We hope to live there and be a part of it and make it really cool.”
Council Member Mark Hill lives close enough to Blackberry Farm that he received one of the notices about the proposed zoning changes. He also said the notice didn’t provide all the details of the proposal and made it seem like Holmes was merely increasing the size of a few lots.
Hill had an issue with Holmes reducing the minimum size of a Blackberry Farm house from 3,000 square feet to 2,700 square feet. He reminded Holmes that he faced a lot of opposition when establishing his planned development district a decade ago, and one compromise at the time was setting the minimum at 2,800 square feet.
Eventually, Hill made a motion to approve the proposed zoning changes with three conditions:
All houses in Blackberry Farm must be at least 2,800 square feet.
The accessory structures on Holmes’ combined lot cannot have an aggregate square footage that exceeds the size of the main house.
None of the accessory structures can exceed the maximum sizes listed on a slide that was presented during Tuesday’s hearing.
Hill’s motion passed on a 5-2 vote, with Brianna Hinojosa-Smith and John Jun in the minority. She was against it because so many elements of Holmes’ proposal concerned things that may or may not happen. He was against it because the farmstead on a combined lot was not mentioned in the original planned development district.
“If you’re familiar with this developer, then you know the quality of the work he’s done,” Council Member Cliff Long said before the vote. “It’s his piece of property, and he wants to do it the very best that he can, and he’s the guy that can do it.”
• Congratulations to Canyon Ranch Elementary fourth-grader Agastya Singh and Coppell High School sophomore Navya Singh. The siblings won their respective categories in the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Student Art Contest with these entries:
• The aspiring football player who lives in my house was one of more than 100 kids who attended a completely free camp offered by New York Jets defensive tackle (and Coppell High School graduate) Solomon Thomas on Saturday. Given Thomas’ advocacy for mental health, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the camp began with a guided meditation.
• Season tickets for the Coppell Cowboys’ varsity football games go on sale to new customers tomorrow or Tuesday — I’ve seen conflicting information — at the Coppell Athletics website. A season ticket for one seat is $78.
• The Coppell City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance (which I last wrote about in the June 12 edition) that will allow 40-foot pylon signs at shopping centers along highways. The same ordinance allows Clear Channel to replace two static billboards along Interstate 635 with a pair of digital billboards.
• The City of Coppell will place neighborhood-centric toppers on certain street signs if residents express interest — and are willing to help pay for the toppers. Click here for more information. Here’s an example from Old Town:
• I reported last week that the Coppell City Council would vote on the final budget and tax rate for fiscal 2023 on Aug. 9. Those votes have been pushed back until Aug. 23 to ensure that council members’ vacations don’t prevent a quorum.
Crash Course: Basic First Aid: This class is designed to teach sixth-through ninth-graders about basic ailments and treatments. It’s scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. tomorrow at Life Safety Park.
Teen Trivia: Tell your bored teenagers to meet their friends at the Cozby Library and Community Commons at 2 p.m. tomorrow for a Family Feud-style trivia contest.
Coppell Lions Club: Thomas Martin and Steve Blackman, co-authors of God’s Love: My Life as a Service Dog, will discuss Canine Companions — an organization that breeds, raises, and trains service dogs — at 7 p.m. tomorrow at First United Methodist Church of Coppell.
Summer Music Workshop Series: The Coppell Community Chorale is offering a series of classes billed as “everything you ever wanted to know about singing but were afraid to ask.” They will happen on four consecutive Mondays, starting at 7 p.m. tomorrow.
Dog Man Unleashed: Elementary students and their families are invited to celebrate Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man series at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
Firefighter Show and Tell: Preschoolers are invited to Life Safety Park between 1 and 2 p.m. on Wednesday, when they will read a fire safety book with a firefighter and practice the exercises described therein.
Adulting: Situational Awareness: Teenagers and young adults will discuss drug and alcohol awareness, preventing scams and identify theft, and campus safety and security at 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
Little Shop of Horrors: You have six more opportunities to see Theatre Coppell’s production of the musical about a carnivorous plant. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Success with Cactus and Succulents: Dallas County Master Gardener Gina Woods will discuss five important growing conditions — water, light, fertilizer, air circulation, and soil — at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
All of Your Beeswax: Middle and high schoolers can learn about the many uses of beeswax — such as lip balm, rolled candles, and encaustic painting — at 2 p.m. on July 25 at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
DART Community Meeting: If you want to learn more about the Silver Line trains that will start rolling through Coppell in late 2024, stop by The Sound at Cypress Waters at 6:30 p.m. on July 25.
Caregiving Heroes: This support group for people who assist loved ones with aging or other concerns meets once a month at First United Methodist Church of Coppell. The next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Aug. 6.