Coppell Chronicle Vol. 3, No. 5
Bond Votes Come Down to Taxes Going Up • Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign • Even in Coppell, Homelessness Persists • Script May be Flipped on Short-Term Rentals
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game; it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.” — Terrence Mann, Field of Dreams
Major League Baseball’s regular season starts Thursday, and the Coppell High School baseball teams have been scoring runs for a month already. But my favorite version of the great game — the Coppell Baseball Association’s recreational leagues — returned to action yesterday. As a former coach in those leagues, it warmed my heart to see this sign and others like it hanging on the outfield fences at MacArthur Park and Wagon Wheel Park.
It also warmed my heart to learn that Rocky Feemster is still mentoring young ballplayers. (See “Coach Keeps Putting Himself in the Lineup” in Vol. 1, No. 11.) As I took that photo, I heard Feemster tell a batter, “Get in a few practice swings. There’s no use in looking like a statue up there!”
Before moving on to non-baseball matters, I want to encourage you to put two events on your calendar.
Party in the Parks: The community is invited to the Coppell ISD Baseball and Softball Complex on April 4, when the varsity Cowgirls and Cowboys will have home games starting at 7:15 and 7:30, respectively. There will be prizes, including free T-shirts for the first 100 fans, and any youth players wearing jerseys will be admitted for free. Click here on game day to buy tickets.
Coppell ISD Night at The Ballpark: Rub elbows with other Coppell ISD families as you watch the Texas Rangers battle the hated New York Yankees at 7:05 p.m. on April 28. Tickets in the Sky Porch at Globe Life Field are $30 apiece and can be purchased here.
Bond Votes Come Down to Taxes Going Up
Coppell ISD administrators have been making the rounds, talking about the $321.5 million bond package in presentations very much like this video featuring Superintendent Brad Hunt.
I witnessed such a presentation in person last week, and one of the big revelations for me was that senior citizens’ property taxes on their homesteads will not go up, even if voters approve all four bond propositions. I thought a senior citizen’s tax rate could not be increased, but their actual tax bill could go up due to rising home values. However, the district says a senior citizen’s tax bill would go up only if they made improvements to their home.
In the end, tax bills are the main reason that somebody would vote against the bond propositions, right? According to the experts at Hilltop Securities, the bond package’s maximum tax impact on an average home in Coppell ISD (valued at $450,000) would be an increase of $335 per year or $28 per month.
By using the district’s Bond Tax Impact Calculator, I can see that the maximum burden on my below-average home would be $277 per year. I can also see that the owners of a pair of above-average homes — Gaby Anene and Trudy Baade — could have their annual school tax bills go up by $748 and $508, respectively, if voters approve all four bond propositions.
I didn’t randomly pluck those names out of a PTO directory. I’m picking on Anene and Baade because they are the co-chairs of a political action committee called Yes! Committed to Our Schools. Anene is the mother of two students at Coppell Middle School North and two more at Wilson Elementary, and Baade has a child enrolled at each of those schools.
“We are passionate about Coppell ISD. We have always loved seeing how the Coppell community rallies together to celebrate the successes happening at each of the elementary, middle, and high schools,” Anene and Baade said in a joint statement. “The ongoing success of Coppell ISD requires that we continue to commit to the standard of excellence our district provides. This bond will ensure it dedicates the appropriate resources to supply safe, secure, and equitable learning environments for our students, teachers, and staff. Being committed to our schools entails striving to provide all students access to the same high-quality learning experiences, spaces, and resources to continue the successes we love to celebrate!”
Coppell ISD’s bond presentation points out that the district’s current tax rate of $1.2173 per $100 of valuation is its lowest rate in 30 years. It also says 51 of the 69 school districts in Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant counties have higher tax rates. Additionally, the presentation says, “If the $321 million in bonds are passed in May, the maximum potential increase in the tax rate will still be lower than the 2021-2022 tax rate.”
That last statement was a head-scratcher for me, so I turned to Coppell ISD Director of Communications Amanda Simpson for some help. The tax rate for 2021-2022 was $1.292 per $100 of valuation, which was 7.47 cents more than the current rate. If all four propositions are approved, the district’s financial experts estimate that the most the rate would go up would be 7.44 cents. So, yes, the rate would go up, but it would still be lower than it was last year.
If you’re not among my paid subscribers, you may have missed these recent articles on the bond election, all of which are outside the Chronicle’s $30 paywall:
Feb. 19 – “CISD Trustees Propose 4 Bond Measures”
Feb. 26 – “Legislature Made Bond Elections Harder”
March 5 – “Trustees Can’t Officially Advocate for Bonds”
March 12 – “Survey Says Voters Don’t Want Arts Venue”
The voter registration deadline for the May 6 election is coming up on April 6. A pair of volunteer deputy registrars will be at Coppell High School during this Tuesday’s lunch periods to help eligible students get registered.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
Even people who pay no attention to politics can tell an election is on the horizon, due to the litany of campaign signs in front yards and vacant lots. Because I know Coppell residents who do pay attention but are having trouble keeping track of who’s running for what (and against whom), here’s a summary of our local races via analysis of their signage.
Ramesh Premkumar vs. Jim Walker
The only contested Coppell City Council race features a pair of candidates who already volunteer their time at Town Center. Premkumar chairs the Smart City Board. Walker is a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and he also co-chaired Coppell ISD’s Bond Steering Committee. They’re competing for the seat that Cliff Long is giving up after three terms.
Walker was the first candidate to post signs in Coppell this season. He went with a simple design featuring stripes of stars and a red, white, and blue color scheme — always a sound strategy during an American election, no matter what office you’re seeking. Premkumar also elected to go with lots of stars, but his larger signs feature a picture of him (a unique move this year), and his smaller signs include a QR code. That’s fitting for a guy who works in IT.
In case you were wondering, Walker is not related to Coppell ISD Trustee Leigh Walker, just like Coppell Mayor Pro Tem Biju Mathew is not related to Coppell ISD Trustee Jobby Mathew, just like former Coppell Mayor Karen Hunt is not related to Coppell ISD Superintendent Brad Hunt. For whatever reason, certain surnames are drawn to positions of power around here.
David Caviness vs. Julie Waters
Caviness, who is seeking a third term on the CISD Board of Trustees, and Waters both opted for signs in red, white, and black to match the Coppell Cowboys’ color scheme. In an unusual move, Waters has at least four yard signs. Some have white backgrounds, and others have red backgrounds. Some predominantly feature her full name, while others are dominated by her “Just Add Waters” slogan.
Caviness and Waters have an arms race going in regards to their larger signs. Each time I see one of theirs in front of a business or on undeveloped land, it seems to be a bit bigger than the sign I drove by just a few minutes earlier. I look forward to finding out how much they’ve spent on these billboards; the candidates’ campaign finance reports are due April 6.
Samit Patel vs. Jonathan Powers vs. Ranna Raval
These three first-time candidates are competing for the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees seat that Neena Biswas is giving up after one abbreviated term.
Raval, who would be the first Coppell ISD trustee from Valley Ranch, opted for red, white, and black (heavy on the black), while Patel went with red, white, and blue, plus a pair of stars. At first glance, it appears that Patel’s signs are missing the legally required language about them being paid political ads that cannot be placed in a highway’s right of way. If you look closer, that verbiage was added via after-market stickers.
Powers made the bold choice to go with blue and yellow signs, which certainly stand out in this crowd but sort of make him look like a Highland Park ISD candidate who got lost on the campaign trail. The slogan on his larger signs — “A Leader Who Listens” — is almost identical to the one that Davin Bernstein used in his campaigns for the Coppell City Council: “Leadership That Listens.” Powers assures me that’s just a coincidence.
I sent questionnaires to all of these candidates last week, and I intend to publish their answers on April 23, the day before early voting begins. In the meantime, if you want to hear from them in person, make plans to attend one of these events.
April 4: The Coppell Chamber of Commerce will host a forum featuring candidates for the Coppell City Council and the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees at 8:30 a.m. RSVPs are requested.
April 17: The Coppell ISD PTO Presidents will host a forum for Coppell ISD Board of Trustees candidates at 7 p.m. at Coppell High School.
April 18: The League of Women Voters of Irving will host a forum for Coppell ISD and Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD candidates at 7 p.m. at the Valley Ranch Library.
April 19: The League of Women Voters of Irving will host a forum for Irving City Council candidates at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.
April 24: The Coppell Senior Center Advisory Committee will host a forum featuring candidates for the Coppell City Council and the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees at 8 a.m. at the Coppell Senior and Community Center.
Even in Coppell, Homelessness Persists
I was among about three dozen people who showed up at the Cozby Library yesterday to learn about homelessness in Coppell ISD. If the district’s homeless students had also been there, they might have outnumbered us.
Jennifer Villines, the district’s Director of Student and Staff Services, said the size of Coppell ISD’s homeless population fluctuates. It peaked at 70 students during the current school year, after beginning with just seven in August. In each of Villines’ four previous years with Coppell ISD, the starting number was at least 20. (The district’s total student body is more than 13,400.)
To be clear, there’s a difference between “homeless” and “unsheltered.” The former term applies to students who are living in hotels, staying with a friend’s family, couch surfing, etc. However, Villines said there are documented cases of students “sleeping in Andy Brown Park.”
The problem is not limited to children. Melanie Meijering, the Director of Homeless Resources for Metrocrest Services, said her agency recently helped an elderly woman who was living in her van on the Coppell Senior and Community Center’s parking lot.
This was shocking news to many, considering the financial stability that most Coppell residents enjoy. The Dallas Business Journal recently published a list of the 25 wealthiest ZIP codes in North Texas, based on U.S. Census Bureau data. Coppell’s 75019 was ranked in 19th place, with a median household income of about $125,000. (The wealthiest ZIP code on that list was Southlake’s 76092, with a median household income of nearly $241,000.)
Annelise Ford, Coppell ISD’s Truancy and Residency Officer, said inflation likely contributed to the spike the district is seeing in its homeless population this year. That count may include students whose parents lost their lease on a house, apartment, or mobile home.
Thanks to donations from community partners such as the Assistance League of Coppell, Villines and Ford are able to provide such students with food, clothing, and gift cards to gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. They described the kids’ joy and gratitude upon receiving these items, and donors are used to relying on such descriptions, rather than witnessing it firsthand.
“While we would like to see those smiling faces, we are also very respectful of their need for privacy,” said Assistance League President Leah Cross.
More donations are always welcome, including lunchboxes and backpacks, which make it possible for administrators to discreetly provide food to students that they can eat when they’re not at school. If you’re going to donate clothing or shoes, do not remove the tags. The tags are a big deal to kids who’ve worn only used items purchased at garage sales.
“It makes them feel like they got something shiny and new,” Ford said.
Script May be Flipped on Short-Term Rentals
The Coppell City Council will soon decide whether they want to consider every Airbnb and Vrbo property in town on a case-by-case basis.
Under a proposal that will be debated during the council’s April 11 meeting, anyone who wants to establish a “lodging house” in Coppell would need to obtain a special-use permit. Such permits would be granted only after public hearings before the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council, who could take each property’s unique circumstances into account before making a decision.
“It gives us an opportunity to craft regulations that fit the house and fit the neighborhood,” City Attorney Bob Hager told the commission on March 16.
Property owners within 800 feet would receive written notices of the public hearings, just like any other proposed zoning change, which would be a reversal of the status quo. Under the current ordinances, neighbors don’t find out that a house on their block has received a permit to operate as a short-term rental until after the fact.
“This gives the neighbors a voice ahead of time, versus just wanting to complain after,” Senior Planner Mary Paron-Boswell said.
The proposed ordinance defines a “lodging house” as “the rental of any single-family residence or its residential structure — or a portion of a single-family residence or residential structure including but not limited to pools, garages, and outdoor accessory structures — for a period of less than 30 days.” This definition would apply to short-term rentals, corporate housing, vacation homes, boarding homes, hostels, and bed-and-breakfasts.
During the March 16 meeting, Commissioner Jim Walker asked Hager why he couldn’t write an ordinance prohibiting such uses in residential neighborhoods. Hager made me laugh with this response: “People with black robes said I couldn’t.” In case you’re not catching his drift, Hager added this clarification: “Right now, we’re not getting favorable rulings out of the court system.”
Assistant Director of Community Development Luay Rahil told the commissioners there are 11 permitted short-term rentals in Coppell, which means one permit has been granted since I wrote “Short-Term Rental Permit Was Short-Lived” in Vol. 2, No. 16. Rahil added that the city pays a company to monitor Airbnb and Vrbo for Coppell properties operating without permits.
The commissioners unanimously recommended approval of the “lodging house” ordinance after Walker delivered what sounded like a stump speech. “These things are pretty much just the death knell of a community over time,” he said of short-term rentals.
Walker, who is an attorney, said he doesn’t buy the argument that a property’s owner should be able to do whatever he or she wants with it. He gave examples of businesses that cannot be established in residential neighborhoods, such as boarding facilities for large dogs or metallurgical factories, and he views short-term rentals in the same light.
“I’m as opposed as I can be to these things,” Walker said. “They’re a fungus, and once they start growing, it’s hard to kill them.”
• Project Graduation is an effort to host a safe all-night party for Coppell High School seniors that will be free of drugs and alcohol. It will take a lot of money to pull this off, so click that link if you’re inclined to donate funds and/or prizes.
• I’m sorry to report that the Coppell Cowgirls varsity soccer team ran into a buzzsaw in the first round of the UIL playoffs on Friday night. They lost to Allen by a score of 5-1.
• If you’re an architect who would like to design Coppell’s Fire Station 5, which would be built on South Moore Road in front of Austin Elementary School, you have until 10 a.m. on Thursday to submit your proposal to the city.
• If you’ve ever wanted your kid to take music lessons at School of Rock but thought the locations in Flower Mound or The Colony were too far away, you’re in luck. The chain of music schools is expanding to Coppell, specifically to the Braewood Shopping Center on Denton Tap Road.
• The Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD Board of Trustees had a special meeting last Tuesday morning to officially hire Wendy Eldredge as superintendent. Near the end of their previous meeting on March 9, after an executive session of about 75 minutes, Board President Les Black thanked Brian Moersch for serving as interim superintendent. “He’s really dedicated to this district and just an unbelievable asset for the district,” Black said, “so I want to publicly thank him. It doesn’t feel public when there’s empty chairs out there, but I know somebody might watch this online.” He was right about that last part.
• The Coppell ISD Board of Trustees had a special meeting last Thursday morning, when they discussed Superintendent Brad Hunt’s mid-year performance review and contract behind closed doors for more than two hours. They took no action that day, but the last item on the agenda for tomorrow’s regular monthly meeting is “Discussion and possible action regarding the Superintendent’s Contract.”
• This Thursday’s Irving City Council meeting will include a public hearing about changing the zoning for a vacant lot in Valley Ranch from “residential neighborhood” to “compact neighborhood.” That empty land is next to — and owned by — MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church. Thursday’s meeting would have included a separate hearing about a proposal to build 77 townhomes on the lot, but developer Sateesh Allada asked for a postponement after several members of the Irving Planning and Zoning Commission said during their March 6 meeting that they’d like to see a plan that’s not quite so compact.
• This Tuesday’s Coppell City Council meeting will include a pair of public hearings regarding plans to build a Popeyes and a Starbucks along State Highway 121 near Freeport Parkway. (A Four Points by Sheraton hotel would be built later.) The Coppell Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval on Feb. 16, when this map was displayed.
Silver Line Community Update: Representatives from DART and contractor Archer Western Herzog will be at George Coffee + Provisions to answer questions about the Silver Line from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. If you know people who insist on driving south on Mockingbird Lane, despite the recent closure of the southbound lanes, invite them to this meeting.
Sorority 101: The Coppell Alumnae Panhellenic Association will host an online forum from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday. High school seniors and their parents are encouraged to learn more about National Panhellenic Conference sorority benefits and membership. Click the link to register.
Old Town Community Conversation: The Coppell City Council will host “a facilitated conversation about the next steps for Old Town” at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Coppell Senior and Community Center. Twelve days later, the council will consider Chris Collins’ revised proposal for redeveloping the southwest corner of Bethel Road and Main Street. (See “Old Town Proposal Wins Unanimous Support” in last week’s edition.)
Dog Days — Fashion Show and Adoption Event: Advance registration is required if you want your four-legged friend to strut his or her stuff at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Coppell Arts Center. The categories include Best Matching Costume (owner/dog), Most Creative Costume, and Best Accessorized Pooch.
Hop Into Spring: The Easter Bunny will be at Heritage Park between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Saturday, when members of the Coppell Historical Society will lead families in egg dyeing and other springtime activities.
Caregiving Heroes: This support group for people who are assisting loved ones with aging or other concerns will meet at 10 a.m. on Saturday in the library at First United Methodist Church. Caitlin Holt Siropaides will explain how palliative care is different from hospice.
Coppell Women’s Club: Scott Starnes of Milano Hat Company will be the featured speaker when the club gets together at 10:30 a.m. on April 5 at the Church of the Apostles, so the wearing of hats is encouraged.
Game Night: Families are invited to enjoy a variety of classic and contemporary board games, plus a few giant games, at 6 p.m. on April 5 at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Theatre Coppell will stage nine performances of Mark Twain’s classic tale starting on April 7 at the Coppell Arts Center.
Peter and the Starcatcher: The play that provides a backstory for Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and Hook will be performed at 7 p.m. on April 28, 29, and 30 at the Coppell High School Ninth-Grade Campus.
Donations for homeless students can be made here: https://m.signupgenius.com/#!/showSignUp/10c0948a9a628a46-spring
Good stuff, Dan! 🙌🏻