As 2022 comes to a close, the Denton Record-Chronicle’s reporters are already looking ahead to the new year. Here are some of the stories they will be following closely in 2023, ensuring that readers are in the know.
Denton County’s new year
After a somewhat dramatic 2022, Denton County and its Commissioners Court, as well as the Denton Country Transportation Authority, will jump into the new year with full agendas.
While we’ll be covering all of the developments that impact county residents, there are a few things we will be watching closely.
- Denton County Confederate monument exhibit
Denton County’s Confederate statue saga has yet to be resolved heading into 2023. After the monument was removed from the courthouse lawn in 2020 amid a flurry of protests, county officials unveiled plans to add parts of it back in the form of a Courthouse-on-the-Square Museum exhibit.
Those plans went public in April 2021, with the goal being to install the new exhibit within six months. However, that timeline has continuously been pushed back. The latest update from the county, according to Community Relations Director Dawn Cobb, is that the exhibit “is anticipated to open in January.” It’s unclear if there will be an opening event, but regardless, the exhibit is sure to stir up some of the same controversy of years past.
- New leadership for DCAD and DCTA
Two beleaguered county agencies made leadership switches this year, with the Denton Central Appraisal District appointing Don Spencer as chief appraiser and the Denton County Transportation Authority appointing Paul Cristina as CEO.
Struggles over the past few years have been well documented for both DCAD and DCTA. At the appraisal district, governmental bodies from all over the county banded together to show their public disapproval for former Chief Appraiser Hope McClure. DCTA’s circumstances were less clear, as CEO Raymond Suarez officially “resigned” with no reason given.
Denton City Council’s big issues to address in 2023
As the end of the year approaches, the new year has several important issues facing the Denton City Council, including affordable housing, partially closing a public road and a remembrance event.
- Open or closed? Developments on along Bell Avenue
Bell Avenue will be appearing before City Council as an ordinance under individual item consideration in early 2023. This issue has drawn concern from Denton residents, a majority of whom have reported to the city that they do not wish to close Bell Avenue to vehicular traffic, especially after using their tax dollars to repair the road and with the danger of the alternative routes being suggested for the traffic that uses Bell Avenue.
A celebration and memorial are in the works to recognize Quakertown, and the planning is another issue to watch for in early 2023. The city is currently working with community members to determine the temporary memorial until they can agree on a permanent memorial. Several events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Quakertown’s forced removal are also being planned.
- Council members, current and former, coming together
Former Denton City Council member Alison Maguire’s fight to retain her seat continues into 2023. Maguire, who was recalled in early November, had filed a lawsuit to stop the recall election. The lawsuit was dismissed on Dec. 22. Her attorney, Richard Gladden, filed a new lawsuit to contest the results of the recall election.
No court date has been set, but Gladden suspects that it will occur in early 2023.
Addressing a divided council is another issue that the city will need to address. Since Maguire’s recall, the council was left with only six representatives. Of course, rumors are circulating about what will happen, including one that claims the Gov. Greg Abbott would require the city to fill the seat before the May election.
Whether this happens or not is an issue that will be resolved in early 2023. Either way, the May election will bring new faces to the council.
Affordable housing is a dire issue that the council is struggling to address. And with only one affordable housing project of the 51 multifamily projects on the horizon, it’s an issue that likely won’t be solved in 2023.
The business and housing stories we’ll be watching
This year has brought big stories to Denton County, from controversial business deals to residential disputes and new developments on the horizon. Here are a few of the stories we’ll continue to watch closely next year.
- Core Scientific’s Denton deal
When the Denton City Council first approved a deal to bring cryptocurrency miner Core Scientific to Denton in the form of a new bitcoin mining facility, hopes were high that it would help offset the $140 million debt incurred during February 2021’s winter storm. The company signed a seven-year land lease, a power purchase agreement with Denton Municipal Electric and a five-year dark fiber lease agreement.
Anticipated revenue from the deals was expected to help keep utility rates stable and contribute an additional $8 million to $10 million to fund special city projects.
But as the crypto market began crashing in this fall, Core Scientific filed for bankruptcy in December, and its stock price has dropped below 8 cents. That’s left Denton utility customers hanging in the balance, with an additional increase in utility rates possible without the expected revenue from Core Scientific. Though city officials have said they don’t anticipate any changes to the company’s Denton operation, we’ll be keeping an eye on the situation as it develops.
- Providence Village HUD investigation
In June, the Providence Homeowners Association passed new leasing rules that would restrict renters with Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers from living in their neighborhood. The ban, which impacted 157 majority-Black households, originally sought to fine landlords $300 weekly for housing Section 8 tenants. Public backlash eventually led to the HOA pulling back and first saying they would allow landlords time to comply with the ban, later saying tenants could finish current leases, and eventually halting the restriction altogether following the launch of an investigation by Housing and Urban Development.
The ban and subsequent investigation have the potential to set precedent for what powers Texas HOAs have to indirectly restrict contracts between private landlords and tenants, so while no information is being released during the active investigation, we’ll be watching the outcome closely.
Providence Village HOA’s leasing rules weren’t the only thing to draw controversy this year. Brown on the Square, a proposed $100 million redevelopment of downtown Denton, brought less–than–enthusiastic reactions from many locals on social media.
Marketed as an entertainment and lifestyle destination, the idea for the multi-building complex was brought to the public in April by Scott Brown Commercial. It would center around the Wells Fargo building and bring a 10-story, 186-room boutique hotel, a 400-space public parking garage and a 50,000-square-foot rooftop entertainment venue to the four blocks surrounding it.
Following the April presentation, no public updates on the project have been released, and no permit or other development applications had been filed with the city when the Denton Record-Chronicle last checked on Tuesday. With such a significant potential impact on downtown, this project, if it materializes, is one we’ll definitely be following.
- New developments, and expansions on old ones
Lots of new developments are expected to bring more housing and retail options to Denton in the new year.
Twelve additional retail buildings will come to 54 acres in Rayzor Ranch Town Center following approval by the Planning & Zoning Commission in October. The expansion will include single-story buildings at the southeast corner of Interstate 35 and West University Drive ranging from 6,900 to 88,000 square feet.
Home Depot is also headed to a 12-acre site west of Sam’s Club and north of University Drive at Rayzor Ranch Marketplace.
In residential real estate, 326 single-family homes are headed to the intersection of East McKinney Street and Laney Circle. The 84-acre development will include lots of about 7,500 square feet.
Meanwhile, single-family subdivision Agave Ranch will bring 252 homes to northeast Denton in the next few years. The neighborhood, located at 6900 E. Sherman Drive, is expected to include three-, four- and five-bedroom homes with prices between $400,000 and $550,000, according to information released in May.
With so many new changes headed to Denton in 2023, the Record–Chronicle will be tracking how the city’s evolving landscape will impact residents.
Denton ISD will stay ahead of gangbusters growth
It’s no secret that Denton ISD is one of the state’s rapid-growth districts. Every corner of Denton is feeling the growth, but the real flashpoint for Denton’s public schools is along the U.S. Highway 380 Corridor.
Not only is dirt moving and crews working all over the district, but officials are working to map out a sustainable future in the midst of statewide teacher shortages and surging expenses across the board.
First, let’s get a look at Denton ISD real estate and how it is changing and growing.
Among the biggest projects underway for the district involves additions to LaGrone Academy, which is scheduled to be finished and ready for move-in during spring 2023. Starting in 2023, Denton ISD students who are working on certifications in cosmetology and culinary arts will have new learning areas, which combine classroom spaces as well as salon and kitchen infrastructure.
With public approval for vocational and trade programs on the rise, the LaGrone Academy is poised to bring not just Denton ISD students who are thinking about joining the workforce instead of college — or before it — but students from outside of the district. This year was the first for LaGrone to be a school of choice, meaning it will accept students outside of Denton ISD to take advantage of the its programs, which include staples of vo-tech training like cosmetology and welding, but also newer innovations such as animation and teaching.
The next major project due for 2023 completion is Pat Cheek Middle School. The brand-new Prosper middle school is in the booming Braswell High School zone on U.S. 380. Crews still have to furnish the kitchen and paint and equip the gymnasium, tiling and some roofing, but workers are progressing through construction.
The middle school is scheduled to be finished by the summer of 2023.
The district is working on several projects due for completion in 2024: the new Calhoun Middle School campus, Newton Rayzor Elementary School and Transportation East.
Denton ISD wrapped its last board meeting of the year with a look ahead at the initiatives it plans to support during the Texas Legislature’s upcoming 88th session. Moving into 2023, the district will rigorously back initiatives to offer property tax relief to homeowners. That means restoring the state share of funding to 50%. The district is also pushing for the state to return to funding instructional facilities allotments and existing debt allotment. New housing starts have helped Denton ISD taxpayers as campuses expand and the district breaks ground on new campuses.
Denton ISD will also support initiatives to fund schools based on enrollment rather than average daily attendance, eliminate unfunded mandates and find allotments so that they reflect inflation. Officials will also press to end ballot language that frames school funding measures as tax increases when they aren’t, in fact, tax increases.
Local colleges plan for growth, depth in 2023
This year was largely about local universities getting back to full steam after the COVID-19 pandemic sent many courses online. Behind the scenes, however, University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University and North Central Texas College continued to develop plans for the future.
University of North Texas
While schools around the country have lost enrollment, UNT saw unprecedented growth, with numbers up 13.5% since just 2019. The university saw a record number of graduates complete degrees in 2021.
As for the future, the physical growth of the university is most visible at Frisco Landing, a single building (for now) that opens in the spring.
The Denton campus will continue to expand physically with the construction of a new career services center, thanks to a $5 million endowed gift by alumnus Wilson Jones. The new center will be built in the atrium of the G. Brint Ryan College of Business.
UNT officials have also taken note of the shifting demographics of the state and the country and become a founding member of the Alliance for Hispanic Serving Research Institutions.
Texas Woman’s University
By the end of the first half of this fiscal year, the advancement staff at TWU announced commitments for nearly $6.5 million for the TWU Foundation. The giving nudged the foundation’s assets to about $110 million. One of the secrets to bringing in new donations? Have students make the fundraising calls. University officials joined other college advancement departments in taking over alumni associations, giving and development.
The $6.5 million came in new gifts and commitments from 1,826 donors who made 2,292 gifts to the university, which recently became an official university system with ambitious developments in health science education, especially.
Another important development for TWU: a zero-tuition program for students who are Texas residents who qualify for state and federal student aid and qualify for Pell Grants. To qualify, students have to be a full-time first-time-in-college student or be a new full-time student or a transfer student pursuing their first bachelor’s degree. To be eligible for renewed zero-tuition status, students have to maintain satisfactory academic progress.
North Central Texas College
The local community college continues to offer certifications for trades.
Now the college will serve students in Fort Worth’s Alliance area.
NCTC earned a $2.4 million Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Texas Reskilling and Upskilling Education grant.
Through the grant, NCTC will provide programs related to electrical, industrial mechatronics, automation, and robotics. The college will also expand the college’s allied health offerings.