Big news of 2013: A review and look ahead

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Editor’s note: We looked at Frisco’s top stories of 2013 and updated four of them. The fifth has been a topic of high interest in the area for some time, and we felt it deserved attention.

Other notable stories last year included the increase in Frisco housing permits and the signing of Cinemark as the first anchor of the Frisco North mixed-used project at U.S. 380 and the Dallas North Tollway.

Frisco ISD expands, rezones

As of the third Monday of the school year (Sept. 9), Frisco ISD had 45,886 students enrolled for the 2013-14 school year, an addition of 3,258 students—the equivalent of about one and a half high schools. That represents a 7.64 growth rate from the same time in the 2012-13 school year.

The district also built a $20 million addition and update to Frisco High School, expanding the campus by nearly 70,000 square feet to make room for an additional 300 students.

Frisco ISD also began construction on six other schools, including the eighth high school, Reedy High School, scheduled to open in 2015.

“That is pretty amazing,” Frisco ISD Superintendent Jeremy Lyon said. “We made lots of progress in 2013.”

Four elementary schools and Independence High School will open in 2014.

Those new schools require district officials to rezone boundaries for Centennial, Liberty and Heritage high schools and a number of elementary schools.

The Board of Trustees at the Dec. 16 meeting agreed on a zone for Independence. At the Jan. 13 meeting the board will make decisions on elementary rezoning.

Lyon said district staff members understand the difficulties and concerns parents and students go through during the rezoning process and they strive to provide a stable environment at all schools.

“When you are the fastest growing school district in the country, the rezoning process is part of who we are as a school district at this point in time,” Lyon said.

The August announcement of the Dallas Cowboys moving their corporate headquarters to Frisco headlined the local news in 2013.

Dallas Cowboys headquarters

The city of Frisco and Frisco ISD agreed to a combined $115 million in funding that for the Dallas Cowboys headquarters and an indoor stadium practice facility.

The project at the northwest corner of Warren Parkway and the Dallas North Tollway is expected to break ground this summer. The facility is expected to be finished sometime in 2016.

The Frisco City Council approved the architectural contract to build the indoor stadium, which will be used as an event center by the city of Frisco and Frisco ISD as well as the Dallas Cowboys as a training facility.

“The Dallas Cowboys organization is working with the city to finalize the master site plan for the rest of the 71 acres of the 91-acre tract, which will include the organization’s world corporate headquarters and 66 acres of mixed-use retail, restaurant and hotel development,” said Jim Gandy, Frisco Economic Development Corp. president. “The variety of commercial development expected to be part of the Dallas Cowboys’ project will help expand Frisco’s tax base and create thousands of new jobs in our city.”

An economic impact analysis estimates it will bring 4,500 new jobs by 2026. The economic impact to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the next 30 years is an estimated $23.4 billion.

Exide cleanup

The Exide Technologies Frisco battery recycling center closed in November 2012, but the issue of dealing with the waste remains.

The city’s consultant has identified two options: Contain the waste in underground slurry walls, or remove it.

The cost difference in the two options is dramatic—containing it is estimated at $20 million and removing it could cost $135 million or more.

To make matters more complicated, in June Exide Technologies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which means it is up to a Delaware bankruptcy judge to decide how much Exide spends on the Frisco plant cleanup.

Frisco City Manager George Purefoy said although the city has hired a consultant who is recommending containment, it is a common misconception that the city will make the decision on cleanup or containment. Purefoy said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and possibly the Environmental Protection Agency will have the final say on which route is taken.

Local environmental groups want it removed.

Purefoy said he sees 2014 as the year when decisions will be made, with the actual work taking place in 2015.

He said he expects both the TCEQ ruling and the bankruptcy court ruling to come within the next six months to a year.

Grand Park—a project to develop a 340-acre park, complete with lakes, entertainment areas, child activity areas and a mixed-use component—is moving forward. Purefoy said city staff continues to survey the area for potential contamination issues.

Water restrictions

Stage 3 water restrictions, mandated by the North Texas Municipal Water District, have been in place in Frisco since June. For residents, that means running sprinkler systems only once a week, among other restrictions.

Public Works Director Gary Hartwell said for residents not to look for the restrictions to be lifted until the level of Lavon Lake, which is still about 12 feet low, is back to full.

“It is difficult to go back to Stage 2 and then the lake level drops and we have to go back to 3,” Hartwell said.

Hartwell said the hope is that the water district gets enough rain to “slide through the summer in Stage 3” without moving to Stage 4 restrictions.

“None of us like these water restrictions, so the day the lake fills up, they will be gone,” he said. “However, we will never lose the need to use water efficiently.”

Hartwell said no problems were reported with yards dying despite watering only once a week.

“We hope everyone will realize that’s all you need, is watering once a week,” he said.

Power lines

Frisco residents responded strongly in opposition to Brazos Electric Power Cooperative’s proposal to run power lines down Main Street and Stonebrook Parkway.

Residents formed the West Frisco Homeowner’s Coalition, spoke at Frisco City Council meetings about finding alternate routes and wrote hundreds of letters to officials about their concerns.

Spurred by protests from the neighborhood coalition and their own concerns, city officials voted Sept. 3 to examine alternate routes through less populated areas.

CoServ Electric, which commissioned the study that identified the increased power need, said Brazos Electric is still working to process information from various sources to evaluate all possible transmission line routes. That exploration includes supporting public officials’ efforts to look into routes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Department of Transportation originally rejected.

Curtis Trivitt, senior VP for energy service, said Brazos has not set a date yet to file the Certificate of Convenience and Necessity application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

“We’re still several months away from the PUC even considering the CCN application, much less approving the viable routes for transmission lines and a new substation in the study area,” he said.

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Krista Wadsworth is the managing editor for Community Impact Newspaper’s DFW editions. After serving as a reporter and then managing editor for a daily newspaper in Northeast Texas, she moved to the DFW area and joined CI as an editor for the Frisco edition, which she helped to launch. Krista was named the DFW managing editor in 2015 and oversees the editorial content for the Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Grapevine|Colleyville|Southlake and Lewisville|Flower Mound|Highland Village editions.
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