The annexation has been in the works since 1996 when Bright Realty and the city of Lewisville came up with a plan to develop 2,500 acres of farmland owned by the Bright family since the 1950s. The resulting Strategic Planning Agreement has served as a guide in the years leading up to annexation.
Since that deal was signed, a mini city of sorts with homes, businesses, a private golf course and parks has developed along the south side of SH 121. The area is governed by eight Denton County Fresh Water Supply Districts, homeowners associations and a Castle Hills Master Association. The city also created public improvement districts with each water supply district that issued debt to pay for the basics, such as streets, sidewalks, and water and sewer lines.
And while those entities have done a lot for Castle Hills, they cannot provide all the services that a city can.
“We’re in the business of running cities, and they’re in the business of building communities, so [it] kind of was a good handoff,” Lewisville Mayor TJ Gilmore said at a Sept. 15 Town Hall meeting.
Annexation was always the plan, said Chris Bright, CEO of Bright Realty, which is a subsidiary of Bright Industries.
“There [are] just services that we always knew we would never be able to provide,” Bright said. “It’s in my view a net benefit to Lewisville, a net benefit to the residents of Castle Hills and a net benefit to Bright Realty.”
Once annexed, the Castle Hills community will have access to all of the services that come with city living, including 24/7 fire and police protection, traffic patrols, health inspections, animal control services, public transit, and more. The community will also be added to the city’s maintenance schedule as streets, sidewalks and other infrastructure need replacing.
The city will take ownership of 83 separate parcels of parkland totaling more than 44 acres within Castle Hills. Lewisville will also gain another 18,000 residents overnight, plus more than $3 billion in property value that makes up Castle Hills.
“There will never be an annexation of this size in Texas again,” said Gilmore, citing not only the scale of this community but also the changing politics at the state level that make annexations more difficult.
Timing for annexation
Because so much is involved in the annexation process, it has taken city officials years to prepare.
Once annexation occurs, Lewisville will take over the operating budgets for the eight water districts in Castle Hills for the remainder of the fiscal year. The water districts and their volunteer boards will cease to exist.
With the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, 2022, the city’s property tax rate will replace the tax rates for each of the water districts. The majority of Castle Hills residents will see a decrease in their tax bill at the city level, according to documents.
The city is adding 30 new employees to help deliver services, and a sixth City Council member will be added, starting with the May 2022 election, to increase representation.
Lewisville will refinance the remaining debt owed by Castle Hills at a lower rate and use a Tax Investment Refinancing Zone to pay for the remaining infrastructure needed to finish Castle Hills. Those financing tools helped make annexation doable for the city, officials said.
“We said we would not annex until it did not affect the tax rate of Lewisville,” City Manager Donna Barron said. “We did not want our taxpayers to have to pay more to bring in Castle Hills.”
With annexation, Lewisville also adds another tier to its housing inventory that allows residents to remain in the city as they gain wealth. The average home value in Lewisville is $276,506. That compares with the average value in Castle Hills of $470,000.
“[Castle Hills] provides us more variety, more opportunity for our residents to be able to stay in our city and buy newer homes,” Barron said.
What residents say
At an Arts and Wine Walk in Castle Hills on Sept. 23, Castle Hills residents were invited to ask questions and get to know Lewisville city officials.
Some residents of Castle Hills had mixed feelings about their community joining the city, with some feeling the change is necessary and others wary of what is to come.
“The fate of the community really rests on this annexation,” Castle Hills resident Mike Kotel said. “There are just so many things we can’t do ourselves.”
Rita Allo moved to Castle Hills in 1999 and said annexation has always been expected.
“It’s something I’ve known about for a while, and it feels on track. Castle Hills can’t afford not to [join the city],” Allo said. “A tax break would be nice, but it does seem like we’ll get less of a return on that money.”
Other residents, such as Allo’s friend, Theresa Frederick, were less familiar with the move.
“I didn’t even know what it meant,” Frederick said.
After a discussion with Allo, Frederick said she is excited to see more police patrolling the area.
“I like the idea of more traffic control,” Frederick said. “I see people run our stop signs a lot.”
Michael Asturi, who has lived in Castle Hills for the last six years, said one of his main concerns is maintaining the friendly feel of the community.
“I’m not really sure what all will change. We haven’t heard anything from the HOA, and it wasn’t advertised well,” Asturi said. “There is a saying though—once you come to Castle Hills, you don’t leave. The community is like a family, and as long as we don’t lose that, I am OK.”
Many residents take pride in the name and brand of Castle Hills. That will never change, city officials say.
“Castle Hills will always be Castle Hills,” Lewisville Deputy City Manager Eric Ferris said. “No one’s ever gonna take that away.”
What’s next: Lewisville City Council will hold public hearings on the Castle Hills annexation at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 and 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at City Hall, 151 W. Church St. For more information, visit www.cityoflewisville.com/residents-info/castle-hills-residents.