City Council holds ‘shark tank’ of ideas at retreat

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City Council discussed Castle Hills' impending annexation, the hotel crime abatement program and strategic priorities at the 2017 annual retreat. (Photo by Leopold Knopp)

The Lewisville City Council held its first ever city shark tank, alongside several other topics of discussion at annual retreat in Dallas Feb. 23 and 24.

At these annual retreats, the city manager, her staff and the city council discuss their plans and priorities for the future. While in years past, council members had given over their priorities for staff to research beforehand and present, this year they tried something different, having council members present their own ideas for the city to compete for funding in the style of the business reality show Shark Tank.

The most popular idea by a sizeable margin was the development of Valley Vista Park on the southeast corner of Corporate Drive and Valley Parkway, but the session was otherwise notable for allowing a direct window into council members’ priorities. There was a significant amount of overlap, if not in the projects themselves then in the goals behind those projects.

The goal of the session was to help staff determine what the city’s priority projects will be in the near future. None of these projects were voted on or funded. The full session is posted on the city’s Youtube page.

First up was Place 1 council member Bob Troyer, who spoke about consciously increasing the participation of Lewisville’s Hispanic, Chin and Indian communities and a bike share program similar to the ones in Dallas and Denton.

According to U.S. factfinder.gov, Hispanic people are by far Lewisville’s dominant racial minority, with more than 31,000 residents, and its 4,000 Chin refugees are more than most entire states. Factfinder says almost 3,000 Indian-Americans live in Lewisville. Troyer said that neither population has a significant representation in city government or voter rolls. He proposed a research project into the cause of the communities’ seclusion and money put toward changing that, which included expanding library programming and expanding special events to be of more interest to the groups.

Troyer also proposed instituting a bike share program. Most of the money involved in that proposition was in the form of staff time devoted to researching which options best fit Lewisville’s needs and also developing an ordinance to prevent “cycle litter,” or shared bikes that have been abandoned in seemingly random places.

Counting overturned community bikes was a favorite pastime of council members while in Dallas.

“It appears at least in the downtown area here in Dallas, most of the bikes are in — I don’t know if they’re in actual corrals, but they seem to be parked in specific locations. I saw a few that were outside of the corral area,” Troyer said. “One thing I haven’t seen is anybody riding a bike.”

Next was Place 2 council member Neil Ferguson, who wanted to make sure Castle Hills residents feel connected to the Lewisville community. Ferguson said he didn’t know the solution, but having seen the friction between Oak Cliff and Dallas residents growing up, he said the council would have to do something active to prevent the community from being fractured at the very start. Citizens already amended the city charter last year to make sure all neighborhoods are represented on the council in the case of its annexation.

Ferguson’s other proposal consisted of action items to make existing Lewisville neighborhoods more distinctive. This idea included awarding neighborhood enhancement grants for group projects to beautify and distinguish hyper-local communities.

Place 3 council member TJ Gilmore made two proposals aimed at keeping the city healthy. He proposed partnering with the Blue Zones project, which surveys the longest-lived communities from around the world to compile their health tips, as well as continued participation with It’s Time Texas. His second proposal was to propagate pollinator gardens and pocket prairies within the city.

Gilmore said investing in a healthier city to live was demonstrably attractive to modern businesses.

“You look at Amazon and one of the things that they were looking for, they were looking for communities with healthy lifestyles and healthy alternatives,” Gilmore said. “In fact, one of the cities in Virginia just got hit this morning. They noticed a bunch of traffic from Amazon to see one of their environmental pages. They had 6,000 hits on this one page.”

City Council member Brent Daniels stole the show at the council’s annual retreat when he stood up to propose developing the Valley Vista Park. (Photo by Leopold Knopp)

Place 4 council member Brandon Jones’ primary issue was revitalizing the Business 121 corridor, which extends northeast of its intersection with I-35. Businesses peter off quickly as drivers move away from the highway. The road, along with Hebron Parkway far to the south, are the only direct routes between Lewisville and Castle Hills.

Jones proposed creating initiative plans to move car dealerships away from the corridor and move other businesses in.

His second proposal was to increase programming in Wayne Ferguson Plaza.

Place 5 council member Brent Daniels delivered the most convincing pitch for developing Valley Vista Park. Daniels likened the council’s delay in developing the parkland to when he would taunt his childhood dog, King.

“Being a bad kid like I was, there was nothing I loved more than getting King there, ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ then putting a treat or putting a dogbowl in front of him and then stepping away and teasing him,” Daniels said. “For the last four or five years, people have been walking down Valley Ridge, and they’ve looked in that park, and we’re going, ‘stay.’”

His second proposal was to put wi-fi and charging stations into parks where they’re most needed, as well as live viewing cameras.

The final proposals came from Mayor Rudy Durham, who proposed buying up more parkland and beautifying streets by removing utility wires, either moving them underground or into alleys or raising the height of utility poles.

This session was one of several at the council’s annual retreat, where council members set priorities for the next year. The Lewisville Texan Journal will have more coverage of the weekend-long session in the coming weeks.

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