Everyone involved in the annexation of Castle Hills into Lewisville knew something likely would be missed but aside from some initial minor issues, all has gone well since the Nov. 15 transformation.
“Overall it’s been pretty smooth because of all the work that went in ahead of time,” said James Kunkle, the City of Lewisville’s director of community relations and tourism. “We knew there would be some cleanup items afterward but there’s been nothing dramatic, nothing damaging, nothing we couldn’t fix pretty quickly.
“We learned a lot from Sugarland because they did something similar about five years ago. We had a list of things we needed to do. We asked for their list and compared them. They were very helpful to us.”
To address the list, 33 new staff was hired to serve between 14,000 and 18,000 new residents. Lewisville also increased its informational campaign including emails, newsletters, monthly inserts into water bills, and quarterly town hall-like meetings.
“We really kicked it into high gear early in 2020,” Kunkle said. “We knew it was less than 24 months away so we formed an annexation education committee with two members of each of the water district boards plus some at-large residents that met monthly or bi-monthly for about four months. We just fed them reams of information including details on city operations – what we do, how we do them and why we do them and how things would change in Castle Hills for those items.”
One thing that has changed is restaurant inspections which Lewisville conducts twice annually while those facilities in Castle Hills were viewed at best once by the State of Texas.
Animal services are another enhancement. Denton County provided limited assistance and no shelter for stray dogs while Lewisville has dedicated one staff person to answer calls and has a shelter. Castle Hills residents now must register their pets.
While major property change requests still start with the Castle Hills Homeowners Association Architectural Review Committee, now they go to Lewisville for the permit.
“You see all those things across the realm of municipal services. Some of them, Castle Hills hasn’t had at all,” Kunkle said. “Some, they were very limited because they were being performed by the state or the county or sometimes the water district with limited staffing. And some are the same services but with different phone numbers.” Another new service is sidewalk repair/replacement, the cost of which previously went to the homeowner and now is done by the city.
Castle Hills had contracted with Lewisville for on-demand police services with limited patrols (16 hours a day) added several years ago. Today, there is 24-hour protection with two patrol beats and a neighborhood resource officer all included with property taxes.
Speaking of property taxes, as expected, most Castle Hills residents will see a reduction. Though they will lose a local homestead exemption, their rates came down enough to make a difference. Kunkle said adding Castle Hills diversifies the housing stock and tax base through executive-level housing.
Election to city council is changing from at-large to residential districts. That means candidates must live in the district in which they run, though all city residents vote for those positions. The annexation also created one new city council seat. Starting this year, Castle Hills residents who previously could serve on the water board can run for the council and school board.The way Kunkle sees it, Lewisville basically annexed a small town.
“Our goal is for people to have a positive experience in Lewisville. Whether they live here, work here, or are visiting here we want their interaction to be positive,” he said. “We have some residents of Castle Hills who have felt more engaged with Carrollton or The Colony or Plano for things like the library or youth sports or shopping. We want them to be aware we have a great library and youth sports programs and we’ve got some of the same stores here.
“It’s been exciting and for me, the best part is the response we’ve got from the Castle Hills residents. The majority has been positive. It’s definitely been inquisitive. It’s our job to show those who are unhappy that their taxes went up that they are receiving value.”