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District 4 candidates hope to improve mobility in Denton

District 4 candidates hope to improve mobility in Denton

District 4 candidates hope to improve mobility in Denton
February 28
00:47 2019

The Denton City Council District 4 seat is up for election this year with two candidates, incumbent John Ryan and voting advocate Emily Meisner, vying for the position.

John Ryan 

The District 4 seats covers part of Argyle and most of southern Denton, and has been represented by Ryan since 2017. Earlier last month, Ryan, 53, announced he will seek a second full term after filing with the City, and launched his campaign at an event late last month at the North Texas Fair & Rodeo.

As a candidate in this year’s city council race, major priorities of his campaign will focus on mobility and roads, to include sidewalks, trying to keep the tax rate as low as possible and updating the development code.

Regarding updating the development code, which was last updated in 2002, Ryan said the variance of language in the code has caused “a great deal of confusion for developers.”

“Some of the differences of our current code is based on units per acre, which is something municipalities across the country have [moved] away from,” Ryan said.

Currently, the city of Denton has started the process of updating their development code, with public meetings on the matter scheduled for Feb. 28, March 18, and March 21. Updates to the development code are expected to be complete sometime in April, Ryan said.

Discussing mobility, with regard to the city’s expected growth of an additional 60,000 residents by 2030, Ryan said there are, “a number of items that will be coming before us next year,” to include an updated mobility plan.

The city of Denton’s mobility plan, which details existing and future thoroughfares for long-range plans such as growth, development and redevelopment of major roadways and facilities.

“We’ve got a Park master plan that will be coming to us in November,” Ryan said about city developments. “Two or three weeks ago we approved the design and funding for the design of fire station number eight, and we’re looking at adding a substation for the police department in the southern section of town.”

Fire Station No. 8, which is in the planning phase of developments, is expected to be built near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Brinker Road. The 8,500 square-foot station will serve the growing areas in southeast Denton, businesses in the medical district, and areas near I-35E, Mayhill Road, and State School Road, according to the city of Denton.

Part of the mobility and thoroughfare plan, Ryan said about transportation and additional fire stations, is to connect several streets within District 4, such as Ryan Road and Hickory Creek, with Interstate-35 or “something that will tie-in with I-35.”

“That’s eventually where the west-side leap will come in at,” Ryan said about West Denton’s growth. “We’re looking at all those items first to know what’s going to be available for transportation to what’s the best location for additional fire stations.”

The city of Denton is currently planning Fire Station No. 9, which will be located at Denton Enterprise Airport, also known as Denton Airport, a city-owned, public-use facility. The city has also begun the process of looking at where Fire Station No. 10 would be best located, Ryan said.

Speaking on tax rates and keeping them as low as possible for Denton residents, Ryan said, “that has been one thing that has been very good.”

“We’ve reduced taxes by around six cents in the two years that I’ve been on [City Council District 4],” Ryan said. “They [the tax rate] are very close to the effective rate both years.”

The city of Denton’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018-2019 reduced the tax rate from FY 2017-2018 by 1.7 cents from $0.637856 to $0.620477, according to the city of Denton’s Annual Program of Services for 2018-2019.

Ryan, a former representative for Denton City Council District 2, was elected to his first term on city council in 2014 after defeating Glenn Farris with 59.23 percent of the total vote. At the time, District 2 was represented by incumbent councilman Dalton Gregory, who vacated his seat one year into his term in order to run for city council At Large Place 5.

During Ryan’s 2015 bid for re-election in District 2, he was challenged by current District 2 representative Keely Briggs and was defeated after gaining 437 total votes compared to Briggs’ 747 total votes.

Last election cycle in 2017, Ryan was elected to his first full term representing District 4 after he defeated Amanda Servis by carrying 67.9 percent of the total vote.

Under the city of Denton’s Handbook for Boards, Commissions, and Council Committees, councilmembers, such as Ryan, may serve two-year terms with a consecutive three full term limit. However, in cases such as councilman Ryan – who previously served for one year on city council representing District 2 – he would not be subject to the handbook’s language in this regard because he had not served out a full two-year term.

Within six of nine precincts Ryan won in 2017, he carried significant amounts of votes in precincts 1015, 1016, 1017 and 1018, while winning precincts 1019 and 4015 by narrower margins. In precinct 4037, the only one Ryan lost, the margin of defeat was within 11 total votes.

Precincts 4016 and 4017 did not report any votes for either candidates.

Information on Ryan’s campaign and upcoming events can be found on his Facebook page John Ryan for Denton City Council and campaign website RyanforDenton.

Emily Meisner

Voting registration advocate and former educator Emily Meisner, 41, announced her intention to run after filing last month.

Meisner serves on various groups and boards in Denton, including Denton Vote Group – a nonpartisan group she co-founded to increase voter participation – and is the Director of the League of Women’s Voters Board. Meisner previously served as the vice president of Community Relations for the League of Women’s Voters before becoming director, shortly before announcing her candidacy.

The reasoning, Meisner said, was that she did not want any type of “perceived conflict of interests.”

“That role [of vice president of community relations] was directly organizing voter registrations for the community,” Meisner said. “As I announced my candidacy, I said, ‘I’d like to not be in that role facilitating voter registrations while I’m running.’”

Regarding her role within Denton Vote Group, Meisner said she recused herself from “leader of the group” and recused herself from “any involvement directly in the group.”

As a candidate for city council, Meisner said her platform will focus on community action, forward growth thinking, and innovation.

To address community action, Meisner said she wants to promote engagement with focus toward neighborhood and road safety through “responsive and proactive communication.”

“I’d like to see sidewalks lining Teasley all the way down to Guyer [High School] and past on both sides,” Meisner said about the school where she taught art education. “In areas where it’s commercial or there’s no neighborhood sidewalk, students are left to walk on the curbs, grass or ditches.”

Meisner taught art education within Denton and Keller ISDs and has taught summer classes at UNT, where she gained her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Art Education.

With construction underway to expand Teasley into a six lane roadway, Meisner said the roadway has become a “hazardous” area for students.

Guyer High School Principal Dr. Shaun Perry released a statement on traffic patterns for 2018-2019 with regards to ongoing construction, noting that provisions will be provided for affected students.

“Busing will still be provided to students in neighborhoods affected by the loss of sidewalks and walkways south of Ryan Road past Guyer High on Teasley Lane,” Perry wrote in a release. “If you have been affected by this construction, you should have received communication from the districts Transportation Dept. outlining the locations and times for pickups [in your neighborhoods].”

Along with sidewalks, Meisner noted she would also like to see a crosswalk added to Teasley after the death of Arely Naffarratte, a 15-year-old who was killed in February 2016 after being struck by a car while crossing Teasley at Montecito Drive.

Discussing forward thinking growth, Meisner – who serves as an alternate on the Zoning Board of Adjustment – said she wants to focus on neighborhood preservation with regards to managing growth.

To accomplish this, Meisner said she wants to look at developments coming into District 4, instead of “rubber stamping them all.”

“I’d like to look at each development very carefully [to make sure] that it fits with the surrounding neighborhoods already in place,” Meisner said. “I’d like to make decisions, keeping in mind, that some developments may not be appropriate for a period.”

Meisner noted she is not against developments or business but that “we should take each one as it comes and look at them in respect and regards to maintaining our neighborhoods that are established so that those neighbors don’t ever feel a hardship.”

With Denton’s expected growth of an additional 60,000 residents by 2030, Meisner believes “the more we can look ahead and be proactive as opposed to reactionary to issues the better.”

“We’re lacking infrastructure and some of the outer areas of Denton where new developments and communities want to come into,” Meisner said about Denton’s 2030 plan. “If that infrastructure is not there it presents all sorts of problems.”

Meisner said city councilpersons should promote infrastructure such as water, electric and roads, “before developments come” and that developers should also expect to play a role.

Regarding innovation, Meisner’s platform plans to address various citizens’ needs, such as diverse housing and accessible transportation, to ensure those needs are met.

In District 4, Meisner acknowledged that compared to other city council districts where homelessness is more densely populated that her would-be district instead has “a very diverse range of families with diverse incomes.”

To accommodate affordable housing needs, Meisner said she is supportive of a housing development project currently being proposed at the northwest corner of Ryan Road and Teasley Lane. The 8.6-acre proposed development would consist of approximately, “six three-story multifamily residences with open space and amenities.”

“A portion of these homes are going to be offered at market rates,” Meisner said about the multifamily-housing project. “Another portion is going to be offered on variable rates according to people’s incomes.”

The proposal, Meisner said, is a really good compromise between “mixes of different affordability within the same unit.”

Discussing the transportation facet of her innovation platform, Meisner said she wants to ensure that those within District 4 have access to reliable, affordable transportation with focus toward those with disabilities.

“I want anybody to be able to feel that they can safely use our transportation system and get from Point A to Point B safely and efficiently,” Meisner said. “No matter what their personal ability is.”

According to the United States Census Bureau from 2013-2017, an estimated 7.3 percent of Denton residents age 65 and under are reported to have a form of disability. The Denton County Transportation Authority Paratransit Service provides public transportation services for people who have either physical, mental or cognitive disabilities or who are at least 65 years old.

To efficiently address these concerns, Meisner said she wants to work with citizens and consult with different groups within the city to provide input before policies are passed to circumvent constituent and citizen frustration.

“We can circumvent a lot by simply being proactive and going to these different groups that will want to have input and be heard,” Meisner said about community engagement. “When they have a sense of ownership in some of these decisions that will help everybody in the end.”

Information on Meisner’s campaign and upcoming events can be found on her Facebook page EmilyForDenton and campaign website.

Voting Information

Elections for city council Districts 1-4 will be held May 4. Early voting will take place April 22-30.

More information about registration deadlines, district and polling locations and different ways of voting in Denton County can be found at votedenton.com.

Featured Image: File. 

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Ryan Higgs

Ryan Higgs

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