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Minutes of Meeting

Coppell Historical Society

October 11, 2014

Present:  Barbara Lee, Jan Lorrain, Lloyd Webb, Joyce Webb, Jean Murph, Martha-Allison Blewer, David Murph, Betsy Wilcox, Sue Miller, Shaun Jex, Chris Long, Cliff Long, Don Carter, Jackie Parrish, Pete Wilson

President Don Carter called the meeting in the Kirkland House to order at 1:08 p.m.

Jean Murph presented the opening update, announcing that Bennett Ratliff is planning to purchase a track of land in the Old Coppell area and build an office building whose facade will resemble the general store which his relatives once owned in Coppell.  He is going to encourage other builders to construct similar structures, possibly to resemble an old post office or school.  The location of the property is particularly significant to the Society because it is the site of the first two Coppell school buildings.  The placement of one of our historical markers was blocked by the present owner, and Ratliff has indicated that he will welcome the marker.  His plans are due to be presented to the city soon.

The minutes of the last meeting were approved.  Moved by Sue Miller; seconded by Jean Murph.

The treasurer’s report by Jan Lorrain showed, for the city-funded grant account, expenses of $283.25 for brochure printing, $20.62 for docent gifts, and $189.95 for miscellaneous supplies for the docent brunch and open houses, leaving a balance of $3,475.38.

For the general fund, income for dues was $30.00, leaving a balance of $11,047.92.

The CD balance is approximately $20,326.47.

After a clarification from Pete Wilson regarding one expense item, the treasurer’s report was approved and accepted.  Moved by Pete Wilson; seconded by Jean Murph.

Committee Reports:

Archive Committee:  Dave Murph reported good progress on organizing our miscellaneous historical records and announced plans for the committee to meet again within the next two to three weeks.

Heritage Park Committee:  Pat Quinlan was absent, but she sent word that there was no activity since the last meeting to report.

Historical Marker Committee:  Pete Wilson reported that with the exception of resolving the placement of the marker at the original school sites (which issue may be resolved if the Bennett development proceeds), no new activity since the last meeting has taken place.

Cemetery Committee:  Jean Murph reported for Pat Lambert that Pat and others, including Martha-Allison Blewer, are working with the city to examine and resolve issues involving the Bullock Cemetery.  Although the Society had thought that a ten-foot easement or set-back around the fence of the cemetery would prevent building taking place too close, it turns out that it is apparently legal for the new homeowners to build planters and other backyard structures there.  One owner in particular has extended his yard so close to the entrance of the cemetery, the entrance even appears to be part of his property.  Martha-Allison expressed concern that the cemetery is starting to look like it is private property, not a public cemetery.

The developer has recently agreed to add shrubbery around the cemetery near the fence to help delineate the cemetery property.

Martha-Allison reported that, at least, the developer has an artistic sense and is deliberately building houses to take advantage of the cemetery in the middle of his development.  However, many members have expressed concern that construction is too close and was never anticipated.  Pete Wilson asked that if an easement or set-back didn’t limit construction within its boundaries, what was its purpose in the first place?

Chris Long commented that easements did indeed limit such construction but that there are many gray areas and loopholes, including the fact that a property owner can claim half the fence around the cemetery as his own and can assume his right-of-way goes entirely up to that fence.

Pete Wilson reminded the membership that the Society’s initial concern was that there were graves outside the cemetery fence and that homes might be built over them.  At that time, the city encouraged the developer to explore that possibility, but nothing major ever happened in that regard.  The ten-foot easement was somewhat of a compromise negotiated by the city.  Now it appears that the action has no effect.

Cliff Long, the Society’s city council liaison, stated that he deliberately went to the site and looked at the development in question.  He stated that what’s happened there is ridiculous.

Pete Wilson observed that there have been numerous mistakes like this in the recent past: the destruction of the historic columns at the west entrance to Grapevine Springs Park; the removal of trees for the Main Street project when plans were in place to keep them; the incorrect reconstruction of the columns.

In answer to questions about what to do to avoid issues like this resurfacing in the future, Chris Long suggested getting everything in writing.  Of course, neither a city nor a developer wants to put such things in writing.

The committee suggested that the Society consider making signage for each of the historic cemeteries.

Jean Murph reviewed the news that the city has actually approved the renaming of Park Lane, which is the historic north entrance to Grapevine Springs, the removal of the few parking spaces and turn-around at the entrance, and the conversion of part of the street into just a walking trail.  The item was part of a bigger plan made by the Streets Department to improve W. Bethel Road.  There is concern by members that the decision was made without proper notice to the community, just like the renaming of the W. T. Cozby Library was without notice at the city council level.

A motion by Pete Wilson and seconded by Jean Murph was approved unanimously to have a representative at the next City Council meeting to make a statement in the citizen’s forum that the Society is opposed to the renaming of the street, the removal of the turn-around and parking spaces, and the downgrading of part of the street into just a walking trail.

Don Carter reported that at the same meeting with city representatives about the Bullock Cemetery issues, it was agreed that the city will add “wings” to the reconstructed columns along S. Coppell Road.  The original columns which stood at the west entrance to Grapevine Springs Park, like the ones still standing at the north entrance, had “wings” that extended to the sides and back of the upright pillars.  Photos of the 1937 originals were provided to the city before reconstruction began, but the wings were left off.  Unfortunately, there is not room for wings at the back of the present columns, so the new wings will be added only to the sides of the pillars.

Education Committee: Jean Murph reported that efforts to improve publicity for Heritage Park are continuing.  The brunch at the Kirkland House to honor the docents seated sixteen persons.  The Junior Docents (student volunteers) have been a big help already in conducting tours at Heritage Park, and they are going to do face painting at the October 18 open house.  On Halloween, the park will be open with treats and stories.  

The membership gave its approval to decorate for the Halloween event.  Moved by Betsy Wilcox; seconded by Jan Lorrain.

An Old Town celebration is being planned and the Society hopes to be a part of it.

Dave Murph reported that the new display at the Senior Citizens’ Center is now partially complete and is due to be finished on Tuesday.  The new display features photos, text, and artifacts related to Coppell schools.

The archeological dig which was scheduled for this morning and had to be postponed due to weather has been rescheduled to November 8 at 9:00 a.m., to take place before the presentation on Coppell Schools at the Senior Citizens’ Center at 1:00 p.m.  Thirty-five participants had registered to take part in the dig at North Lake.

Pete Wilson commented that Vonita White, former Assistant Superintendent of CISD, has agreed to be the presenter at the event on November 8.

Pat Lambert and others are still working with a committee of the Park Board about a revised tree ordinance.

Betsy Wilcox reported that additional volunteers are needed for the upcoming Heritage Park open houses.

There was no further old business.

New Business:

Pete Wilson suggested that since the city has not completed the replacement of wall paper on the ceiling of the Kirkland House that the Society undertake the task itself.  Jean Murph reported that there are plans to order the paper and get it installed by the city.

Pete Wilson also suggested that the Society purchase some folding chairs to accommodate meetings in the Kirkland House.  It was unanimously approved to have Pete purchase eight folding chairs for up to $350.  Jean Murph moved; Sue Miller seconded.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:32 p.m.

Wheelice (Pete) Wilson, Jr.

Secretary, Coppell Historical Society

972-741-3894 (cell)

Thank you, Pete, for these extensive minutes of a very important meeting; however, I do have one important correction regarding my position on the building of the pool and patio next to Bullock Cemetery which even utilizes the cemetery fence as the patio fence:

 In the third paragraph of the Cemetery Committee report, starting with my name, it is written as if I am not one of the members concerned that "construction is too close and was never anticipated."  I am definitely one of those members.  In fact, I am the original member who discovered this construction, which alarmed and outraged me since I thought no property would even be sold within ten feet of the "easement/setback" area around the entire cemetery and notified the rest of you about the situation.  The developer's artistic sense is only one small advantage in this unfortunate situation.  Please, clarify my position.  It's very important to me since I've been involved from the very beginning in the Bullock Cemetery issue.

Thank you,

Martha-Allison Blewer