Jeff Cheney – 6 Years on Frisco City Council, Dogs on the Patio, and the Proposed Liquor Ordinance
Jeff Cheney – 6 Years on Frisco City Council, Dogs on the Patio, and the Proposed Liquor Ordinance
Show Notes & Links:
- Cast your vote in our survey on allowing dogs on restaurant patios
- Jeff Cheney on Facebook
- Jeff Cheney on Twitter
- Frisco City Council Schedule
- Mayor Maso Interview
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco on:
Scott Ellis: Welcome to the Frisco Podcast. I’m your host, Scott Ellis, and my guest this week is Jeff Cheney joining us once again. It’s been a while since we’ve had you on, Jeff, so thank you for being here.
Jeff Cheney: Yeah, good morning. Thanks for having me back.
Scott Ellis: Good to have you. We’re going to chat about a couple of interesting topics right now that are Frisco city-related things that are kind of going around and maybe stirring a little bit of emotion with people.
Jeff Cheney: Sure.
Scott Ellis: The first one we’re going to dive into is the proposal to allow dogs on restaurant patios or restaurant porches or what have you. Tell us a little bit about what’s actually being proposed there and what that would look like if it was allowed.
Jeff Cheney: We do have many pet lovers here in Frisco, so this has been a topic that’s been brought up multiple times by our citizens, and we just decided to take a look at it and see if it makes sense for Frisco. One of the most controversial issues we dealt with in my term on Council was the dog park, that being built here in Frisco. People are very passionate one way or another when it comes to pets, whether they should be in public places or not. That dog park actually took years to finally get approved. When it did, it’s actually one of our most utilized parks now here in Frisco.
Scott Ellis: Were there people that were opposed to the dog park?
Jeff Cheney: There were many people that were opposed to the dog park. The concept was certainly that we shouldn’t be spending tax dollars for a park for dogs, and, of course, the dog lovers say it’s a park for people with dogs. I think just our experience is that it has been a highly successful park and it’s gotten people to a park environment that may have not used one of our other parks. Matter of fact, we’re actually in the middle of expanding that park, it’s been so successful. That was just approved at our Council meeting this week.
Scott Ellis: Where is the dog park, for people that haven’t been there?
Jeff Cheney: It’s on the west side of town near Phillips Park, 4th Army and Lebanon. It is kind of a hidden gem, so you have to know where it is. You’re not going to stumble upon it. That was part of the beauty of the location was it got rid of a lot of the concerns about noise and any smell concerns because it’s really kind of off the beaten path on a piece of property the city really had no alternative use for, so it’s worked out perfect for the city of Frisco and has been a great success story. Partly, that success story is what led us to really think about the dog on the patio issue and whether that made sense for Frisco. Just my experience with the dog park, I knew when I posted the question on Facebook I’d get a lot of varied opinions.
Scott Ellis: You did.
Jeff Cheney: I have. I think we’re up to maybe two hundred comments on that post, and it’s definitely people hashing about it on both sides. If you do have a passionate opinion, it’s something to share with Council as we take it up. Here in Frisco, we’re trying to do some things that are unique. This was an idea that was brought that is certainly interesting. The debate is centered around obviously our dog lovers that want to bring dogs to establishments … they’re usually well-behaved … and really restaurant owners that may decide that they want that kind of environment for their patios.
To me now, I think probably where my lean is you let it be a business decision whether they want to allow that or not. They very well may know that it could turn away patrons that may be opposed to it, so that becomes more of a market choice. Our citizens that really don’t want to share a patio with people, they can certainly vote with their feet and not visit those establishments. We’re still receiving feedback and definitely some interesting comments.
Scott Ellis: Is there going to be a vote on this issue, or is it the kind of thing that just gets decided by City Council?
Jeff Cheney: It will be a vote by City Council because we’ll have to actually amend our health ordinance, because if we do decide to allow it, it does come with restrictions. The restaurants that choose to become dog-friendly patios will have to have signage reflecting that. They’ll have to follow other requirements as far as how often the patio is cleaned. Can’t have porous tables so that food can fall through. The dogs can’t be fed while they’re there. They have to be given water and disposable cups or bowls. There are restrictions, you know, keep the environments clean and things.
Scott Ellis: Would things like leash laws still apply?
Jeff Cheney: They have to be on a leash. The owner has to have them under control at all times, absolutely. They can’t just be left loose.
Scott Ellis: I don’t have a dog, but Wendy and I went out to dinner last night and were sitting on a patio, and it was not in Frisco; it was in Plano. Somebody had their dog there, and it was lying there next to the table, enjoying the nice cool bricks, and it made me think about that issue a little bit. I know people are going to have differing opinions, and I certainly understand people that might be opposed. I think I’d be for it. I just love puppies. I’m a little biased that way.
Jeff Cheney: I know my little girl, Caitlin, she is definitely for it. She loves dogs, and every time we see one out in a restaurant, I think she spends all night petting it. I’d say you look at it and ninety-nine percent of the pet owners and dogs that will go to the restaurants I’m sure will be perfectly fine. The owners are responsible. They’re not going to bring their dog to a restaurant unless they know that. You do have to plan around those one percent situations where there are controls in place if something turns up how it shouldn’t, and really give the restaurant owners the tools they need if there’s a problem that they need to deal with that they can.
Scott Ellis: Just to be clear. On the vote for this amendment, is it only voted on by City Council members or is there a public vote where citizens come to vote on it?
Jeff Cheney: It’s only voted on by City Council members, so it won’t be a public vote. I would say the issue is probably divided on Council right now, and the citizens should certainly have their voice heard and let their Council members know their opinion. In fact, it was on our last agenda, and we decided to go ahead and table it for this very purpose, to try to get some public input.
Scott Ellis: Listen up. This is one of those issues where you definitely want to get out there and let your City Councilmen and women know how you feel about this, because they will be taking a vote on it. Do you know when that vote’s going to happen?
Jeff Cheney: It’s on our agenda for the first meeting in April, which will be the first Tuesday of the month.
Scott Ellis: Okay. You have until the first meeting in April, which is I think the second? I don’t know.
Jeff Cheney: That sounds about right, yeah.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, somewhere around there. Early in the month, so get out there and let them know how you feel. All right, let’s talk about another hot-button issue that’s going around right now. This is one I’m particularly interested in hearing you explain what is really on the table, what is really being proposed here, and this is … I’m just going to call it the alcohol ordinance to allow liquor to be sold inside of Frisco. Correct?
Jeff Cheney: Yeah. Maybe the two most controversial topics, dogs and liquor, that come up in Frisco, I think. What this is, is this is actually an item that the citizens will vote on. It will be on the May ballot. Just to start the issue, I would say all Council members individually oppose the measure. The Chamber has opposed the measure. Many other organizations oppose the measure. The language on the ballot is very confusing. It’s written by state law. We did have a local restaurant hire a third party out in the area to collect signatures. We felt like the signatures collected were not done so in a manner where the people signing knew what they were signing for.
If you read the ballot language, I think a lot of people wouldn’t actually vote for it. I think it says something along the lines of, “Do you want to have beer and wine sales in Frisco?” What it would actually effectively do is lose the city’s ability to control where liquor stores and bars go. Long story short, a vote for No is to keep things exactly how they are today. Now, restaurants can serve beer and wine. We don’t currently allow liquor stores. In bars we have what’s called a SUP, which is a specific use permit process so we can control where they go so they’re not locating in residential areas or places that we wouldn’t want them. They’re located in more natural fits.
That process has worked very well for the city of Frisco in the past. If the ordinance does pass, then really liquor stores and bars can go anywhere they want, and we’d really lose our control. Our opinion is that it would be very detrimental to the city if it were to pass. We’re all working hard to get the word out as far as exactly what you’re voting for. Once the citizens are educated on it … I haven’t run across many people that are in support of it once they learn what it really is. It’s going to be an education process so people know.
Scott Ellis: I’m going to try to wrap this in a way that hopefully people will take an objective approach to thinking about this. It sounds like in general, the City Council and most of the citizens, at least those that you’ve spoken with, are generally opposed not necessarily to the idea of having liquor sales outside of bars happen at some point in time, but it’s the way this was done. It’s the language on the ballot that’s not clear, and it’s setting us up for some things that may not be easy to predict down the road.
Rather than voting for this and allowing it to pass, if this is going to become an issue in the future, if this is something that the citizens want in the future, let’s take a more thoughtful approach to making sure that we set this up right. For example, I know Plano allows liquor sales, but it is very controlled and regulated there. It’s not just anywhere and everywhere. That would really be a more ideal situation for Frisco if this were going to be allowed in the future.
Jeff Cheney: Scott, I think that’s a great way to explain the issue. This vote really isn’t about whether you’re for or against liquor sales here in Frisco. It’s about the city’s ability to control how the city is developed. If the citizens do choose that they want that for Frisco, then you’re right, this should be done through the right process with proper controls and where they can be built and those kinds of things. Absolutely.
Scott Ellis: Yeah. I’ve heard people express concerns about things like the drive-through margarita shops going to start popping up on the corners and things like that. While I don’t see that happening, it sounds like the way this has been positioned, that would at least be a possibility. That’s definitely not the kind of thing that we’d probably want to have in town.
Jeff Cheney: Absolutely. It’s really any time you lose control of your zoning and your ability to control uses, you run those kinds of risks, absolutely. I grew up in Houston, and Houston is kind of notorious for their bad zoning where you have the liquor store next to the church, next to the elementary school. Certainly, I think a lot of people have learned from zoning mistakes in the past. We’re always known as a city that’s well-planned and well-thought out, and uses are integrated where they should be or looking for very specific entertainment districts. That’s in large part based on the thoughtfulness of the zoning and our master planning and our comprehensive plan that we have in place. It would be a real shame, honestly, if we lost the ability to do that.
Scott Ellis: As far as I know, Frisco is still … Is it an ISO 1 city? We’ve still got that insurance rating, which is a huge deal. People don’t necessarily know about that. If you want to learn more, there’s an interview I did with Mayor Masso a long time ago. It’s one of the podcast episodes, we’ll link up to it, where he explained why that was such a big deal and what’s so important about that. That sounds like things like a poorly thought-out liquor law could affect that, which could have a lot of other downstream effects for citizens like tax rates and other things.
Jeff Cheney: Yeah, no doubt. It’s not just that, but it truthfully is the ability of our police officers to properly patrol the city. When you have thoughtful entertainment districts, then you know kind of where your problem areas are going to be and at what time. You lose control of your zoning and bars are scattered all over the city, then that is much harder to police. Pretty much we have a united front from the city and school district, and the ISD board members are opposing it as well. We’re all trying to unify to fight the measure, and then if our citizens want us to pick it up, as you said, in a great way, let’s do it. Let’s do it the right way.
Scott Ellis: Okay. That sounds good. Is the vote on that going to be a part of the May 6th-
Jeff Cheney: It is.
Scott Ellis: … election that’s coming up?
Jeff Cheney: It is.
Scott Ellis: Okay. It’s always been a little bit disappointing to me what kind of voter turnout we get in Frisco as a percentage. This is, again, an issue that will, hopefully, give people more than one reason to go out to the polls to cast their vote. You guys get a chance to vote on this May 6th, so do not miss out on that. Speaking of there’s going to be an election on May 6th, and your place is going to have somebody else sitting in it pretty soon. Man, you’ve been with us a long time. You’ve been on City Council for nine years now and you’re running into a term limit. Right?
Jeff Cheney: I am. Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s been a fun run and it’s gone fast. Yeah, I’ve been on for nine years. Our city charter only allows you to serve three terms. Each term is three years, so I’ll be coming to my term limits here this May.
Scott Ellis: Very good. As you look back on the last nine years, obviously the growth in Frisco is almost unimaginable in that timeframe. Anything in particular that you’re especially proud of that’s been really something that you enjoy looking back and having taken part in?
Jeff Cheney: Frisco has changed so much over the last nine years. I feel like I could almost write a book about just all the projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on. It’s just been amazing here. Obviously, the Cowboys deal and The Star, which is, I think, an amazing achievement from many people. For a deal like that, start to finish, to be put together in sixty days is just about unheard of. You hear about government gridlock, and most companies couldn’t move that fast. That’s what it took and it took a lot of players really moving together to make that thing happen. I don’t think people really realize what all that’s going to do for this city and what all it’s going to be, not just for the city but our student athletes, an experience. That’s going to be an incredible thing.
The 5 Billion Dollar Mile, all the things coming out of the ground right now is truthfully a long labor of love, because when times were lean we went through difficult budget times. I think a lot of elected officials, they make the mistake of, “I need to do a project. I want to have some kind of legacy.” We were very disappointed during those years and saying, “No, we’re going to kind of take a step back. We don’t want to approve B-level projects just to do B-level projects.” We waited, and when we came out of that recession, we were more prepared, I think, than other cities. I think that’s why we’re getting all these A-plus and home-run projects coming, because we have the budget allowed to do so.
I think those economic development things are things that I’ll be proud of and be able to point back at. There’s others that I joke won’t happen until long after I’m gone. There’s a piece of property at Main and the Tollway that Scott Johnson and I back in 2008 took a stand against the developer. There’s a big grove of pecan trees back there that no one’s ever seen. They’re back there, though. The developer came looking for an extension on their option, and Scott and I basically stood our ground and said, “We’re not going to give you your extension unless you agree to save those pecan trees.”
They fought us and we took a lot of heat for it. They reluctantly went back to the drawing board and came back to us two weeks later and thanked us for making them work harder. They said, “Not only are we going to save them, but we’re going to build our development around those pecan trees.” That project will get done long after I’m gone, but I often joke with Scott that, “You know what, one day we need to have a picnic under our pecan trees one of these days.”
Sometimes the big decisions are fun. A lot of times it’s the little ones, too. It’s just helping the citizen, the everyday citizen that e-mails you and they have a problem and you’re able to solve it. I had one this year right before Halloween. The sidewalk had caved in and it was a big sidewalk that a lot of the kids walked on. I think she called me the Tuesday before Halloween, and we were able to get it fixed before Halloween. All the trick-or-treaters were out.
Scott Ellis: Fantastic.
Jeff Cheney: Sometimes those little things are the ones that stick with you, where you helped the individual person on a smaller problem. Some of the bigger things, this Saturday we’re doing the Bacchus dedication. Bacchus is the expansion of our baseball fields. That’s something I’m really proud of, because that’s something I really pushed and drove, which was a total change in the way we think about how we build our parks. We used to build our parks naturally by saying, “Every park needs a little bit of everything. Warren Park, let’s do five baseball fields, let’s do X number of soccer fields,” and so forth and so on.
We do so much tourism here in Frisco that I really wanted to shift our thinking to say all these parks should be set up to be able to host tournaments. My boys play baseball, and Frisco can’t host a baseball tournament. You have to have ten to fifteen baseball fields in one location. I pushed really hard for that, and that is a part of it. Bacchus was expanded rather than those baseball fields just going to another park. Now, they’re going to have, I think, twelve to fourteen fields, and they’re going to be hosting a World Series this year.
Scott Ellis: Oh, wonderful.
Jeff Cheney: My boys are actually playing in two different baseball tournaments here in Frisco and it will be the first time we’ve ever been able to play in Frisco. A lot of our citizens are excited about that. That’s really kick-started our … just a paradigm shift in how we think about our parks going forward. Now, Northeast Community Park, that’s becoming more of a football field park and lacrosse field park.
That’s just going to make the life of the FFL, Frisco Football League, and these other sports that much easier because rather than sending their crews to five different parks around Frisco, all their games are going to be able to be hosted there. It’s just a better experience for the parents. We’re all competitive and we want to know what the competition is doing, so if you can spend a Saturday watching Frisco football games, there’s a lot of crazy dads like me that are going to be out there doing that.
Scott Ellis: Scoping the competition.
Jeff Cheney: That’s right, exactly. The whole park system is fun. Of course, me and my background in real estate, I do feel like I’ve kind of made a mark on development here in Frisco, and I don’t think it will ever be looked at the same way. My other Council members joke that there will never be a retaining pond ever built again that’s not built as an amenity. That will be on my Council gravestone that day. Much like the one that’s been outside of Gloria’s, I just think if they’re not used as an amenity, then that’s just a wasted opportunity. That’s been a big push of mine. Quality residential development, unique neighborhoods. Then the commercial development having more open space, unique dining experiences where if you’re going to sit on a patio … Right now we don’t have many places where you’re not looking at a parking lot. That’s been a big push of mine, and now we’re starting to see that come out of the ground. Again, a lot of them will be open after my time, but it was something that I pushed really hard for.
Scott Ellis: I think a lot of people will be glad to hear that, because we do love our patios when the weather is nice. It is nice to have something to look at other than a parking lot.
Jeff Cheney: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I would say another controversial project was Pizzeria Testa down there in Frisco Square. It’s funny, on that project basically what we did was we leased them part of that park. That’s a city park. We were afraid that some of our citizens may oppose us doing that. Actually, when we were discussing it back then in executive session, the first round it was a No. We had been [inaudible 00:18:09]. I remember sitting there and I was actually … We were up on the fifth floor, and I had a chair where I was looking down at it, where the site was going to be, trying to picture it. I came back and I said, “Guys, let’s take one more look at this. Let’s really think about it.”
Really, what it ended up being was, “We don’t have any place in Frisco where you can sit on a patio and kids can go play and here’s our opportunity to do that.” Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance. We started talking about it again, and by the end of the night, there was a Yes. I shared that story with the restaurant owner probably about six months ago. He had never heard it. He was like, “Well, I’m sure glad you brought it back up again.” With that project, we made them put a ton of money into that building and make it unique, and they certainly delivered.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, they did. It’s a beautiful building, and it’s a great space. They actually have, I think, three different patios. There’s the front patio. There’s a back patio that looks out on the park, the green space there in front of City Hall. Then there’s another one kind of off to the side that more or less looks out on that same park, but it’s a little more separated. You’ve got three nice outdoor spaces. It’s a beautiful brick building inside and just a fun place to go to. I’m glad to hear that you brought that back up, too, because we have a lot of fun there.
Jeff Cheney: Yeah, lots of great memories. It’s definitely a position that I’m going to miss. I hear a lot of people tell me all the time that they thanked me for serving, but to me, it’s more thanking other people to have the opportunity. There’s a lot of people that would love to have the opportunity I have to serve the great city of Frisco like I’ve been able to do in the last nine years. It’s been a lot of fun.
Scott Ellis: Good. For you guys that don’t know, serving on City Council is, it’s really a full-time job on top of your full-time job, because this is not how you make your living. You’re running The Cheney Group-
Jeff Cheney: That’s right.
Scott Ellis: … amongst other things, but that’s kind of your main job, if you will. Then you’re doing this on top of that, and it’s a tremendous amount of work, so thank you very much for the last nine years.
Jeff Cheney: Thank you. Yeah, we get a $400.00 stipend from the city of Frisco, and that does not pay the bills.
Scott Ellis: That doesn’t cover you? That’s not enough?
Jeff Cheney: Thank you for that, Scott.
Scott Ellis: You bet, Jeff. Thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thanks for coming on the show again. Even though you’re going to roll off, we’re going to have you back on maybe to help add some color and some flavor to future issues that come up and give us some ideas about how City Council might be approaching that in the future, even if you’re not necessarily in one of those seats.
Jeff Cheney: Oh, yeah. Would love to any time.
Scott Ellis: All right. Thanks again.
We will talk to you guys next time on the Frisco Podcast.