Ordinance links city water, wastewater, annexation

Following a 20-minute executive session Monday, the Liberty Hill City Council voted unanimously to authorize the Mayor to issue a certificate of no action on a plat for a proposed subdivision on RR 1869.

Despite the objections of the City Manager, the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission in October voted to recommend the Council approve the Phase One Final Plat of 1869 Ranch. Manager Manuel De La Rosa told appointees that despite their vote, he would not recommend Council approval because the plans failed to show the location of the proposed State Highway 29 Bypass, which is to run through the property.

At the time, he said the City has an interlocal agreement with Williamson County that requires the City to take into consideration the County’s future plans for development and infrastructure.

“I have some problems with the plat, but it’s my understanding of the situation that we may be under the gun here,” said Councilman Jack Harkrider on Monday.

City Attorney Brad Bullock said the Council’s decision to certify no action will result in the plat becoming approved in 30 days as a matter of law.

De La Rosa told The Independent  Tuesday that the Council’s decision does not impact the developer’s ability to move forward with the plans.

“We want to protect future residents,” he said, adding that it will be up to the developer to disclose the future roadway to prospective property owners.

The Council also approved an ordinance clarifying the City’s policies with respect to connection to wastewater service.

De La Rosa said the three provisions in the ordinance do not “substantially change anything.”

The basic premise is that if a customer wants wastewater service, it should also obtain water from the City and annex voluntarily, he said.

“We believe if someone wants  wastewater service, they should also use our water and be annexed,” he said Tuesday. “If they want our sewer, they should be getting our water.”

The City is in the process of finalizing the purchase of a wastewater treatment plant from the Lower Colorado River Authority. The City has the support of area municipal utilitiy districts that are current customers of the LCRA facility.

Liberty Hill Independent School District, which is constructing a new high school and athletic complex outside the city limits on State Highway 29, is seeking approval from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to obtain water from Chisholm Trail Special Utility District even though the property is within the service area of the City (formerly the Liberty Hill Water Supply Corp.)

Superintendent Dr. Rob Hart has previously stated that the costs of bringing water to the facilities from Chisholm Trail was much less than the price quoted by the City.

“We’ll just have to see what they do,” De La Rosa said. “They have filed for expedited release from our CCN,” and have informally requested wastewater service. “We’ll have to see how they handle that.”

The ordinance also requires that parties requesting wastewater service to property that is located outside the city limits voluntarily annex into the City of Liberty Hill. Any service to the property is considered a continuing request for annexation as long as the service is received.

The new ordinance states that a

party wanting to receive wastewater service shall apply for water and wastewater service and pay an application fee of $30.

“I have read them (the ordinances), and it is consistent with what our policy is presently,” said Mayor Michele “Mike” Murphy.

Despite the recommendation of staff to adopt an ordinance that would allow the city to tax goods in transit, the Council rejected the proposal.

Due to changes adopted by the Legislature this year, municipalities are required to pass an ordinance by January 2012 in order to be able to maintain the ability to tax the items. Based on 2011 valuations, Deputy City Secretary Rachel Austin said the city could lose as much as $11,000 if the ordinance is not in place.

Goods in transit are defined by the state as tangible personal property stored less than 175 days in a public warehouse within the city that is not owned by the personal property owner.

In other business Monday, the Council voted unanimously to:

* Approve the Preliminary Plat of the Highland Meadows subdivision. Representatives of Bury Partners told the Council the original plan for the residential development called for 838 lots, but that has now been reduced to 660 lots.

* Amended the Bylaws of the Economic Development Corp. regarding the signatures required on the corporation’s checks. The amendment allows city staff and the Mayor to be signers.

* Set a public hearing for Dec. 19 in the Council Chamber for the Environmental Document for Phase 3B of the sewer system (Seward Junction).

* Allow the Planning & Zoning Commission to serve in a dual capacity as an advisory committee to the Council regarding land use assumptions and capital improvement plans.

Council member Byron Tippie, who did not attend Monday’s meeting, had placed an item on the agenda proposing to place a moratorium on enforcement of the City’s sign ordinances. The Council voted to table the issue until the next meeting. Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Crane said he did not want to speak for Tippie and had questions about the proposal.

Last week, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted to recommend the Council adopt six changes to the ordinance that would take effect immediately. Some of the changes proposed did not receive unanimous approval from the Commission.

Many of the seats in the Council Chamber Monday were occupied by business owners who have expressed problems with the sign ordinances.

No one signed up to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting, which was moved to the beginning of the agenda after weeks of being addressed near the end of the meetings.