By Catherine Hosman
BERTRAM — Controversy over zoning and traffic problems at Castleberry Court subdivision on State Highwy 29 eclipsed Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Bertram City Council.
Several dismayed residents were present to voice their opinions at a public hearing about the lack of expedience on resolving the issues.
The problem stems from concerns about duplexes being built at 104 and 106 Castleberry Court on lots that were rezoned for commercial use at the March 8, 2005, meeting of the Bertram City Council. The duplexes are directly behind a Mexican restaurant that faces Highway 29. When the permit was issued to build the multi-family dwellings, the rezoning was not shown on the zoning plat used to determine the use of the property.
Prior to starting development of the duplexes, the lots were used as additional parking for restaurant patrons and as a turnaround area for commercial vehicles entering the court. However, once development of the duplexes began, for which Mayor Allen Dickie issued a “stop work order” on March 2, construction vehicles began to use the Castleberry Court cul-de-sac as a turn around.
Since the work on the duplexes was halted, other commercial vehicles patronizing the restaurant are now using the cul-de-sac as a parking area and turn around. One of the residents in attendance reminded the Council that this continues to create a safety hazard to the families that live in the eight homes that line the court and also causes damage to personal property.
One resident stated that there had been multiple meetings, but still no resolution. Another resident accused the City of sheltering itself from liability.
Options discussed include adding seven additional parking spaces to the restaurant for a total of 21 spaces; erecting signs on either side of Highway 29 that alerts commercial vehicles and patrons of the restaurant that parking and turnaround on the cul-de-sac is prohibited; and a plan to rezone the area for “lesser use” that would allow for single family or multi-family dwellings to be built, allowing for a buffer between the subdivision and commercial entities.
“Isn’t the purpose of this to relocate the problem,” asked one homeowner.
“Yes,” answered Mayor Allen. “We are trying to get ‘lesser use.’”
Councilman John Mandigo said the City needs at least 90 days to renew the zoning map, sort out the mistakes and put it in order.
“We correct the map, send to the Planning and Zoning board, they approve it and send it back to us,” he said.
Other ideas volleyed between residents and the Council included making the subdivision a gated community, purchasing land owned by the Super S Grocery Store chain to build an additional road that would allow access onto Highway 29; or making the cul-de-sac a permitted parking area for residents and guests only.
“It takes time to work through the rules and laws (of the different agencies),” said Mandigo. “Everyone wants a quick solution, but the City has to work with other agencies to find solutions.”
Mandigo added that the changes cannot be done overnight.
“There are long term and short term solutions,” he said. “Give us more time to work through with those agencies”
In other business, Mayor Allen proclaimed April as Child Abuse Awareness Month. He announced that letters are being sent to residents regarding the creation of a Municipal Development District by increasing the current sales tax by ¼ percent and renewal of the established ¼ percent Street Maintenance tax. Both issues are on the May 11 election ballot.
The Council also voted to approve the purchase of radios for the police and utility departments at a cost of $15,974.