Board members offer input into City’s Comprehensive Plan

By SHELLY WILKISON

Brought together to brainstorm about Liberty Hill’s future development, members of the City’s appointed boards and commissions met for the first time with City Council members Monday and offered ideas that may be incorporated into a Comprehensive Plan.

A Comprehensive Plan typically serves as a foundation for future growth and development of a community. Liberty Hill has a plan, but it has not been updated since 2009.

Monday’s workshop with members of the Economic Development Corp., Planning & Zoning Commission and the Parks & Recreation Board was organized by Councilmembers Connie Fuller, Elizabeth Branigan and interim City Manager Greg Boatright. All Council members were present as well as two-three members of each committee.

Boatright said input provided by board members will be incorporated into a document that will also contain input from the public. Once compiled into a final form, it will go to the City Council for final adoption.

He said the City needs an updated Comprehensive Plan in order to seek grants and other sources of public funding for special projects. Before monies are awarded, cities must show that projects fit inside the community’s plan for growth.

“Attainability is the most important objective,” Boatright said. “Liberty Hill needs to move forward. But we need to stick our neck out and make it happen.”

Boatright, Mrs. Fuller and Ms. Branigan have been meeting weekly to discuss topics that should be included in the Comprehensive Plan. Prior to the Council’s termination of the city’s law firm, they had also met with a planner from that firm who was to assist with the plan’s development. Funding for the planner had been approved by the EDC.

Among the main topics included in the plan are Responsible Development, which relates to architectural appeal and resource conservation; Business Development and Retention, which relates to business recruitment and job growth; Annexation and Zoning; Community, which includes improving the image of the City; Livability; Transportation; and Preserving our Heritage, which includes developing the downtown area and possible creation of a Heritage Society.

Mrs. Fuller said the city needs to deelop an annexation plan even though it is unable to involuntarily annex anyone until the city reaches 5,000 population. Currently, the City of Liberty Hill is at 967 residents.

“With people bringing development can require them to come into the city limits. But we need a strategy,” she said. “And what kind of incentives can we offer to get them to annex into the city?”

“Everyone in the area sees it (Liberty Hill) as a dusty old ghost town, and it’s seen as economically disadvantaged. How do we change our image,” asked Ms. Branigan.

Planning & Zoning member Chris  Pezold said downtown Liberty Hill is unique and could be developed into a destination.

Planning & Zoning member Wes Griffin suggested that the City be a leader to bring groups together in the community to develop festivals or special events that would attract tourists.

Discussion on the Comprehensive Plan will continue in the weeks ahead.

Following the one-hour workshop Monday, the Council convened its regular meeting.

The Council voted 4-0 with Ms. Branigan abstaining, to approve a preliminary plat for Liberty Parke subdivision.

Liberty Parke, which will be located on State Highway 29 across from Stonewall Ranch, will be 300 single family homes. In an agreement with the developer, the City will receive payment in lieu of parkland. The monies can be applied to the City’s central park system.

The subdivision will be inside the city limits and customers of the city’s water and wastewater systems.

Ms. Branigan abstained from the discussion and vote because her son, Jon Branigan, is current owner of the property.

Also Monday, the Council approved a request for a variance for a driveway setback for the property at Bailey Lane — the site of a proposed Chicken Express restaurant.

Prior to the 4-0 vote, a public hearing was held on the request. Propery owner Clyde Davis, who also serves as chairman of the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission, addressed the Council during the public hearing.

Davis said he engaged in the discussion on the variance request when the matter came to the Planning & Zoning Commission, but he did not vote.

Davis requested that the property receive a variance for a driveway setback from the required 100 feet to 50 feet. The driveway will be an entrance off Bailey Lane into the Chicken Express. The restaurant will not have an entrance or exit off Highway 29.

Mrs. Fuller, who is Davis’ sister, abstained from voting.

In other business, the Council voted 4-1 to accept a bid for the installation of electricty and water utilities to serve the restroom and pavilion facility at City Park. Councilmember Vicki Brewer voted no.

Mayor Williamson, who can only vote to break a tie, questioned Boatright as to why city public works department staff were not being utilized  for the project in order to save money.

Boatright said the work would have to pass inspection by Pedernales Electric Cooperative and he believed city staff were busy with other projects and could not complete the work in time for fall sports leagues to commence. He said the goal is to have the restrooms operational by that time.

He said the costs of the utility connection will be borne by the EDC, which is also paying for the installation of a septic system at the park.

The Council also accepted the resignation of Parks Board Chairman Gregg Evans.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, the Council heard from Sharon Cassady who complained about treated sewage from the city’s wastewater treatment plant into the South San Gabriel River. Mrs. Cassady addressed the Council on this issue two months ago, but she said Monday she has seen no improvements.

The City is requesting a permit from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to increase its discharge from 1 million gallons per day to 4 million gallons per day.

Martin Denbar spoke in opposition to Liberty Trails Townhomes, which he described as high-density and federally subsidized.

Pamela Piffer encouraged the City Council to develop a vision for the city that preserves a small-town, independent business friendly environment.