Council hears objections to proposed zoning change

By SHELLY WILKISON

Residents opposed to a developer’s plans to allow businesses near the entrance of their subdivision aired their concerns to the Liberty Hill City Council Monday and won a temporary victory when elected officials voted to table action on the proposal.

Prior to the vote, the Council held a public hearing on the proposed commercial zoning change to two lots in the Highway Twenty Nine Ranch Subdivision — lots that were recently annexed by the City of Liberty Hill.

Lori Gallagher, a resident of the subdivision, said that 75 percent of residents there had recently voted no on a proposal to change the neighborhood’s deed restrictions so that the entrance of their subdivision could house a bank and a Starbucks Coffee and serve as an entry way to 100 additional homesites.

“We were offered compensation (by the developer) to lift the restrictions, but the neighbors voted no,” Mrs. Gallagher said. “This goes against the deed restrictions. We ask you (the Council) to deny the request. Your UDC (Liberty Hill’s Unified Development Code) states the proposed use  has to be completely compatible with existing restrictions. It has to be in line with what is currently on the property.”

City Manager Greg Boatright said after the meeting that the homeowners’ deed restrictions would not change as a result of a Council’s decision to rezone the property. If the homeowners did not approve of the developer’s proposal, they could seek remedy from the developer in court.

Boatright said the Council did the right thing for the City by annexing the property.

“The only way we have to annex property is if someone volunteers it,” he said.

Mayor Jamie Williamson expressed concern that residents may not have been properly notified of a possible zoning change.

Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan made the motion to table the question suggesting more research was needed. The motion passed 4-1 with Councilmember Connie Fuller voting no.

In other zoning matters, the Council heard from a representative of Capitol Aggregates, which is located adjacent to the proposed Liberty Parke Subdivision on State Highway 29. The spokesman addressed the Council during a public hearing on the proposed rezoning of the property to Single Family Residence. About 300 homes are planned for the neighborhood.

Peter Cicero said the company has a development agreement with the City and locating residences next to the industrial area could be a conflict.

“Ours is a noisy operation,” he said. “We try to be good neighbors, but we will continue to do industrial work on our property.”

After questions by Mayor Williamson and Councilmember Vicki Brewer as to whether all of the paperwork was in order, the Council voted 3-2 to approve the zoning change for Liberty Parke development. Mrs. Fuller, Ms. Branigan and Councilmember Wendell McLeod voted yes, and Councilmembers Liz Rundzieher and Mrs. Brewer voted no. The Mayor has no vote except to break a tie.

On the question of accepting a petition requesting annexation of the Foreman Financial Tract on the southeast corner of US Highway 183 and CR 259, the Council agreed to send the documents back to the developer because it was outside the 30-day time limit.

The Council took no action on the request two weeks ago because some questioned whether the boundaries of the property were contiguous to the city limits. At that time, Boatright was requested to obtain a letter from Williamson County allowing the City to cross its right of way, but Boatright reported Monday that the County does not provide such a document.

The Council heard a presentation from developers intending to build mostly high-end single family homes priced between $300,000-$500,000 on a 600-acre tract of land known as the Caughfield Tract on CR 266 with frontage on US Highway 183A. The developer plans to create a Municipal Utility District and enter an agreement with the City of Liberty Hill to provide wastewater service. No action from the Council was requested Monday.

The Council unanimously approved three resolutions showing support for a senior living apartment complex on SH 29 at Bailey Lane. The proposed Liberty Manor Apartments, which sought state approval last year for federal tax credits but was denied, is applying once again for the credits.

The City annexed the property last year and approved similar resolutions showing support and offering $11,700 in in-kind contributions for infrastructure.

In other business Monday, the Council unanimously approved a proposal by McLeod to advertise for someone to fill the position of full-time utility operator, which requires a minimum Class C license for water and wastewater operations.

The Council also approved an expenditure of $38,000 for a water and wastewater utility financial planning model and rate study for the City.

Angie Flores of HDR Engineering presented a plan for the study that will take about six months to complete.

Boatright said the study will be paid for with utility fund monies with costs to be shared by the MUDs.

In Municipal Court matters, the Council directed Boatright and City Attorney Art Rodriguez to consult with Municipal Judge Lucas Wilson regarding his recent requirement that law enforcement officers complete a narative on a complaint form on traffic violations.

“The Judge is unwilling to sign warrant affidavits for about 180 tickets, some of which are one and a half years old,” said Boatright. If issued, the warrants could generate from $200-$600 each.

“To get officers who are no longer (employed) here or no longer working in the area to come back” would be unreasonable, Boatright said. Per the Judge’s directive, if the officer does not provide the additional information and sign the complaint, then the tickets could be dismissed.

Also Monday, the Council approved Joint Election Agreements and Contracts for Election Services with Liberty Hill ISD and Williamson County for the May elections.

On the ballot with candidates for City Council will be renewal of a 1/4 cent sales tax for road maintenance.

In other action, the Council:

- Approved changing the hours at City Hall to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Previously the office has been open until 4 p.m. daily. Boatright said he extend the work day one hour to allow employees one hour off for lunch.

- Agreed to purchase advertising in The Independent to encourage residents to volunteer for positions on city boards and commissions.

- Heard an update on the development of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

- Heard a request during the Pulic Comments portion of the meeting from Jerry Stephens of SOS Communications that the City permit the company to use the water tower next to P&R Propane on SH 29 to house infrastructure that will help the internet provider reach more customers.

- Heard a report from Utility Superintendent Brian Kirk on water production — wells are producing about 388 gallons a minute. Kirk added that December 2013 billing of utility customers was delayed “because I forgot. I was on vacation,” he said.