Council tables permit on four-plexes, raises fees

By SHELLY WILKISON

After hearing the concerns of neighborhood residents, the Liberty Hill City Council tabled consideration of a conditional use permit for three four-plexes planned for Stubblefield Lane.

Although the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended Council approval of the permit, Councilmember Elizabeth Branigan made the motion to table consideration to give city staff more time to investigate the impact on traffic flow.

During a public hearing Monday, residents Mark Spinner and Barbara Townsend said adding 12 families and possibly 24 vehicles (two per household) would create serious traffic flow problems along the narrow streets. Those streets are already a challenge to navigate without the additional rental properties, they said.

Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman Clyde Davis said infrastructure issues are not the responsibility of the property owner and the property at 300, 304 and 308 Stubblefield Lane is zoned correctly for the four-plexes. The Commission voted 2-1 last week to recommend Council adoption of the permit. Commissioner Chris Pezold, who owns the property and is developing the four-plexes, abstained from voting.

In other business Monday, the Council adopted an ordinance changing the fee structure for various permits, including fees charged for water connections.

City Planner Amber Lewis explained that the current fee structure does not provide for the true impact on the city’s water and wastewater systems, recommending an increase to $3,500 for residential water connection and $4,500 for a commercial connection. Previously, connection fees were charged based on meter size.

Councilmember Wendell McLeod said businesses should not have to pay more for a water connection suggesting their water usage was lower than residential use.

“I think the price should be the same,” he said.

Ben Lake of Steger Bizzell engineering of Georgetown, who has been working with Mrs. Lewis on revamping fees, said the intent was to match the costs to the impact to the system.

Boatright said the City “left a lot of money on the table” when a developer of a multi-family project made arrangements for water connections. “But $1,000 (difference) is not a deal breaker. The critical part is to set the rate,” he said.

In addition to connection fees for water and wastewater, the price for conditional use permits increased to $325. Previously, the City did not charge applicants.

Councilmember Liz Rundzieher said she believed businesses should pay more for connection fees, but her motion to adopt the schedule as proposed by staff failed 2-3. Mrs. Branigan voted yes, but councilmembers McLeod, Ron Rhea and Troy Whitehead voted no.

The Council adopted the fee schedule keeping water connection rates at $3,500 for both residential and commercial customers. Staff will explore the water usage for businesses and may return to the Council if they determine usage warrants a higher connection fee.

The Council also approved task orders for Steger Bizzell to prepare plans for a Community Development Block Grant-funded road improvements to Bryson Bend, Snyders Trail, Matthew Circle, Russell Street and Purser Street. The grant, which is administered by Williamson County, will pay for $131,000 worth of repaving to those streets. The task order for Steger Bizzell approved by Council is for $20,00 for engineering and grant administration.

The second task order related to surveying and engineering for sidewalks. Also paid for by CDBG funds, the city plans to constructs sidewalks through old town in three phases. The grant approved by the Council recently provides $29,000 for engineering costs. Lake said he felt sure construction costs will be included later.

Boatright suggested the Council appoint two members to work with city staff and the engineer on developing a plan for the most effective placement of sidewalks. The Council appointed Rhea and Mrs. Branigan to work on the project.

Also this week, the Council approved the expenditure of $1,200 annually for membership in Accurint for Law Enforcement, a nationwide search engine used to obtain contact information of those who have outstanding warrants.

The Council also approved the appointment of Thad Sebastian as a reserve police officer. The move brings to three the number of unpaid reserve officers at the Liberty Hill Police Department. Reserve officers typically work one eight-hour shift per week, said Chief Randy Williams.

Following a 75-minute executive session, the Council tabled discussion on the possible purchase of property at 3205 RR 1869 in Liberty Hill. An approximate price of $25,000 was provided for the property. Some say the property could be used as a parking lot.

The Council also voted to authorize Boatright to negotiate the employment of a public utility director.

Boatright was also authorized to contact higher ranking officials at the Brazos River Authority regarding a BRA invoice in the amount of $69,000. BRA previously maintained the City of Liberty Hill’s Wastewater Treatment plant.