Unified Development Code tops agenda

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By Christine Bolaños

Recommendations from the Unified Development Code Advisory Committee topped the three-and-a-half-hour Liberty Hill City Council meeting Monday night.

Committee chair Jon Branigan presented the findings to the council that included general provisions, review authority and compliance, applications and permits, zoning districts, subdivisions, site development and design standards, enforcement and compliance.

Recommended changes largely centered on the committee’s attempt to make the UDC more user-friendly for property owners in Liberty Hill. Branigan, a local real estate agent and developer, believes Round Rock, although larger, has the type of UDC the growing community of Liberty Hill should strive for.

The majority of the changes were “housekeeping” items that were modified for clarity or grammar.

There were certain standards within the general provisions the committee suggested changing from “most restrictive” to “least restrictive.” Branigan acknowledged there would likely be situations where the city would prefer stricter provisions.

“The City Council still has the ability to raise those standards in certain cases,” Branigan said, “on pretty much any plat, public building, etc., and each change comes through your office.”

City Administrator Greg Boatright pointed out that in the extra-territorial jurisdiction there are two different standards for the county and the city. Per the agreement between the entities, the UDC applies to the Liberty Hill ETJ.

“As far as least restrictive within the city, the UDC is the only rule and regulation in the city,” Boatright said. “When we say least or greatest, what we’re struggling with is what are we comparing that to.”

Boatright acknowledged if the county has a less stringent regulation for streets that could be appealing to property owners.

“But in the city it’s only the UDC,” Boatright said. “What are we trying to accomplish in city?”

Branigan noted the UDC doesn’t detail the rules applied to apartment complexes.

“We don’t have a landscape or a building architectural design standard,” Boatright said.

Other staff said an apartment complex would fall into the lot design requirements applied to multi-family use.
The City Attorney said that in 2014 the state of Texas required city and county officials to get together and determine whose regulations would apply in the ETJ. In Liberty Hill’s case, the county agreed to apply the UDC in the ETJ.

“So there is no least restrictive county regulation that you could apply,” said Attorney Dottie Palumbo. “After looking at the recommended language, there is no least restrictive in the city limits because the UDC applies there, too.”

Boatright suggested the committee take another look at the UDC and said staff could serve as a resource.

“It’s unclear to us as a city how we should apply that if that’s something that council wants to adopt,” he said. “We could go back into the 1445 agreement and try to get the county to enter into some type of agreement where there would be a least restrictive. That’s something that I don’t see them being acceptable to that arrangement because it defeats what the purpose was, which was to have one set of rules to go by.”

With the information in mind, the Council then voted to let the committee take another look at several items within the general provision.

The committee consists of Branigan, Bill Chapman, Clyde Davis, Lance Dean, Jack Garner Jr., Wes Griffin, Patrick Harlow, Cheryl New, Wendell McLeod, Chris Pezold and Dave Widmer, who were either appointed or re-appointed by the council.

Road conditions

Marvin Brown, Jr. cited concerns about how road conditions affect his disabled veteran father during the citizen comments portion of the meeting.

“He still requires exercise,” said Brown Junior. The problem is there are no sidewalks on Hillcrest Lane, where the gentleman resides.

He said the road is in poor condition and it is worrisome to him.

“It is full of potholes. It is a mess,” he added. “Now, this road could’ve been taken care of when Hillcrest Lane was widened and re-surfaced a couple of years ago when they put the apartment complex in. It was done then.

“This road could’ve been fixed when the roadway was dug up, and sewer lines were laid,” Brown Junior said. “Not long after it was widened, and a thin strip of asphalt paving was put down in the middle of the road but it was fixed in.”

He said he understood the road was a priority on the city’s agenda.

“We’ve been trying to get this road fixed for almost a year and the road is worse now,” Brown Junior said.

He said neither he, nor his father or his father’s caregiver have received any updates on future plans for the road from the city.

“My dad deserves a place he can walk,” and that doesn’t damage his truck when he drives, Brown Junior added.

He said he is proud to say he is from Liberty Hill but he is ashamed about the way the city has handled the situation.

“I speak with anger, with passion, because I love my dad,” he said.

He asked the council if there was an excuse for the road conditions. Council members do not address items not on the agenda.

During his city administrator report, Boatright said the city did originally intend on resurfacing Hillcrest.

“In the negotiations with Rosemont, the subdivision that is just north of Hillcrest, rather than having 50 grinder pumps,” Boatright said, “we negotiated with the developer to run a gravity sewer line from Rosemont into the lift station at the apartments. Thereby, eliminating all of those grinder pumps and getting them on the ground. As soon as that’s done we’ll rehab that street.”

He acknowledged Brown’s concern but said there was a logic behind the city’s timeline.

“We don’t want to get in there and resurface and then in the next few months go in there and tear it up after we resurface,” Boatright explained. “When we do it, we’re going to do it right, much like we did with Bluebonnet.”

MUD specifications

He said the city has several projects in play, including Municipal Utility District specifications.

“This is something that we’ll not get into a discussion tonight, but I wanted to make you aware, Council,” he said. “In the ETJ, the county has completely stepped out of the road aspect, as far as review specifications, maintenance. If the MUDs have road powers, then it is up to the MUDs to design, build and maintain those streets when they’re in our ETJ.”

He said the 1445 agreement explains how Liberty Hill’s UDC applies in the ETJ.

“With the county stepping out of the role of enforcer for streets in the MUDs that’s going to fall to us because it’s in our jurisdiction,” Boatright said.

He said if the city doesn’t step in then MUDs will be left to their own devices.

“And we don’t know what’s being built, to what spec, to what end the maintenance may end up being,” he said, “when and if it ultimately comes into the city. There’s a lot of things in play.”

He said city staff plans to meet with county officials to work through some of these areas.

Boatright said the city will need to make a decision “fairly quickly” because there are “many plats” in play.
He said the county is only looking at drainage now.

Water line

The Liberty Hill Council shut down action to stop the downtown water line from extending down Van Alley, and to re-direct the water line and install additional fire hydrants. Wendell McLeod was the lone council member who supported the action and brought it forth to the rest of the members. The other council members disagreed with the motion after city staff said they were concerned the change could result in further expenses or damage to existing infrastructure.

Materials for new building

Don Eckols of EV Studios brought samples of materials the Council can choose from for interior finishes for the new administration building on Loop 332.

The Council and staff looked, felt and discussed different shades and materials that could potentially be used for wall, flooring, carpet and more. They asked that EV Studios staff work on renderings to bring back to city council and staff so they could have a clearer idea what the material would look like on the building. A final decision will be made following those discussions.

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