Council amends ordinance on duplexes, removes distance restriction on alcohol sales

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By SHELLY WILKISON

The Liberty Hill City Council approved recommendations made recently by the City’s Planning & Zoning Commission regarding permits for duplexes and an amendment to an ordinance regarding alcohol sales.

Following a public hearing early in the meeting with no comments, the Council voted 4-1 to amend an ordinance to remove distance limitations on alcoholic beverage sales within 1,000 feet of a school and allow state law to govern the issue. With all members present Monday, Councilmember Ron Rhea voted no.

City Manager Greg Boatright explained that removing the distance limitation will allow a businesses to sell alcohol within 1,000 feet of a school if it first posts a bond with the State to obtain approval. He said removing the local restriction simply allows state law to dictate.

Boatright said the issue presented itself in recent weeks as a convenience store is seeking to build on property near Bill Burden Elementary School at the intersection of Stonewall and State Highway 29, across the highway from Classic Bank. He said the school would be within 300 feet of the back of the proposed convenience store property.

“Anything in a commercial property relating to the sale of alcohol, whether it be a convenience store or a hotel, would have a problem (with the current ordinance),” Boatright said.

Rhea did not say during the meeting why he voted no.

Following another public hearing where no one addressed the Council, members unanimously approved an ordinance allowing duplexes in the C-2 Downtown District.

“We want to allow C-2 to allow for duplexes so they (developers) don’t have to each time come to the city council,” said Boatright.

Currently, a duplex is permitted under a conditional use permit and each permit application requires council approval.

“This allows it without a special permit,” said Amber Lewis, the City’s chief financial officer. “They (duplexes) add character to our downtown.”

Earlier this month, the Council approved a preliminary plat for 22 duplex homes (44 units) that will be constructed across from Lions Foundation Park on Loop 332 and Carl Shipp Road. Liberty Place will be a 4.05-acre subdivision with a duplex home selling for about $270,000.

Also Monday, the Council voted unanimously to annex 21.84 acres at the site of the Liberty Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant off US Highway 183 at LCRA Drive. The Planning & Zoning Commission previously voted to recommend annexation, and the Council held a public hearing on the matter on Monday. No one spoke during the hearing.

“The City can annex property it owns,” said Boatright. “This is important because the Mason tract will soon ask for annexation. There will be 120 homes (on the Mason tract) north of the plant.”

The 36-acre Mason tract will be home to Highland Terrace subdivision — about 120 homes priced between $190,000-$300,000.

Following a 40-minute executive session, the Council heard from John Johnston, a member of the City’s Economic Development Board, regarding the possible employment of a new EDC executive director.

Johnston said he was addressing the Council on behalf of the EDC Board, which is in agreement that the organization needs a full-time director.

Currently, Boatright is serving in the position part-time and part of his city salary is paid by the EDC.

“Greg is too busy (as the city manager),” Johnston said. “We need someone with the time, experience and knowledge to help move Liberty Hill a lot further than where we are now.”

Johnston recommended the Council consider Kirk Clennan as a candidate for the position. Clennan was formerly the director of the Leander Economic Development Corp. and has held similar positions in other cities.

Johnston said he did not think the City would find someone as uniquely qualified for the job as Clennan.

“We need his leadership,” Johnston said. “I encourage the city council to look favorably upon hiring him. This kind of opportunity comes along rarely.”

The Council then voted to authorize the Mayor and Boatright to meet with the EDC about the panel making an employment recommendation to Council.

Beginning this month, council members will be briefed monthly regarding the City’s financials. The report will show spending for the year to date, the percentage of budget spent and the budget balance.

The report included in Monday’s meeting packet, which was dated Dec. 31, 2014, showed total revenues in the General Fund at $267,927, which is 12 percent of the projected total of $2.166 million for fiscal 2014. Property tax revenue typically is not reflected until February as property owners have until Jan. 31 to pay taxes.

Total General Fund expenditures to date was $341,951, which was 18.57 percent of the budgeted $1.8 million. General Fund expenses cover city administration, the police department, the municipal court and parks and recreation.

Also Monday, the Council heard from Lauren McAndrews of WBCO Meals on Wheels. McAndrews invited the City to participate in the Meals on Wheels Challenge with the purpose of creating a stronger awareness of the program in Liberty Hill.

McAndrews said the organization delivers meals to 15 homebound senior citizens in the Liberty Hill area, but she believes there are more residents in need.

She said more volunteers are needed in Liberty Hill to deliver meals on the two-hour route.

McAndrews invited council members to volunteer one day in March and ride along with other Meals on Wheels volunteers.

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