Council approves annexation of 95-acre Abbott tract, outsources parks master plan

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Mayor Connie Fuller and Council listen to City Administrator Greg Boatright (not pictured) brief the panel on upcoming budget talks to be held with department heads through June. From left are Council members Wendell McLeod, Jon Branigan, Mayor Fuller and Council member Troy Whitehead. (Waylon Cunningham Photo) By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM

The Liberty Hill City Council on Monday advanced several development plans, including those for a neighborhood on the Abbott Tract, a splash pad at Wetzel Park, a swim center at City Park, and some road improvements near Carl Shipp Drive.

The closing for the public hearing for the city’s intended annexation of Stonewall Ranch was postponed until August 14. The hearing was planned to close today, but City Attorney Dottie Palumbo requested the postponement because the city is still negotiating with the owner on an agreement.

One public comment was given by Bob Calvisi, a resident of Stonewall Ranch who said that he speaks for a number of his neighbors when he says that he supports the annexation.

Grace Alive Church was awarded a variance for a fireworks display on July 4th, which is otherwise prohibited by their location within the city limits. Pastor Dawn Slack was present. The church will still need to get permission from Williamson County Emergency Services District #4.
The City of Liberty Hill is co-sponsoring the Liberty Hill Independence Day Spectacular on July 1 at City Park on CR 200.

Abbott Tract annexation
Council voted to approve the annexation of a roughly 95-acre property located behind the Summerlyn subdivision on US Highway 183. The city will help its owner, 263 Trine Land, LLC, with the proposed development of a master planned community there.

A public hearing for the annexation of the Abbott Tract was held at a Council meeting in November 2016. At the time, the annexation was involuntary, and a representative of the property owner told the Council, “We don’t want to be annexed at all, but it looks like we don’t have a choice.”
She requested then that the annexation be withdrawn and a developer agreement drafted in its place.

Monday, Council’s decision authorized John Avery Jr. to sign the agreement as its owner. The agreement would then be signed by the Mayor, contingent on Trine Land’s payment of a $100,000 fee.

The fee is associated with the property’s proposed wastewater pass-through with the adjacent Williamson County MUD 13.

Professionals to draft City’s Master Parks Plan
In the city’s all-day planning session in March, grant consultant Judy Langford advised the city to update its master parks plan. This, she said, would help the city in its grant applications, such as the $250,000 the city had applied for from Texas Parks & Wildlife to help connect the City Park on CR 200 to downtown.

Council voted Monday to authorize Halff & Associates to prepare an updated Parks Master Plan, in coordination with Liberty Hill’s Parks & Recreation Board.

Tim Bargainer was present representing Halff, though he did not speak.

“Tim and I worked together when I was at the County designing the Brushy Creek Trail,” Boatright said. “I know their track record and I know what their capabilities are.”

The process should take up to five months, according to the proposal provided by Halff, and would cost $25,300.

The plan was last updated in 2012 by members of the Parks & Recreation Board.

The proposal includes extensive consultation with city staff, elected officials, and community groups.

Halff will post the final plan online for citizen review before submitting it to Council for adoption.

Council also authorized Halff to design a swim center at City Park.

The approved proposal also includes part of the park trail system that the city had applied for in a $250,000 grant from the Texas Parks & Wildlife, which was ultimately turned down. The remaining part of the proposed trail stays within the park.

Boatright said that when the Parks Board has reached out to the community for feedback, a swim center has consistently been the number one request.

He also said that the expenses of developing the proposal, though not determined, would probably need to be spread out over two budget years, and that the city would look to the

Parks & Recreation Board to help offset some of the costs.

Splash Pad Coming to Wetzel Park
Council approved an agreement with Bowman Consulting to provide engineering and surveying services for a splash pad at Wetzel Park.

The project consists of conceptual planning, surveying and design of the pad, which will also include a water station, restrooms, a parking area, a bike rack, and fencing. The total cost for the services was marked at $14,100.

As part of the agreement, Bowman will also prepare a preliminary estimation of the costs that would be associated with constructing the improvements.
Bowman will also help the city plan a parking lot adjacent to the police station.

The City recently acquired the property on Forrest Street adjacent to the station, with the stated intention of building additional parking.

Council Member Jon Branigan was concerned that the improvements to the park could interfere with the coming drainage improvement plan.

Boatright said that any drainage would be happening well outside the proposed improvements.

Executive session concerns ongoing lawsuit with former contractor
No details or actions were announced following the lengthy executive session, which the agenda said involved discussion of a 2015 lawsuit against the City by U.S. Water Services Corporation.

The session was moved to the beginning of the meeting because the city’s representing attorney, David Tuckfield, had driven from Austin.

U.S. Water previously managed the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Their lawsuit in Williamson County’s 26th District Court alleges that the city failed to pay the business for services it was contracted for.

The City had terminated its five-year contract with US Water midway through its completion, after the company had incurred cost overruns and failed to report them in accordance with the contract, city officials say.

The only details provided by the city was that it is pursuing an out-of-court settlement.

Road improvements attached to Carl Shipp Drive realignment
Engineer Curtis Steger of Steger Bizzell presented a proposed amendment to the task order associated with the realignment of Carl Shipp Drive.
The original order, which was executed by the Mayor on April 26, specified the road’s realignment to help with drainage issues at its intersection with Loop 332.

The amendments, which were approved by Council, included some improvements that go beyond that intersection.
They include repaving Carl Shipp, parts of Myrtle Lane, and the driveway and parking area in front of the Municipal Court building. It also details new pavement for Hillcrest Lane.

Branigan asked if he should abstain from the vote because of his investments on Hillcrest Lane, but City Attorney Dottie Palumbo said that a conflict of interest in this case would only apply if he had a direct interest in this specific project, but as a maintenance project, there is none because the improvements would benefit everyone.

The improvements are part of the Capital Improvements projects, Boatright said, and draw from the tax notes fund.
Bowman estimated the financial impact of the amendments to the original project at $14,636. The total lump sum cost for the contract now stands at $61,471.

Branigan signals interest in reconvening UDC Committee, annexing high school
No action was taken concerning Council Member Jon Branigan’s discussion to reconvene the Unified Development Code Advisory Committee, but it did prompt talks for some new meetings.

Branigan initially introduced the agenda item by saying that changes to the UDC, proposed by the Advisory Committee to Council last June, should be re-visited to “see if we can’t incorporate some of those changes.”

Branigan, a real estate agent and developer, had been the chair of that committee, which also included Council Member Wendell McLeod, and Lance Dean, who now serves as the Economic Development Corporation’s Executive Director.

The committee presented its findings to Council, whose proposed changes to the UDC included general provisions, review authority and compliance, applications and permits, zoning districts, subdivisions, site development and design standards, enforcement and compliance.

City Planner Sally McFeron said that the Council had already approved some recommendations from the committee, but those had not “formalized, changed and codified” yet.

The proposal then morphed into a discussion to reconvene for the purposes of clarifying what those changes were.

McFeron and Branigan agreed to meet at a later date, and schedule a committee meeting later this month.

Branigan also introduced an agenda item to authorize talks with Liberty Hill ISD Superintendent Rob Hart to annex the high school into the city limits.
Branigan said it would be good to station a police officer at the school, and that he would like to start having these discussions.

No action was taken, but Mayor Connie Fuller said she would “certainly be willing to sit down for a meeting” with Hart, alongside Boatright and Branigan. Both agreed, though no date or details were set.

It was agreed that Police Chief Maverick Campbell should attend such a meeting, though Campbell was absent Monday.
The high school’s property is adjacent to the city limits on SH 29, which end at the intersection with County Road 277.

City saves $18,000 in wastewater plant improvements, awards bid for lift station
A contract with PepperLawson WaterWorks to expand the South Fork Wastewater Treatment plant was changed to the order of $18,679 less.
Credit in the amount of $58,379 was retrieved from the deletion of a redundant portion of a pipe mainline, and $39,700 was given back to accommodate a new plant effluent flow meter with its associated piping.

A contract bid to improve the Rosemont Lift Station Number 2 was awarded to Prota Construction for $179,000, on the recommendation of Steger.
The improvements include replacing pumps, installing new sensors, putting new safety grates at output points, and more.

Six bids were received for the project when it opened over two weeks ago. The bids ranged from $143,800 to $240,000.

The lowest bid was removed after it was found that an item ledger had been incorrectly inputted. The company was able to document that the problem was a mistaken input, not reflected in their total amount.

As the subdivision’s developer, Branigan abstained from the vote.

Waylon@LHIndependent.com

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