Council talks zoning, plats

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By Christine Bolaños

Liberty Hill City Council members Monday approved annexations and plats, and discussed plans for an upcoming council workshop.

The council unanimously approved annexation and exclusion of the Caughfield Tract between Williamson County Municipal Utility Districts No. 31 and 32.

“The City had consented to the creation of the MUDs 31 and 32 and entered into an agreement regarding consent and operation of the MUDs backs in 2014,” said Senior Planner Sally McFeron. “Basically, Caughfield Ranch wants to adjust the boundaries between the districts to conform better to land development. This is something in the agreement that they can do with the consent of the City Council.”

City Administrator Greg Boatright clarified the City is not annexing additional property only moving the boundary line.

“They’re just moving a line between two of the MUDs,” Boatright said. The Council also green-lighted final plats for the Orchard Ridge, formerly Highland Meadows subdivision, for phases 1a, 1b and 1c as well as its infrastructure. “There’s 688 lots proposed for this development,” McFeron said. “The project is proposed to be constructed in three phases. This first phase is 184 single-family lots.”

The Council approved voluntary annexation of certain properties in the Liberty Hill ETJ as requested by property owners whose property is contiguous to the City’s ETJ to be included in the City’s ETJ. The Council also green-lighted zoning changes related to these properties.

Also Monday, the Council approved amending the City’s Unified Development Code to change Liberty Parke Subdivision’s classification from agriculture to high-density residential.

During Boatright’s administrative report, he said the planning department is staying busy.

“Every time she (McFeron) walks in the door there’s a new plat and that’s a good thing for us,” Boatright said. “As you heard (Assistant City Administrator Amber Lewis) mention our building permits are up almost 100 percent. That’s one of the reasons as we have a lot of activity on the platting side.”

“Sally has probably six or eight plats in play right now,” he said. “She’s doing a great job keeping up.”

He announced city staff would meet the following morning to discuss the agenda for the Feb. 29 Council Workshop scheduled at Santa Rita from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“We’re going to have several topics but if there’s something on your agenda that you would like to have discussed please get that to Barbara (Zwernemann) because we’re kind of finalizing the agenda,” Boatright told the Council.

“One of things we’re going to do is to have our staff heads give a brief overview at the 29th meeting of the state of their department and where they see their department headed,” he said. “And what they would like to accomplish in the next two to three years.”

He said he believes the exercise will be insightful for the Council to see how departments work.

“The processes departments use — Sally for instance to process plats — that kind of thing,” Boatright said. “We will have a presentation of the fees schedule. I think that’s good for you guys to be knowledgeable about. We hear a lot out from the public: the fees are going up, this and that.

“I think that’s good information for you guys to know what our city processes are and how the fees are charged,” he added.

Boatright wants to discuss the future of the police department building during the workshop. The building on State Highway 29 was closed last week due to high levels of mold, and officers were relocated to the Municipal Court Building.

“If it’s something that we want to go in there and do the work necessary to replace the floors, fix the drainage around the building to where that water doesn’t come under the building, that kind of thing,” Boatright said. “Do we want to look at building a new building? There’s several different options we can discuss.”

He congratulated council members because only incumbents filed to run and there were no opponents. This effectively allows the City to cancel the election and saves taxpayers about $6,500.

“For the second year in a row I’m really happy to be able to announce that we’re not having an election,” Boatright said. “That is good news. I think it speaks well for our Council. I think that the things that our community is seeing going on and the things they’re reading in the paper about what the City is about is a reflection of exactly what we saw this past election cycle. That is that our citizens are happy with the job that’s being done so that’s a direct reflection on our Council and the job that you’re doing.”

During the Police Chief’s activity report to the Council Monday, Mayor Connie Fuller complained that she wasn’t informed about the mold situation at the police department and instead had to read about it first in The Independent (Feb. 18 edition).

Police Chief Randy Williams said city staff knew about the conditions before the newspaper. He explained that the newspaper office is located directly across State Highway 29 and staff contacted him after observing officers preparing to move out.

Fuller said she thought the story reflected negatively on the City, and she suggested that in the future, reporters should contact one appointed person at City Hall to answer all questions relating to the city, including the police department.

“I think it might be good to have a policy of the board or making an ordinance of the city that before they do articles in the newspaper that they consult with the city offices before we have something like that come out,” Fuller said. “And make sure that everything is in there.”

Williams said he didn’t mind saying “no comment” and referring media to City Hall in the future.

“It’s kind of secretive sounding to me,” Williams said.

Fuller disagreed.

“It’s not secretive to have an appointed person speak to the whole issue,” she said, adding that city representatives are not attempting to avoid being straight-forward and honest.

On the issue of the conditions at the police building, Boatright explained that the appropriate steps were taken by city administration when it was first learned of the extent of the contamination.

“As soon as Randy notified me of it,” Boatright said. “We were having a meeting here (Municipal Court) on ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction issues), Randy came up and we discussed enough of it and just, ‘Get out of there. As soon as possible.’ As soon as we became aware of it we reacted to it.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of options of where to go because there is no new space in Liberty Hill so my first reaction was to have them move up here (Municipal Court Building),” Boatright said. “There wasn’t any negligence that I could see,” Williams emphasized. “It was just a crappy old building.”

As reported by The Independent on Feb. 18, testing on the building in November 2014 revealed no dangerous mold levels. But as a precaution, vents and air ducts were cleaned and water-damaged flooring was replaced.

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