Council votes to annex Stonewall

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By WAYLON CUNNINGHAM

Council members Monday passed an official statement of intention to annex Stonewall Ranch, accepted a purchase offer for the Liberty Parke improvement bonds, saw the introduction of the Police Department’s newest reserve officer, and more.

Before the meeting, a reception was held honoring Council Member Elizabeth Branigan, who chose not to run for re-election. Monday was her final meeting.

City Administrator Greg Boatright presented Branigan with a plaque, which he called “very unique for a very unique person.”

Branigan said, “It’s been a pleasure serving the best place in the world.”

She has served on the Council since 2013. Her son, Jon Branigan, will take her seat after filing for the position and facing no opposition.

Council also approved an ordinance creating a $500 monthly stipend for the mayor, which was approved in a March meeting. The stipend will go into effect in May 2018, after next year’s municipal elections.

The only vote in opposition came from Councilman Wendell McLeod, who said, “I voted against it last time and I’ll vote against it now.”

Council announces intention to annex Stonewall Ranch
The Council officially announced its intention to annex Stonewall Ranch, a 182-acre subdivision with an ultimate buildout of 1,100 homes, following a resolution approved by Council Monday. The neighborhood will become Liberty Hill’s largest yet.

The resolution provides for a three-year timetable for annexation after plans are finalized. A plan has not yet been completed, but the resolution reads that the city hopes to adopt a plan by August 10.

Neighborhood homeowners will receive 90 days notice prior to annexation.

In December 2016, a strategic partnership agreement was reached between the city and the developers, RSI Communities, for public improvements to the area.

Until recently, talks appeared as though Stonewall Ranch would enter into the city limits by way of a voluntary annexation.

City Attorney Dottie Palumbo said that the city had recently received an email from developers expressing a reluctance to continue negotiations for an annexation agreement.

Boatright said that Monday’s resolution would hopefully send a message to the developers that the city is “serious” about annexation, and could persuade them to return to the negotiating table as voluntary partners.

The city is limited by state law to 10 percent of their current land mass in involuntary annexations per year.

Currently, the subdivision is in a municipal utility district, but the city annexation would convert it into a public improvement district.

Boatright said the distinction is important when it comes to levying fees on property owners to pay for the subdivision’s debt. The annual fee levied would be lower under the city, he said.

Council approves bond offers for Liberty Parke PID
An offer for purchase of the city-backed bonds associated with the Liberty Parke Public Improvement District was approved by Council.

The offer was presented by outside bond counsel Julie Houston and Jim Sabonis, managing director of Hilltop Securities, the firm helping the city maintain its debt related to the bonds.

Rates for the two bonds, which combined total over $3 million, were set Monday morning by Hilltop Securities.

The agreement builds on a public improvement plan first approved in January by the Council.

The plan specifies the construction of public improvements — such as a water and wastewater services, a stormwater pond, a life station, an entry road, a trail system, and more — at the Liberty Parke development, a single-family subdivision located off State Highway 29 near Classic Bank.

In March, Council authorized what is called a preliminary offering memorandum, which allowed the underwriter Tripp Davenport to market the bonds to potential investors.

Before the sale can be finalized, the offer must still be approved by the Texas Attorney General.

In a separate motion, the Council voted to continue to contract Hilltop Securities for disclosure services.
TxDOT grant

The Council unanimously approved a grant application to the Texas Department of Transportation for $1.2 million. The city will match those funds up to 30 percent, or $360,000.

A proposed “Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Corridor” would run along Loop 332, from Highway 29 south to near Parker’s Corner Market, varying at times between 5 feet and 10 feet wide.

“We looked at three or four different routes along 1869 and along the rail and this seems to be the path of least of resistance,” Boatright said.
TxDOT’s grant, as part of the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program, requires applications from cities to have been approved by its council, and for the city to match funds for the proposed project up to 20 percent of state funding.

Boatright said he proposed 30 percent on the advice of the city’s grant consultant, Judy Langford, as a way to bolster the chances for the application’s success.

Costs could be offset from the tax notes fund and the Parks and Recreation budget, which he said has roughly $500,000.

Boatright also said that the timing of the grant means that money for the project could be drawn over two budget cycles.

Building permits
The handbook outlining permitting and inspection fees has been updated in preparation for the adoption of an online automated permitting system called “MYPERMITSNOW.”

In proposing the changes to Council, City Planner Sally McFeron said that much of it is meant to clarify and streamline the process.

There are some increases in costs, such as the building permit for residential construction, which increased from $1,100 to $1,250.

McFeron said that new costs reflect the additional staff time now needed to complete inspections and reporting related to homes connected to Georgetown’s water system, but located inside Liberty Hill’s city limits and extra-territorial jurisdiction.

Police staffing
Police Chief Maverick Campbell introduced David Joiner as the department’s seventh reserve officer and chaplain.

Royce Graeter, who was hired as a full-time officer in February, was promoted to Patrol Sergeant. His salary is $44,105.

The Council also approved the creation of an internship program for the department. The internship, which is unpaid, would focus on clerical work and administrative duties. Applicants must be 18 or older.

Rick Hall, president of the Chamber of Commerce and an appointed member of the City’s Economic Development Corp., said the program had come out of talks with LHISD Superintendent Rob Hart to integrate the community and school district.

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