Foundation will slow down talks with City

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By SHELLY WILKISON

Although no official vote was taken Tuesday, members of the Liberty Hill Development Foundation Board appeared to agree that the organization should take it slow when it comes to negotiating with the City of Liberty Hill regarding the takeover of Lions Foundation Park.

The Foundation, which owns the park on Loop 332, has been talking with city officials for months about the possibility of the City taking ownership of the 18.77-acre park. The Foundation wants the City’s financial support as it develops a portion of the park into a permanent home for the sculptures.

Now housed on the grounds of Liberty Hill Intermediate School, the goal is to relocate the majority of them into the park and construct a building that would hold the history of the 1976 Liberty Hill International Sculpture Symposium and be a tourist destination for art enthusiasts.

So far, the City’s Economic Development Corp. has set aside funds in this year’s budget for the relocation of the sculptures, and paid for an appraisal on the artwork. But some EDC directors say the ownership of the park should be completely transferred to the City before more public money is spent.

Foundation Board members have expressed an interest in building the sculpture park on a two-acre tract of land directly behind the fire station and an adjacent private residence.

However, Gary Spivey told the Board Tuesday that park design consultant Paul Oglesby, has since advised that two acres is likely not enough land to properly display the sculptures.

“One objective we have is to have a building, an area to create more (sculptures). We need to save land for that,” Spivey said the consultant advised. “We need to get it drawn out for future expansion.”

“So what we thought was enough (land) is not going to be enough,” said Board President Larry Nicholson. “The driveway alone will take 15 percent of the two acres. The rest is a long and narrow piece.”

Spivey clarified that many of the sculptures will stay on school property. He said those that are on a concrete walkway on school grounds will remain there. Spivey said he has been talking with school district officials about a possible 99-year lease so the artwork can remain, “or they could donate it to us.” He speculated that the sculptures are currently housed on a half-acre at the school.

“We should make sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said.

Spivey said the City had “put us behind the 8 ball on this, and we need to make sure we protect ourselves. We don’t want to be pressed into doing something that’s short-sighted.

“If they (the City) will quabble over a $9,000 check, we may have some other issues,” he said.

The City paid $9,000 for an appraisal on the sculptures and accompanying artwork. The appraisal valued the pieces at $1.6 million, a figure that Foundation Board members expect to increase as more information is found about the artists.

Also Tuesday, the Board was informed by member David Polser that the Foundation owns three parcels of land, but none have been platted. He said there appears to be a discrepancy with regard to the land the Foundation donated years ago to what was then the Liberty Hill Volunteer Fire Department. The property is now owned by the Williamson County Emergency Services District #4 and is home to the fire station.

“The lines don’t match up,” Polser said. “The lines are skewed, so there is a question as to what we really have. We need to nail that down.”

Polser said Jack Garner of Adams Engineering has been consulting with him on the property matters. He said it had become evident that further work is needed before real negotiations over ownership can take place.

“We need to slow down and not enter any agreement with the City any further than what we have until we can tie it all down,” Polser said. “Once we get the design requirements, then we can come up with a proposal to bring to the City,” Polser said.

He said a proposal should include items that the Foundation wants for the facility, including permanent access with regard to a road into the sculpture park, access to city water and sewer, as well as waivers on all fees for future development and impact fees — “things the Foundation may require in the future.”

“We’re coming from a position of willingness to provide this to the City in exchange for some dollars (to construct the sculpture park),” he said.

While City staff have been attending Foundation Board meetings from time to time, there was no one from City Hall present Tuesday.

For years, the City has been paying for landscaping on the privately owned park that is also home to the Liberty Hill Public Library and baseball and softball fields maintained by Liberty Hill Youth League.

The Board meets again at 7 p.m. March 1 at Over the Hill Gang.

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